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A Hard Day's Night (album)

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Beatles A Hard Day's Night U.K. album cover art
UK cover

Beatles A Hard Day's Night U.S. album cover art
US cover

OK, sorry — but just tell me how else I should have known better to start A Hard Day's Night, someone!

Just as the movie (premiered just a few days before the album in July '64 in the UK†) is a kind of documentary of the all-enveloping bubble of Mid-to-High Beatlemania, so the songs from it, along with the equally strong second side, are an indelible document of The Beatles' state(s) of mind — collective and individual — in trying to deal with being on the inside of it. The entire world had, after all, shifted totally on its axis in the seven or eight months since With The Beatles. Paul and George had different ways of looking at it.

PM: We were getting a little crazy with it all.

GH: In the band we were normal, and the rest of the world was crazy.

Yet it's JL who gets to put things from his angle more than anybody on A Hard Day's Night, being cheifly responsible for ten of its thirteen compositions (breaking the 'fourteen' rule, too!) No writing credit for George this time, the album being the first — and only — to boast a 100% Lennon/McCartney denominación de origen.

RS doesn't get a song at all, though maybe his hellishly hungover "feeling like shit" canalside scene — and, of course, the title — were his key contributions to the project. George's recently-given Rickenbacker twelve-string was his most beautiful gift to it, along with his acoustic, "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" being his sole vocal lead.

The songs were written on the tour-runs from the beginning '64 (UK and Europe in January, the Conquest of America in February), with the title track coming at the end of filming (most of March and a couple of days in April). Such had their status grown, that Lennon and McCartney were able to get room service to trundle 'em up a grand piano to their hotel suite in Paris at the start of the year, just to give 'emselves an 'eadstart! "Can't Buy Me Love", part recorded in Paris, was a last-minute inclusion in the film and on the album.

Both acknowledged that, while they enjoyed the new challenge of 'writing to order', it was nevertheless an accentuation of the stress they were living through. As John said of the film, 'It was a comic-strip version of what was actually going on. The pressure was far heavier...'

I've come to consider A Hard Day's Night as their 'coming of age' album. While those familiar Beatle themes are all present — girls, love, dancing — there's a distinctly deeper and darker tone to much of the content than anything that had preceded it: 'a hard day's note', albeit semi-concealed by the pristine poppy packaging. At least as many faces of Beatledom are revealed through the songs as are shown on the sleeve. An outstanding ballad from each composer with "If I Fell" and "And I Love Her", and Lennon beginning to explore the conflicting traits of his personality on tracks like "You Can't Do That" and "I'll Cry Instead".

All of the band had been bowled over by Bob Dylan's Freewheelin' LP; though it was Lennon who was most affected artistically, a fact which would continue to manifest itself on the subsequent Beatles For Sale and way, way beyond. Paul's "Things We Said Today" similarly has a very Zimmerman feel to it.

Like With The Beatles before it, the sound of the songs is an integral part of the experience. While The Beatles themselves were still busy inventing pop, even in the midst of the mounting madness, George Martin was inventing pop production as they went along. His exploration of acoustic space is highly effective here, leaving aside discrepancies over mono/stereo/soundtrack mixes.

The boys, too, were starting to show a mite more interest in what all them knobs and things could actually do. Paul, certainly — and I can't honestly imagine John having let him get more than half a step ahead with anything at all back then!

† The US LP was issued slightly earlier on United Artists. The track listing (and order) differs substantially, including four instrumentals from George Martin's Oscar-nominated score. Three of the omitted songs were featured on Something New (Capitol, Aug '64), while "I'll Be Back" didn't appear until Beatles '65.

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