The jangling guitars, the descending bass riff, those harmonies, the picking guitar line at the end of the chorus.
So up! So happy!
Exhausted by too much touring and recording, realizing that he was in a marriage he wanted out of, John was over-eating and gaining weight at an alarming rate for a member of what was considered by many as, “a boy band”.
John wanted HELP! and didn’t know how to get it.
What he needed was a holiday. What he got was to make a movie about how crazy it was to be in The Beatles. “Help!” – the movie – was a rush job made between touring and recording. This was Director Richard Lester’s baby. United Artists were very happy with how the micro-budget “Hard Days Night” had done at the box office and handed Lester a much bigger budget which he spent on flying the lads off to exotic locations in Austria, The Bahamas and err… Twickernam where they blew up a tank.
This was the last hurrah of the Mop-tops before they became “serious artists”. The jolly japes were soon to end and none knew it more clearly than John.
During the filming of “Help!” John considered himself an extra in his own movie. He had had enough of BeatlesMk1 and sleepwalked he way though the process. He often forgot his lines because he was so out of it. The saving grace of the whole thing was that he got to hang with Victor Spinetti, Eleanor Bron and comedian Roy Kinnear and laugh a lot.
He may not have known how to get what he needed but he did know how to get what he wanted, and what he wanted was lots of Amphetamine (to help him work and keep his weight down) and marijuana (to help him escape the work and relax). This inevitably was bound to bring about bouts of depression and anger.
“Help!” is the sound of two drugs crashing against one another. You can hear the frantic pulse of amphetamine in the rhythm of the song. The jittery acoustic guitars. The twang. The high pitched enthusiasm of well… everything really.
The weed brings out the self pity:
“When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way”
John was 25 years old and felt as world weary as only a stoned young man can.
“But every now and then I feel so insecure”
The only time that "independence" "self-assured" and "insecure" are used in a Beatles songs is in “Help!”. This type of psycho-babble is in common useage when someone is stoned.
The George and Paul’s vocal part is one of my favorites in the the whole canon. The backing vocals precede the lead vocal in the verses. Not so much a call and response, more like a thought being formed before being expressed.
Help! was not the first miserable song that John Lennon had written. That honor belongs to “Misery” on The Beatles debut album. What makes “Help!” so interesting is that at the very moment that it was being written John Lennon was on top of the world.
The thing that he had wanted since he started the group as a teenager was happening big time. The total love and acceptance of millions upon millions of people world-wide. More girls than he could have ever have wanted him and even more young (and not so young) men wanted to BE him. The Beatles were on the edge of surpassing their greatest hero, Elvis.
But Lennon was able to see this acceptance that he wanted for so long for what is was – an illusion. He wanted to go deeper. He wanted more. He had Bob Dylan’s number in more ways than one and was ready to use it. He was getting ready to build Beatles MK2.
And for that he really would a little help from his friends.
In a 1971 interview John said he would like to re-record the entire Beatles catalog. At that moment The Drastic Mono Band were formed and decided to put his words into action.
They bought a mansion not unlike the one that John had in Ascot. They built an exact replica of John’s white piano with the same detuned F# note in the third octave. Each of them had to wait three months before recording to have the exact length of hair that John had during the Imagine sessions. In an attempt to re-create the chemical balance achieved by Lennon when he wrote “Help!” they calculated the exact quantities of marijuana and amphetamine that John was taking in 1965 and doubled it.
These guys are professionals. Don’t mess with them.
We were fortunate to come by some of their original multi-track recordings to which we have added vocal and of course ukulele.
Imagine, if you will, John at the piano reworking "Help!" before he imagined imagining "Imagine" and this is what you might hear.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
In the beginning was the word. And the word was "angst."
The Drastic Mono Band was the result of a head-cold suffered by the former child star, Robére Lump, while doling out Goobers and Raisinettes to rickety, trembling sacred cows in old Calcutta. There, Robére met a four-foot tall statue of the ancient greek goddess Proboscis, and it was love at first sight.
Well for at least one of them, anyway.
Robére and Proboscis were soon wed in the Bering Straits. The seeds of the Drastic Mono Band were already in place – but still easily removed with a Swiffer.
Joined thereafter by several clumsy others, including The Ghost Of St. Thomas Aquinas and a boisterous goat named Raoul, Robére and Proboscis rounded out the Drastic Mono Band – both in an effort to flee their pasts, and to wake up and get out of bed. They succeeded brilliantly. Raoul grinned and everyone felt slightly uneasy.
Robére soon found that his work with the Drastic Mono Band had exorcised the demons he had taken on as rhythm guitarist and resident iconoclast for the iconic Stubbles – and none too soon really.
Accompanied by Proboscis’s accomplished scale work, they soon found gigs as far as the basement of some local leather makers. And so a new force was born.
Originally, Raoul was keen to have the Drastic Mono Band do the cover song you hear today, thinking it was about a young daschund, and had been named "Whelp!" When the "W" was hastily erased by The Ghost Of St. Thomas Aquinas (while looking the other way), this cover version of the Beatles classic took shape.
Soon enough, the shape will be given back.
Soon enough my dear.
But first this.
Robére Lump turned 70 this week
But he didn’t really.
There is no Lump.
All there is, is what he made.
That is immortality.