Song Spotlight: The Night Before

This week’s Song Spotlight focuses on what has always been my favourite track from 1965’s Help! album: ‘The Night Before’.

‘The Night Before’ is the second song on Help! and was also included in the film. It was written by Paul McCartney, who sings the lead vocal, accompanied by harmonies from John Lennon and George Harrison. John also plays electric piano.

One of the song’s highlights is the double-tracked guitar solo, played by both George and Paul, an octave apart. This is actually my favourite part, and it sounds amazing underneath the driving rhythm section. I also have a weird love of the bit leading into the solo, where Paul exclaims, “Yesss!” It just has the vibe of a band at the peak of their powers, having a good old jam, which makes it even more fun to listen to.

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Paul obviously agreed, later saying that the sound “was one of the best we had got on record.” The Beatles only performed ‘The Night Before’ live on one occasion, for their final BBC radio session in May 1965. Paul performed it solo for the first time ever in 2011, during his show at Yankee Stadium in New York.

The scene in the Help! film in which the song featured was filmed on Salisbury Plain (home of Stonehenge). Unfortunately, the band are forced to run for it when a bomb explodes as the song finishes. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

‘The Night Before’ wasn’t released as a single, but I’ve always thought it could have been. John later said all he could really remember about the song was that it was on Help! and that Paul had written it. Yet it wasn’t one of those album tracks that you might consider ‘filler’ — it’s a genuinely great song.

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