help album cover

The Beatles Needed Little Help With This Album

The Beatles Needed Little Help With This Album

Help Album Cover

Welcome to another instalment of “Behind The Cover.” This feature is brought to you by Pure Music Manufacturing and focuses on the story behind an iconic album cover.

Help! was the fifth studio album released in August 1965 by English rockers The Beatles. It was also the soundtrack to the movie they released with the same name. The album also happened to be the fifth album released by the band in the UK. In the original UK release, it had a collection of 14 songs and a total of seven of them were in the movie. Those songs filled the complete first side of the album and the second side featured the most-covered song ever written, “Yesterday.”

The American version of “Help!” was quite different as it was created to be an actual soundtrack album where instrumental music from the film was mixed into the first side of the disc with the songs from the movie. Another interesting American variation saw the seven songs from the second side of the UK release appear on later US Beatles albums and singles.

Help! was the first album by a rock band to be nominated in the category of Album of the Year at the 1966 Grammy Awards. It was certified platinum for record sales totals since 1994.

The album cover story is quite interesting. It shows the four members of the band with their arms extended in different configurations. Each of them is holding a flag in each hand and the arm positions are meant to communicate letters using the flag semaphore code. The cover was shot by photographer Robert Freeman who was attempting to get the Beatles to spell the word HELP in semaphore. However, Freeman said that the arm arrangements to spell HELP did not look good, so they improvised until a suitable visual was found.

You would have thought that maybe a completely different album idea would have been best but, the fact that semaphore was an old form of communication, designers reasoned that not many would recognize that was what was being communicated on the cover. Or at least that’s our speculation on the topic.

What this means is that the semaphore flags ended up spelling something other than HELP. The UK release of the album has “NUJV” spelled out. The US release did a slight rearrangement and the Fab Four are spelling “NVUJ” on that cover. Plus, with the juggling of the artwork on the US version, it appears as if Paul McCartney’s left hand is pointing at the Capitol Records logo. At the time of the original release, the US version was issued as a deluxe version featuring a gatefold sleeve that included several photos from the film.

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