This is part two in Bloggerhythms' series reviewing all of the British LPs released by The Beatles. Today we discuss Beatlemania 2, the period that began the group's transition away from simply being teen idols and into respected artists. The years 1965 and 1966 found the Beatles still selling tons of records, still touring, and still the biggest thing in the music world.
You can read part one here.
Help! is the album that coincided with the release of The Beatles’ second movie. Seven of its fourteen songs are from the film of the same name. It's also one of their more inconsistent efforts because of the wide gap between the classic stuff and the filler. It's also the LP that served as the bridge between the teenybopper band that turned the world on its head and the extremely talented and eccentric artists of their later career. Their more traditional songs, "The Night Before," "Another Girl," "You’re Gonna Lose That Girl," and the title track all have a different feel than their earlier recordings. The latter, especially, has a lyrical maturity not heard on most of their Beatlemania stuff, yet all four songs retain that propulsive, exuberant, British Invasion sound the quartet was known for. After those songs the styles of music vary greatly. The rockers are louder and the ballads are softer than in the past. The great "Ticket to Ride" is quite a heavy track for 1965 and several acoustic songs are prominent for the very first time. "It’s Only Love," "I’ve Just Seen a Face," "You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away," and the iconic "Yesterday" are here and all are among their finest songs of the period. There are only two covers, most notably Ringo Starr's take on the Buck Owens country hit, "Act Naturally." The low point comes with George Harrison’s first two compositions since With the Beatles. His "I Need You" and "You Like Me To Much" just don’t have the panache of the great Lennon – McCartney songs. Both tracks prove he had a long way to go to catch up with his bandmates.
Help! paved the way for Rubber Soul, one of the more highly regarded rock albums of all time and a favorite of many, many, Beatles' fans. Suddenly, teenagers weren't the only ones listening to the biggest rock act in history. Serious musicians were taking notice too. Folk music influences are everywhere, and except for the flutes at the end of "You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away" from the previous album, this record also began the group's usage of other instruments and sounds. Harrison’s sitar on Norwegian Wood, George Martin's harpsichord on "In My Life," and McCartney’s fuzz bass on Harrison's "Think For Yourself" are all examples of the band expanding their musical horizons. Speaking of our late buddy George, his years in the studio studying Martin and his more accomplished friends finally paid off with his first two worthwhile compositions. Both "Think For yourself" and "If I Needed Someone," the latter with a very nice Roger McGuinn electric twelve-string guitar lead, were proof that he had finally arrived as a composer. From this point forward Harrison wrote stuff that would often rival the best of Lennon and McCartney. Paul's "Drive My Car" opens the album and it rocks, but overall the LP's sound was far softer than any of their previous releases. Introspective works such as "In My Life," "Norwegian Wood," and "Nowhere Man" all garnered attention, all were primarily associated with Lennon, and signaled a new direction for both he and the band.
The infamous episode with President Marcos in the Phillipines was symbolic that life on the road was grinding The Beatles down. Also, after Lennon's controversial butcher cover for the American release of Yesterday and Today, and his comments about the band being more popular than Jesus, it was time to stop. All the the pressure and bad press created an atmosphere that looked as if the bubble might finally burst. Yet, despite everything, the four lads issued a sensational last album from their touring days. In the 21st century, as the world's view of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as the greatest rock album ever made has waned a bit, Revolver is now often considered The Beatles best LP. George gets enough space for three songs, his most to date, and they are all outstanding. "Love You To" is heavily Indian influenced and his hard rocking "Taxman," with its very clever lyrics, became their first political song. The shy one's third offering, "I Want to Tell You" takes us back to their earlier days. McCartney wrote the best lyrics of his career for "Eleanor Rigby," and he also contributed one of his most loved romantic ballads, "Here, There, and Everywhere." He also shines with the more obscure but terrific "For No One." Got To Get You Into My Life" is one of his better rockers. Lennon was no slouch either. The appropriately titled "I'm Only Sleeping," and the upbeat "And Your Bird Can Sing" are both great pop-rock. His darker side turns up on three songs that are clearly influenced by the drug culture the group's leader had recently embraced. "Doctor Robert," "She Said She Said," and the almost sinister sounding "Tomorrow Never Knows" prove the point. Only the stupid "Yellow Submarine" misses the mark. However their creativity was fueled, The Beatles made it known that they were at the top of their game even though it became increasing clear that Lennon and McCartney were developing separate musical identities.
Next Up: Part 3, The Psychedelic Era (1967)