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Fab Four Face-Off: What's Your Favorite Song from 'Help!'?

September 10, 2009 |  6:30 am


With the official release of the Beatles' remastered catalog this week, Pop & Hiss asks the musical question: What would go on your Beatles mix tape?

Fifth in my picks for the best song from each of the Fabs' 13 remastered albums, this entry considers "Help!" -- the fifth album in the series.

Leave your comments after the jump. Embrace or shun me for picking....


I agonized over this one. But the 10-year-old in me won.

As a fortysomething critic, I can recognize that songs such as "Ticket to Ride," with its little bit of raga and Otis Redding-worthy heartache, or "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," which reveals the true potential of rock tambourine, may be better (fancier, at least) choices. Plus, those songs were actually featured in the cinematic caper that gives this album its name.

I know that sophisticates scorn "Yesterday" for its greeting card rhyme scheme and after-dinner mint melody. McCartney with strings! That's about as rock 'n' roll -- as the Beatles go -- as a Mantovani record.

The other Beatles agreed at the time, and "Yesterday" wasn't released as a lead single (in the U.K.) until the mid-1970s, when I was a preteen.

Maybe because of that delayed release, or just coincidentally, Paul's little reverie made me fall head over heels for him, the Beatles and pop itself. Never before "Yesterday" did I realize how a song could capture how yearning could hurt so much, yet be impossible to clearly articulate; or how sadness could seduce as well as wound the heart.

That's what this plain song captures, with its unfinished plot and vague imagery and dead-perfect melody. It outlines the vast gray area where wrecked or unrealized dreams go, and never quite die. As a child, I had no yesterday to believe in, but this song told me that gaining those losses was a basic part of growing up.

So hate "Yesterday" if you must, but admit it is some kind of primary text. I'm not the only person who thinks so: a while back, the Guinness Book of World Records declared it the most-recorded song in pop history.

-- Ann Powers

Photo credit: Apple Corps