Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr en George Harrison Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics (c) Alan Aldrigde, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics

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Help!

Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1965

Chords/Tabs: Help!

Notes On "Help!" (H)

Copyright 1989 Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved

With "Help!", let's take a look at a couple of details in the harmony as well as a glance at the overall form.


Harmonic Details

"Help!" is in the key of A but it's the G Major chord that calls for our analytical attention. The G chord appears repeatedly in this song, alternately serving two unrelated purposes; sort of like a character actor filling two different roles in the same play.

In the verse, the G chord appears as a garden variety flat-VII "aeolian cadence":

	A	->c#	->f#	->D	->G	->A
A:      I        iii      vi     IV    flatVII   I

However, in both the intro and the refrain, the G chord serves a more subtle purpose; in the final analysis (ugh!) I'm not even sure what Roman numeral to give it, or whether to give it one at all.

The chord progression of the intro is a classic harmonic example of starting a piece out in left field; "classic" in the sense that early Romantic song writers like Schubert and Schumann loved this gambit. At what point in "Help!" do you know for sure what key we're in ? Below are some of the ways in which I believe the opening chords can be heard; I think that several of the possibilities below are quickly rejected in retrospect by the ear but I list them all to underscore the ambiguity.


		b		->G		->E		->A

is it 	b:	i		VI 		V-of-flat-VII, huh ???
  *or*
	g:	iii		I		V-of-ii, huh ???
  *or*
	D:	vi		VI		V-of-V		V, maybe ???
  *Actually* it's
	A:	ii		flat-VII	V		I

This is more than just mental gymnastics on paper. Try and put yourself in a frame of mind as though you're hearing this for the first time (try!), and play it out "Name That Tune" style, dealing out one chord at a time. Ask yourself at each step, "what key am I in", "where am I heading ?" I think you'll get the picture.

I think one isn't certain of the key being A until the verse actually begins; the possibility of the A at the end of the intro actually being a V which will go the the D as the I chord is very real to the ear.

Once you get used to this progression I believe you hear the overall motion as being from the ii->V->I; a nice subdominant->dominant->tonic cadence. But what of the G chord ? I put a flat-VII under it but I don't hear it that way at all in this context; flat-VII is a surrogate dominant (V-like) function. What I hear in this context is more of a hard to pigeon-hole "filler" chord between the ii and the V. What makes it work is the contrapuntal movement in the outer voices:


	Top:		F#		->G		->G#

	Bottom:		B	->A	->G	->F#	->E

		A:	ii		 ??		  V

Scale-wise motion, particularly in a bassline or particularly when any line moves chromatically as the top line does here, can make the ear follow and "accept" some of the craziest chord progressions. In music of the late nineteenth century (for examples see Chopin or Wagner) this technique could be extended through very long passages creating a rather floating tonal experience. Our example from "Help!" is a very tiny example of this technique -- it extends over only three chords, the outer two of which are clear tonal anchors like the towers of a suspension bridge. If you'll allow me to quickly change metaphors yet again, I like to think of that G chord here making a harmonic "pleat" between it's two neighboring chords.

It's a very pleasing effect; given that the harmonic rhythm is rather slow throughout, this unusual chord progression which is repeated four times in the course of the song is a conspicuous touch which adds a much needed feeling of forward and outward movement.

Two other unrelated harmonic details I can't resist passing by:

I always hear the final phrase of the refrain as follows; there's a V chord on the word "help" which, though not on the rhythm track, is strongly implied by the voices:

	Won't	you	PLEASE	please	help 	me

	E		A		(E)	A
A:	V		I		(V)	I

This pattern is changed in the final refrain and made into a beautiful example of a deceptive cadence, in pure Bach style; i.e., the word "me" in the final refrain is given an f# (vi) chord. As in all such cadences, thing are quickly put "right" in the following and final phrase.

And that brings me to the second detail -- the final chord of this song is yet another added sixth chord. In contrast to the splat-like attack on this chord at the end of "She Loves You", the boys use it in "Help!" with great subtlety; the plain A chord is given on the down beat, and the sixth is added as a melodic neighboring tone, off the beat, in falsetto voice on the phoneme "Ooh"; but you already knew that :-).


Overall Form

Help! has an unusually flat floor plan:

		----- 3X ------
	Intro - Verse - Refrain - Coda

There are a couple of details which help offset the deadly monotony of this:

- there's the effect created by the chromatic chord progression already described above.

- the lyrics of the three verses create an A-B-A pattern

- the instrumental arrangement provides a dramatic and welcome lightening of the texture at the beginning of the last verse.

But I'd argue that this small amount of relief is frankly not enough to dispell an overall closed, static feeling in the song created by the following factors:

- the harmonic rhythm is fairly slow and unvarying throughout. In the verse, except for the phrase "help in any way" where the chords change twice within a measure, the rest of the chords last two whole measures each. In the refrain, the chords last four measures each!

- the 16 measure verse is built out of a musically identical repetition of the same 8 measures.

- the harmony from an architectural viewpoint, is unrelievedly in one key (A) throughout. In spite of the nice effect with the G chord, the refrain provides no relief in terms of excursion or flirtation with a different key. (By contrast, think about the space opened up by the middle eight of a song like "From Me To You.")

All this is not to say that "Help!" is ineffective or unsuccessful; common sense and experience tells us you don't need to be versed in music theory to recognize a great song when you hear it; right!?

If anything, I find myself pondering that perhaps, this unusual unrelieved closedness is intentional and actually part of what makes the impact of the song so strong. The music underscores the single-mindedness of the message contained within the lyrics; shades of "got no time for trivialities" from a different song of the same composer.

Regards,
Alan (awp@mirror.tmc.com)

---
"They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan,
 but *I* gave him the test."					070989#6



Ook op Help!:

ChordsNotes On
Help! Help!
The Night Before The Night Before
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
I Need You I Need You
Another Girl Another Girl
You're Gonna Lose That Girl You're Gonna Lose That Girl
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Act Naturally Act Naturally
It's Only Love It's Only Love
You Like Me Too Much You Like Me Too Much
Tell Me What You See Tell Me What You See
I've Just Seen a Face I've Just Seen a Face
Yesterday Yesterday
Dizzy Miss Lizzy Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Ook op 1962-1966:

ChordsNotes On
Love Me Do Love Me Do
Please Please Me Please Please Me
From Me to You From Me to You
She Loves You She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
All My Loving All My Loving
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
And I Love Her And I Love Her
Eight Days a Week Eight Days a Week
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Yesterday Yesterday
Help! Help!
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Day Tripper Day Tripper
Drive My Car Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Nowhere Man Nowhere Man
Michelle Michelle
In My Life In My Life
Girl Girl
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine

Ook op 1:

ChordsNotes On
Love Me Do Love Me Do
From Me to You From Me to You
She Loves You She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
Can't Buy Me Love Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night A Hard Day's Night
I Feel Fine I Feel Fine
Eight Days a Week Eight Days a Week
Ticket to Ride Ticket to Ride
Help! Help!
Yesterday Yesterday
Day Tripper Day Tripper
We Can Work It Out We Can Work It Out
Paperback Writer Paperback Writer
Yellow Submarine Yellow Submarine
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Penny Lane Penny Lane
All You Need Is Love All You Need Is Love
Hello Goodbye Hello Goodbye
Lady Madonna Lady Madonna
Hey Jude Hey Jude
Get Back Get Back
The Ballad of John and Yoko The Ballad of John and Yoko
Something Something
Come Together Come Together
Let It Be Let It Be
The Long and Winding Road The Long and Winding Road

Ook op Love:

ChordsNotes On
Because Because
Get Back Get Back
Glass Onion Glass Onion
Eleanor Rigby Eleanor Rigby
Julia Julia
I Am the Walrus I Am the Walrus
I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want to Hold Your Hand
Drive My Car / The Word / What You're Doing 
Gnik Nus 
Something Something
Blue Jay Way Blue Jay Way
Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! / I Want You (she's So Heavy) / Helter Skelter 
Help! Help!
Blackbird / Yesterday 
Strawberry Fields Forever Strawberry Fields Forever
Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows 
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Octopus's Garden Octopus's Garden
Lady Madonna Lady Madonna
Here Comes the Sun Here Comes the Sun
The Inner Light The Inner Light
Come Together / Dear Prudence 
Cry Baby Cry Cry Baby Cry
Revolution Revolution
Back in the U.S.S.R. Back in the U.S.S.R.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps While My Guitar Gently Weeps
A Day in the Life A Day in the Life
Hey Jude Hey Jude
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
All You Need Is Love All You Need Is Love

(c) 2019 Serge Girard