Reference Library: Help Cover Picture
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (saki)
Subject: Re: Semaphore
This was posted some months ago by one AJR3@delphi.com.
There has been some discussion about the cover of Help! and whether
or not the Beatles' hand positions spell anything. So I dug out my
old Boy Scout manual, found the semaphore table, and compared it to my
CD, which, as I understand it, reflects the original British album cover.
Now, by various accounts, the boys' images may have been reversed,
reordered, or even flipped before being committed to the album cover, so
there are several possibilities. I'll leave it to those of you with more
insight than I to determine what they MEANT to say, but I can tell you
what they ARE saying.
First and foremost, no matter what order or left-right orientation
they are arranged in, they do NOT spell H-E-L-P. However, in a mirror-
image, to a lenient eye, they do come close to spelling L-P-U-S, though
they wouldn't win any merit badges with their form. This has been
suggested as the real intented message, so I'd be inclined to believe
the image is indeed reversed. (Added clue: both Ringo and Paul appear to
be wearing watches on their RIGHT arms. (Yes, I know Paul's left-handed,
but it seems more likely he'd wear his wristwatch on the left than that
Ringo would wear his on the right (unless they do that backwards in
England too, just like they drive on the wrong side on the road ;-)).))
My interpretation of their signals is as follows:
1) George: George's form is very poor. Accepted semaphore arm positions
radiate outward at 45-degree angles from the breastbone. George's
arms sag somewhere between being straight out and pointing
down at 45 degrees. If we interpret them as pointing straight
out, then he's signaling an "R"; if they're pointing down 45
degrees, it's an "N". Both of these are the same in mirror-
image. If we are very forgiving and assume that his right arm
is intended to point down 45 and his left to point straight,
then it's an "M", which in mirror-image becomes an "S".
2) John: John is easiest of all. His arms both point up 45 degrees, which
represents a "U" in both regular and mirror-image.
3) Paul: Paul's form is good, too. Right arm straight up and left arm
straight out. That's a "J", or a "P" in reverse.
4) Ringo: Ringo appears to have his right arm up at 45 degrees and his
left arm down at 45 degrees. If the picture is not reversed,
then this is very bad form indeed, as that does not signal
any letter at all. If we assume that one arm or the other was
intended to point vertically, then the signal could variously
be "D", "C", or "V"; but if we assume instead that the photo
was reversed, then he is signaling an "L" properly.
Based on this, I believe the "mirror-image spelling LPUS (Help us)" carries
the most credibility. As some have pointed out previously in this thread,
the boys' order was reversed on the American album for some reason, from
George-John-Paul-Ringo to George-Ringo-John-Paul, which yields PULS. If
there is a meaning to this, then I'm stumped!
From: Richard@utopiasw.demon.co.uk (Richard Hanson)
Subject: "Help!" Album Cover: Semaphore Message
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 1995 02:41:28 GMT
[Regarding the above article,] I'm convinced that the cover picture
is indeed a mirror-image of the original picture for the following
1. If you look at the picture on the "Help!" album cover, the
Beatles' jackets have the buttons on the wrong side of the jackets.
This is because the picture has been reversed.
2. In the "Help!" picture, on his left-hand Ringo is wearing a big
ring with a red stone, which is shown in the film. I haven't got a
copy of the film at the moment, but I'm sure that Ringo wears this
large ring on his right hand in the film.
3. A photograph on page 63 of Lewisohn's "The Beatles Recording
Sessions" shows the Beatles lined-up from left-to-right as Ringo,
Paul, John, and George, and (see below) this would have been the
correct line-up for the album cover picture. This photograph was not
necessarily taken just before or after the album cover photograph, but
it seems likely, and this photograph is certainly the right way round
because there is a sign which reads "TOBOGGAN HIRE".
So I think that the original picture was intended to show the
semaphore message "L-P-U-S", which is really much more interesting
"L-P-U-S" not only means "help us!" but is a play on the fact that the
picture was on the cover of an "LP" by "us" (the Beatles), and
exclaims "long play us" to the owner of the record.
The original picture would have shown the Beatles lined-up from
left-to-right as Ringo, Paul, John, and George. Maybe whoever was
responsible for reversing the image thought that it would be unusual
to have Ringo "leading" the group, so instead decided to use the
mirror-image line-up of George, John, Paul, and Ringo.
From: Doctor Fang [DoctorFang@interramp.com]
Subject: Re: New "Help!" cover information
Date: 21 Dec 1995 01:09:40 GMT
[Regarding the above articles,] evidence is available which shows that
the cover photo on the HELP! album (both the US and UK versions) was *not*
intended to spell HELP, nor any other message, in semaphore. Furthermore,
simple research shows that the cover photo as a whole is *not* a
mirror-image of the original photo, although some of the Beatles'
individual images are reversed.
The photographer who conceived of and executed the photo, Robert Freeman,
confirms that no semaphore message was intended. Freeman writes:
...I had the idea of semaphore spelling out the letters HELP. But
when we came to do the shot the arrangement of the arms with those
letters didn't look good. So we decided to improvise and ended up with
the best graphic positioning of the arms. (Freeman, Robert _The
Beatles_, Barnes & Noble, NY, p. 62)
This improvisation of arm positions probably explains the Beatles' "bad
form", as described in an article above. The intention behind the arm
positions was good "graphic positioning", not good semaphore. Thus, some
liberties probably were taken in arm positions, and adherence to "good
form" semaphore was a secondary priority (or possibly not of any concern
Regarding the use of reversed images on the covers, neither the US nor the
UK cover photo is reversed in its entirety. However, the individual images
of John, George and Ringo are reversed on the UK cover, while Paul's image
is not. (Note that on the US cover, only John and Ringo's images are
reversed, and the order in which the Beatles are standing is altered.)
The use of reverse images (and non-reversed images) on the UK cover can be
confirmed by comparison with film footage and other photos taken during the
filming of HELP! as follows:
1. The previous article mentions the fact that the Beatles' jackets have the
buttons on the "wrong" side, indicating a reversed image. This is
absolutely true for John, George and Ringo. Paul's coat, however, is
*zippered*, and has no buttons from which to draw such a conclusion.
2. Further confirmation that Ringo's image is reversed can be found in:
(1) the location of the ring (on his right hand in film footage and photos)
(2) location of his watch (on his left wrist in film footage and photos)
3. Paul's image is not reversed, as the following items correspond correctly to
those as shown in HELP film footage and photos:
(1) the location of the part in his hair (consistently his left side)
(2) the location of his watch (on his right wrist in every photo in which
the watch is visible)
(3) his facial features (his face is asymmetrical -- his right eye and
eyebrow are higher and more arched than the left)
4. Further confirmation that Paul's image was not reversed along with those of
John, George and Ringo is the direction from which the "sunlight" (actually
studio lighting) strikes each Beatle. The light hits George, John and Ringo
from their right (from the left side of the UK cover), while it hits Paul
from his left (from the right side of the UK cover).
As an additional note, previous arguments have cited the order in which the
Beatles are standing as evidence that the cover photo was reversed.
Comparisons between the line-up on the cover and similar line-ups in
location photos in Austria supposedly proved what the "original" standing
order was (the assumption being that the location photos and the cover
photo probably were taken during the same photo session). However, the
cover photo was *not* taken on location in Austria; it was taken much later
in a studio near London, as described by photographer Robert Freeman:
The shot was set up at the film studio near London where the Beatles
were finishing the last scenes. They stood on a specially constructed
platform with a white painted background wearing the black hats, coats
and capes from the film wardrobe. (Freeman, p. 62)
For this reason, any photos taken on location in Austria cannot be used as
evidence of the "original" standing order of the cover photo.
Thus, the various semaphore messages and their interpretations which have
been ascribed to the HELP! cover, while creative, are unfounded in light of
the words of the man who conceived and created the photo. Examination of
extensive photographic and film evidence corroborate his words.
P.S. For those still intrigued/tortured by this issue, some good
photographic evidence (in addition to the covers themselves and film
footage) can be found in the following books:
Freeman, Robert _The Beatles_, Barnes & Noble, pp. 62-63, pp. 128-145
Delano, Julia _The Beatles Album_, Smithmark, 1991, pp. 128-141
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