A Hard Day’s Night (1964)


Title: A malapropism of Ringo’s, which tickled John so much he used it in his book of poetry before it became the name of a Beatles song, film, album and EP.

Cover: Rows of thumbnail pictures: five per Beatle as they lark about for the camera. Is George smoking in one of them?! I’ve never spotted that before. The cover deliberately echoes a scene in the first Beatles movie, of which this is in effect the soundtrack album: George pulling funny faces while he has his picture taken at a party.

Best song: It’s a real toss-up between two tracks. The title song is so packed full of energy, drive and fun it’s impossible not to love. I can’t help but picture the opening scene of the film whenever I hear it – the band being chased by fans, darting into Marylebone Station, hiding in phone boxes and photo booths, climbing over a wall, and rushing onto a train. The song’s famous opening chord – a mission statement, really: strap yourself in – has been analysed to death, with many explanations of exactly what each instrument is playing. I’ve no idea who’s right, but my favourite deconstruction is by a gleeful Randy Bachman (of Bachman-Turner Overdrive). However, Paul’s Can’t Buy Me Love is equally effervescent. It has a *terrific* lead vocal, a hip, lolling rhythm, a clipped guitar solo and one of Macca’s best early basslines.

Honourable mentions:

* There are lots of great tracks. And I Love Her – written by Paul, but I’ve seen him warmly credit the main acoustic riff to George – might have bland lyrics but is a pleasant, soft tune.

* John’s Any Time At All, meanwhile, is whip-crack quick and infectious.

* Things We Said Today (by Paul, about his long-distance relationship with Jane Asher) is fantastic and interesting and pleasingly pensive: I love the acoustic guitar flourishes.

* It’s a shame the lyric to John’s You Can’t Do That is such misogynistic tripe, as it’s a wonderful rock’n’roll tune.

* His I’ll Be Back has a nice warm vocal sound and closes the album well.

Worst song: Every song is at least good. I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, written by Lennon and McCartney as George Harrison’s showpiece in the movie, is probably the weakest. (Though there’s a bit of the otherwise fine Tell My Why where the vocals go annoyingly shrill…)

Notable outside contributions: More piano-playing from George Martin, most effectively on the title song.

Review: The entire album was written by Lennon and McCartney, which given their schedule in the winter of 1963/64 (a relentless rush of gigs, TV and radio appearances, location filming, interviews, studio days and almost daily travel) is quite astonishing. The level of quality is so high, and the Beatles sound is being defined more and more: reverb-y vocals, a warm cushion of music (there’s lots of acoustic guitar on this album). While working on this review, I rewatched the film too. Obvious thing to say, but it’s bloody entertaining.

Eight diamond rings, my friend, out of 10.

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