52 Pops: Help! (#3)

Year:  1965
Director:  Richard Lester
Stars:  The Beatles
IMDb

It’s hardly a controversial view, but I’m a massive Beatles fan.  It’s a waste of time going on about their merits as a musical quartet here, because I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said before (and this is supposed to be a post about a film).  When I was presented with the challenge of deciding on a film to watch from 1965 I was a little stuck at first because I don’t have very much spare time these days and having ruled out the Sound of Music most of the rest of my options were a little too long and/or serious.  So I delved a little deeper and realised that I had the perfect opportunity to take a look at one of the movies starring one of my favourite musical groups, none of which I’d ever seen before.  Help!, a farcical comedy, is the second of five feature films associated with the Fab Four.

beathelpI won’t spend too much time on the plot as it’s not really all that important, but I’ll give you an idea of what goes on.  Ringo is destined to be put to death by a mysterious Eastern cult unless he can remove the sacrificial ring from his finger, which is easier said than done.  The Beatles try a succession of techniques to try and save their drummer, from jeweller’s saw  to mad scientist’s lab to mystical injection.  All the while the cult is trying desperately to retrieve the ring, with or without Ringo attached.  The band flee all over the world in a series of high-jinks, running away from not only the cult but also the aforementioned mad scientist and the Metropolitan Police. Every now and again they randomly chuck in one of their songs from the album of the same name, which can only be a good thing.

It’s a fun enough film, given what it is.  I appreciate that the Beatles didn’t try to make a serious film and are perfectly aware that none of them can act; it would have been pretty rough had they tried to make a real movie.  I was a little disappointed, although not at all surprised, at the minor role George plays in the film.  Of course his humility and modesty is one of the main reasons I like him so much and naturally he wasn’t going to want a major part of something like this.  Still, he plays along (and even looks like he’s having fun in the musical scenes) and I respect him for that.  It’s also somewhat made up for by the extra dose of Ringo in the central role.  He’s a funny guy, and it’s good to see him embracing that because he comes across a bit silly when he tries to play the straight guy.

Peace and Love, Ringo
Peace and Love, Ringo

Overall I’d recommend giving this one a watch.  It has little merit cinematically but that’s not the point of the film.  Help! is four incredibly famous guys singing some songs, having a laugh and trying to help the world laugh along with them – and what’s wrong with that?

My Rating:  7/10

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Top Pops: Opening Tracks on Début Albums

It takes a certain skill to dive straight into the music business and capture your audience, and not everyone pulls it off as well. Eminem is an excellent example of this; although the opener to his major-label début The Slim Shady LP is the unforgettable My Name Is, the majority of Mathers’ true first album, Infinite, is rather mediocre by comparison (although I’m sure I’ve probably written it off too soon). So today I’m looking at traditionally accepted début albums, not necessarily major label (but at the same time not mixtapes or EPs), that jumped straight into my head from the off and hooked me from then on. (For the record, I’m not counting skits or intros as opening tracks). These are only somewhat in order, and it’s certainly not an exhaustive list (so may produce a sequel some time in the future).

#6 Papercut (Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory, 2001)

Linkin Park let everyone know who they are in the opening track to the best-selling début album of the 21st century, introducing the surprisingly fluent combination of Mike Shinoda’s rap vocals and Chester Bennington’s harder approach, a staple of their success.

#5 Nobody (Skindred, Babylon, 2002)

Nobody is right; nobody expected heavy metal and reggae to blend as well as they do in this opener from the so-called “ragga-metal” ensemble from Newport, Wales. Skindred are a band who I only discovered a few years ago, but I wish I’d heard this record when it first came out.

#4 We Don’t Care (Kanye West, The College Dropout, 2004)

They didn’t care in the industry about Kanye’s ambitions as a rapper for years, having viewed him as more of a producer, but when he finally persuaded them to give him a chance following a near-fatal road accident, he showed them why they should.

#3 Feels Like the First Time (Foreigner, Foreigner, 1977)

Perhaps not to everyone’s taste, and yet so easy to fall for; Foreigner have been showing everyone how the power ballad is really done ever since the aptly-named first track from 1977’s eponymous introduction.

#2 I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles, Please Please Me, 1963)

Among my favourite Beatles tracks, but then again, what isn’t (step forward Revolution 9); this was a strong contender for my first of the firsts of the firsts. Although unsurprisingly not the first Beatles song I heard, had you bought this LP upon release and stuck on side #1, track #1, I don’t know how you could ever have danced with another.

#1 Bombtrack (Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine, 1992)

This scrapes the top spot simply because I consider it such an appropriate introduction to Rage as a band – every Rage Against the Machine song is a Bombtrack in its own right, and if you hear this song and like it, as I did, then you know immediately that Rage are the band for you. The track introduces the trademarks of almost all RATM songs; Zack de la Rocha’s somewhat unnecessary yet endearing repetition of political-type mantras over Tom Morello’s punishing guitar riffs.