Thursday, March 17, 2011

Help!

Robert Bunter: The pattern of candid self-examination that Lennon hinted at with Beatles For Sale confessionals like "I’m A Loser" becomes unmistakable here. Me, me, me. I’m feeling down, I need help, I’m insecure. The façade of the wisecracking, witty mopflop has cracked, exposing the terrified little boy that was always behind it to the unflinching glare of upbeat pop music. Pretty soon the frightened boy would be re-hidden behind a new façade, that of a smugly-enlightened psychedelic prophet preaching about a love revolution with dilated pupils behind granny glasses, only to re-emerge after he was betrayed by another flawed substitute father figure, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, or Sexy Sadie as I call him.

Is that an enlightening analysis? No. That’s what everybody already knows about this song. What can I add here? “Help” me out, Rich!


Richard Furnstein: Well, Lennon says it clearly before the first chorus. He's "opened up the doors" to a world of emotional discovery/pity. He's delivering the template for The Plastic Ono Band in a cool 2:20 of awkwardly upbeat pop music. George sympathizes with his situation by providing lots of descending glory. John's indecision and confusion is simulated by the delayed backing vocals on the verse. It's a jumble of swirling thoughts that highlight the issues of insecurity and hollowness. John kicks out the demons in the chorus, focusing his pleas for help. The naked voice in the chorus and the stripped down third verse carry the emotional weight of this song.  George and Paul's harmonies only serve to mask Lennon's fears and insecurity. The song would be too much of a suicide note without their deceptive sweetness.

Robert Bunter: I know! And another thing: how scary is it at the end, with that extra “Help me!” thrown into the coda at 2:10, right before the pretty “Oooooooh?” Pretty harrowing, that is. I wonder what this song would have sounded like if John’s original wish to record it with a slow tempo had not been jettisoned in favor of the uptempo arrangement they felt was necessary for a hit single … perhaps we’ll never know. But we can fantasize about it, and also record our own interpretations with rudimentary home equipment and standard-issue Mac DAW software. Did I send you that .wav file yet?


Richard Furnstein: Sure did! It makes Sleep sounds like Keanu Reeves!


Robert Bunter: Mission accomplished!

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