FEATURE: Vinyl Corner: The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night




Vinyl Corner

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night


TWO of my favourite music-related things ever…

 IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles filming A Hard Day’s Night/PHOTO CREDIT: United Artists/Getty Images

are The Beatles’ album, A Hard Day’s Night, and the film of the same name. The film is, I think, the best from the band (compared to their other film efforts) and the one that captures their friendship, comradeship and chemistry. It was released on 10th July, 1964 in the U.K. and was directed by Richard Lester. The film did not take a huge amount of money to make but, as you can expect, the box-office receipts were huge! I love the film because it features my favourite band but, like so many music films and biopics, there is a nice blend of humour and music. The plot is fairly simple and there are some great songs included. A Hard Day’s Night the album was released on 10th July, 1964 and received massive acclaim. I think A Hard Day’s Night is the most-underrated Beatles album because it is the first time songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon took control of the material. The first two Beatles albums consisted or original tracks and covers but, by 1964, Lennon and McCartney were really coming into their own as songwriters. From the timeless and memorable opening chord of the title song through to the more romantic and subtle numbers, A Hard Day’s Night is a masterpiece. Whereas earlier Beatles work was based more around Rock and Roll and Blues, Pop took a bigger stand through A Hard Day’s Night.

The Beatles would change their leadership and dynamics after 1965. Paul McCartney would take more charge regarding concepts and songwriting but, on the first Beatles album consisting of all-originals, Lennon was the chief songwriter. The tracks through A Hard Day’s Night are short, to the point and have incredible vocals. The layers and harmonies add lusciousness to the compositions. The title track and Can’t Buy Me Love are the best-known songs from A Hard Day’s Night - but lesser-played songs like If I Fell, I Should Have Known Better and I’ll Cry Instead are incredible moments from songwriters maturing and truly pushing boundaries. Although Lennon wrote nine out of the thirteen album tracks, McCartney’s genius and unique gifts are definitely on display. One associates life post-Revolver with a more strained and disconnected method of songwriting: Lennon and McCartney separate; Ringo Starr and George Harrison writing when they could but not really involved with the two leads. I will talk about Rubber Soul and a year that truly brought The Beatles to the stratosphere. One can see A Hard Day’s Night as a separate album or an accompaniment to the film. The first side of the album contains songs from the film’s soundtrack whereas the second side contains some songs not used in the film. No song on A Hard Day’s Night lasts longer than three minutes and there are a couple of tracks that are under two minutes in length.

The fact Lennon and McCartney crafted such special and enduring songs without feeling the need to make them too long proves they were intuitive, economical and concise. The tracks are wonderful and even some of the slighter numbers – such as Any Time at All – seep into the consciousness and reveal hidden layers the more you play them. The reception to the album and film were huge and, almost fifty-five years after its release, A Hard Day’s Night still has a special place in people’s hearts. In this review, AllMusic explained their appreciation for a very special album:         

Decades after its original release, A Hard Day's Night's punchy blend of propulsive rhythms, jangly guitars, and infectious, singalong melodies is remarkably fresh. There's something intrinsically exciting in the sound of the album itself, something to keep the record vital years after it was recorded. Even more impressive are the songs themselves. Not only are the melodies forceful and memorable, but Lennon and McCartney have found a number of variations to their basic Merseybeat style, from the brash "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Any Time at All," through the gentle "If I Fell," to the tough folk-rock of "I'll Cry Instead." It's possible to hear both songwriters develop their own distinctive voices on the album, but overall, A Hard Day's Night stands as a testament to their collaborative powers -- never again did they write together so well or so easily, choosing to pursue their own routes.

PHOTO CREDIT: United Artists/Getty Images 

 John and Paul must have known how strong the material is -- they threw the pleasant trifle "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" to George and didn't give anything to Ringo to sing. That may have been a little selfish, but it hardly hurts the album, since everything on the record is performed with genuine glee and excitement. It's the pinnacle of their early years”.

This is what Pitchfork had to say when reviewing A Hard Day’s Night:

 “But the dominant sound of the album is the Beatles in full cry as a pop band-- with no rock'n'roll covers to remind you of their roots you're free to take the group's new sound purely on its own modernist terms: The chord choices whose audacity surprised a listening Bob Dylan, the steamroller power of the harmonies, the gleaming sound of George Harrison's new Rickenbacker alongside the confident Northern blasts of harmonica, and a band and producer grown more than comfortable with each other. There's detail aplenty here-- and the remasters make it easy to hunt for-- but A Hard Day's Night is perhaps the band's most straightforward album: You notice the catchiness first, and you can wonder how they got it later”.

There are many more passionate reviews and, if you have not heard the album before, go and stream it and experience the magic. I would prefer people go and snap it up on vinyl because, in its true form, the songs sound even more magical and evocative.

I have these images of Lennon and McCartney writing sitting over from one another or, when needed, penning these great songs in their rooms. What can we learn from the songs’ lyrics and what they indicate about the band? This great piece talks about Lennon’s situation in 1964 and how he takes the lead through A Hard Day’s Night:

The lyrics also suggest that Lennon was relating something about his personal life in 1964. After all, when you examine Mark Lewisohn's book "The Complete Beatles Chronicle," you can easily see that their day to day life was indeed a non-ending hectic 'hard day's night.' They truly were 'working like dogs' and being sleep deprived. It probably wasn't a fictional thought that he couldn't wait to get home to his wife Cynthia. And since his hard work with The Beatles was financing the Kenwood twenty seven room mansion that he would purchase three months later, the lyrics about working "all day...to buy you things" definitely rings true.


PHOTO CREDIT: United Artists/Getty Images

Performance wise, John again is to the fore with his convincing vocal delivery. His rhythm work done with electric guitar during the basic track, coupled with the acoustic guitar performed in an overdub, lays a proficient foundation for the song. McCartney ends up hitting the nail on the head with his double-tracked vocals in the bridge and harmony work in the verses, even though it took him all nine takes to perfect. Equally difficult for Paul were his bass lines which, unusually for him, were also giving him trouble throughout most of the song's takes. Rather than saying he was having an off day, it was probably due to his unfamiliarity with the newly written song”.

There are many reasons why A Hard Day’s Night was a revelation and breakthrough for The Beatles. Here, as Classic Rock explains, it was the originality of the material and the personal nature that made it truly noteworthy:

In the end, what made The Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night so special was not the fact that it was the first album of non-cover songs or that it also served as the soundtrack to a very successful movie. What made The Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night so special was the depth of the songs. The music from the album A Hard Day’s Night has become timeless. Just like George Martin had once said that fans would look back at the Beatles music the same way people were looking back at the brilliance of Beethoven. Martin was right, the Beatles music has not only become the soundtrack of the lives of those born from the mid twentieth century to current days, it has become the standard to which all pop music is judged against. The first two Beatles albums were great, but its the A Hard Day’s Night album that really began to display the brilliance of the band and the way they would change the course of popular music forever”.

Rubber Soul seems like the natural link from A Hard Day’s Night. Released in 1965, it wasn’t the next album from A Hard Day’s NightBeatles for Sale and Help! came first – but I listen to Rubber Soul and it has a lot in common with A Hard Day’s Night in terms of the original songs, sounds and quality. Others might rank other Beatles albums above A Hard Day’s Night but, to me, their third studio album was a huge leap. It is a perfect album to listen to on vinyl so, if you can, go and get a copy and…

EXPERIENCE a masterpiece.