The Beatles- A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Updated: May 9
The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night
(United Artist Records)
Released in U.S. July 10, 1964
Recorded between January 29 - June 2, 1964
A Hard Day's Night was the group's first full album of all original materials. It's also the only album in which Lennon and McCartney wrote all the material. The album's title came from a phrase by drummer Ringo Starr after a particularly long day. Seven tracks from the album were included in the group's hit musical comedy film of the same name, which portrays scenes from 36 hours in the group's life at the height of Beatlemania. Both the film and the album were rushed to continue spreading the joyful rash that was the Beatles before the itch faded. In their haste, they created a masterwork. With the album, the boys charted a #1 record for 14 consecutive weeks in the U.S., and the album eventually went 4x platinum (4 million albums sold). It was also #1 hit in England, Australia, Germany, and Finland. The material on A Hard Day's Night mimics the music from Something New, The Beatles' fifth American release in the U.S.
Moving into 1965, The Beatles began recording earth-shattering materials that included more extensive experimentation, and by 1966 the group retired from live performance and focused on recording more masterpieces, ushering in a new era in which rock albums moved from a collection of singles to a more cohesive concept of an artistic statement. Then the Beatles decided to fly in separate directions, and each member enjoyed a successful solo career. In 1980 Lennon was murdered at age 40 by a crazed fan, and Harrison died of lung cancer in 2011. At the time of this writing. McCartney and Ringo continue to record and tour. I suspect that if there is still a world in 200 years, the only band that might be remembered will be the Beatles.
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1- "A Hard Day's Night" opens with history's most discussed first chord. There is so much analysis as to what it is- likely some F add 9 chords in the guitar with a D in the bass, making it an F13 (add 9). What does that mean? It means that already the group was open to some experimentalism. For the title of the song, Ringo recalls saying, "We went to do a job, and we'd worked all day, and we worked all night. I came up still thinking it was day, and I said, "It's been a hard day….' and I looked around and saw it was dark, and so I said…night (The Beatles Bible). Lennon mainly wrote the song, but McCartney also had some input. Harrison's usage of his electric 12-string Rickenbaker electric guitar in the famed guitar solo inspired Roger McGuinn of the Byrds (an impactful group) to adopt the same guitar to create his signature sound. The tune was a #1 hit in the U.S. It is driving, wonderfully performed, well-written, and has a cowbell. What else do you need to know? It's a classic. (*+)
Track 2 -"I Should Have No Better" was the B side to "A Hard Day's Night." The tune features Lennon on harmonica, Harrison's simplistic 12-string electric guitar solo, and vocals by Lennon. Ridiculous to think this was a B side. It's better than most singles from the time. There is only one short instance of vocal harmony in tune, which is near the end of the word "mine" (+)
Track 3- "If I Fell" was a song offered by Lennon with some help from McCartney. It was Lennon's first attempt at a "proper ballad." It was another B-side release that's good enough to be a single. The song offers close vocal harmonies, and Harrison's 12-string electric is again present. The song is reminiscent of many songs included in the standard material from the great American Songbook. Great songwriting (+)
Track 4 -"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You." is a formulaic song written by Lennon and McCartney as a vehicle for Harrison to have a piece with a lead vocal on the album. Ringo didn't get one. The song is a throwaway, but even the Beatles' "trash' is worthy of a dumpster dive."
Track 5- "And I Love Her," was primarily written by McCartney, who was excellent at writing love songs. McCartney claims, "it was the first ballad I impressed myself with." It reached #12 on the Billboard Charts. The song has a wood block clave giving it somewhat of a cha-cha beat supported by McCartney's bass line. Harrison's acoustic guitar work is notable on the record. The chords are beautiful, as are the lyrics. "And I Love Her" shows the Beatles' range early on, and I love it. So did Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who made a home recording of the song. (*+)
Track 6, "Tell Me Why," is written by Lennon." Stylistically, the song is rock and roll meet 50s doo-wop. Lennon recalls, "they needed another upbeat song, and I just knocked it out. I was like a black New York girl group song." The boys even sing in a very high falsetto on the tune.
Track 7 -"Can't Buy Me Love," is a great closer to side one of the album. Written by McCartney, the song offers great lyrics, a driving bass line, and strong guitar work, and Ringo holds it all down. "Can't Buy Me Love" sold over two million copies in its first week and was a smash #1 hit. It's a perfect song. (*+)
Track 1 -"Any Time At All" is a pretty rocking song for the time, written mainly by Lennon. The tune was unfinished when brought into the studio hence the somewhat weird instrumental bridge. Remember, the Beatles were intent on getting this album out quickly. The chorus makes the song work. (*)
Track 2 - “I'll Cry Instead," was written by Lennon. The tune is performed in the popular rockabilly style. The lyrics are darker than most early Beatles songs and may have reflected the group's popularity and the loss of privacy Lennon felt. McCartney has suggested that the lyrics reflected Lennon's difficulties with his marriage to Cynthia. Cynthia believed the tune had to deal with Lennon's "cry for help." In the lyrics, Lennon sings about crying over the "only girl he ever had." He plots his vengeance and plans to "break hearts all around the world," but for now, he will "cry instead." The song is concise, reflective, and effective. (+)
Track 3- "Things We Said Today" is a somewhat overlooked Beatles track. McCartney wrote the tune while on vacation with then-girlfriend actress Jane Asher. The lyrics describe how his and Asher's careers and schedules often separated them. The two were engaged in 1967 but broke off the engagement and ended the relationship a few months later. The tune provides some advanced harmonies for a pop tune. "Things We Said Today" was offered as a B side to "Hard Days Night." The song is another small glimpse into the personal life of a Beatle (+)
Track 4 - "When I Get Home" is Lennon's tune. The piece sounds very generic and not his best work. It seems thrown together.
Track 5 -"You Can't Do That" is a Lennon tune he claims was inspired by Wilson Pickett. Once again, the theme is that of a jealous lover. Lennon appeared to be having some issues. Harrison offers some notable guitar work on this driving R&B. Despite its somewhat misogynistic nature; it is a great tune. Another example of a U.S. B side that could have been a hit if promoted as a single. (+)
Track 6 -"I'll Be Back" is a ballad mainly written by Lennon that offers some flamenco-style guitars and solid harmony. The song's structure, time changes, and phrase length are unique. Also, the song has no chorus and two bridges. Who was doing that? It displays that the Beatles were not your average bugs. Lyrically the song also shows a vulnerable side to Lennon which may have been needed after "I'll Cry Instead" and "You Can't Do That." (+)
A Hard Day's Night is among the most impactful movie soundtracks ever. Awards and Positions (#1 Billboard Charts, 4X Platinum)