A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day's Night album artworkRecorded: 29 January – 2 June 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 10 July 1964 (UK), 26 June 1964 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, tambourine
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar, piano, cowbell
George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, claves
Ringo Starr: drums, conga, bongos, tambourine
George Martin: piano

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Tracklisting:
A Hard Day’s Night
I Should Have Known Better
If I Fell
I’m Happy Just To Dance With You
And I Love Her
Tell Me Why
Can’t Buy Me Love
Any Time At All
I’ll Cry Instead
Things We Said Today
When I Get Home
You Can’t Do That
I’ll Be Back

Having conquered hearts in the United Kingdom throughout 1963, The Beatles set their sights on the world in 1964. They started it with concerts in London and Paris, before making history by conquering America in February, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show before an estimated 73 million viewers.

They followed up their Stateside triumph with a world tour, numerous interviews, television appearances and new recordings, and starred in their debut feature film. And despite their whirlwind schedule of touring and studio sessions, the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night turned out to be one of The Beatles’ strongest long-players.

We were different. We were older. We knew each other on all kinds of levels that we didn’t when we were teenagers. The early stuff – the Hard Day’s Night period, I call it – was the sexual equivalent of the beginning hysteria of a relationship. And the Sgt Pepper-Abbey Road period was the mature part of the relationship.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The album was recorded over nine non-consecutive days, between January and June 1964. In between the sporadic sessions The Beatles fulfilled their touring and filming commitments, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney writing some of their strongest songs to date.

What’s more, The Beatles refused to take the easy option and delve into their Cavern Club-era songbook, selecting some of the numerous cover versions in their repertoire to pad out the original compositions. A Hard Day’s Night became their first album to consist solely of original material, and was The Beatles only release to consist solely of songs written by Lennon-McCartney.

The songs

The title of A Hard Day’s Night had been coined by Ringo Starr, and first appeared in John Lennon‘s short story Sad Michael in his first book In His Own Write.

When film director Richard Lester announced it would be the title of The Beatles’ first film, Lennon took up the challenge to write the theme song. At the time he and Paul McCartney were in competition to write the group’s singles, and Lennon was entering a particularly productive songwriting phase.

I was going home in the car and Dick Lester suggested the title A Hard Day’s Night from something Ringo’d said. I had used it in In His Own Write, but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo. You know, one of those malapropisms. A Ringoism, where he said it not to be funny, just said it. So Dick Lester said we are going to use that title, and the next morning I brought in the song. ‘Cause there was a little competition between Paul and I as to who got the A side, who got the hit singles.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The genesis of the song was later recalled by Evening Standard journalist Maureen Cleave, who was a friend to The Beatles.

One day I picked John up in a taxi and took him to Abbey Road for a recording session. The tune to the song A Hard Day’s Night was in his head, the words scrawled on a birthday card from a fan to his little son Julian: “When I get home to you,” it said, “I find my tiredness is through…” Rather a feeble line about tiredness, I said. “OK,” he said cheerfully and, borrowing my pen, instantly changed it to the slightly suggestive: “When I get home to you/I find the things that you do/Will make me feel all right.” The other Beatles were there in the studio and, of course, the wonderful George Martin. John sort of hummed the tune to the others – they had no copies of the words or anything else. Three hours later I was none the wiser about how they’d done it but the record was made – and you can see the birthday card in the British Library.
Maureen Cleave

Lennon was the sole composer of the title track, along with I Should Have Known Better, Tell Me Why, Any Time At All, I’ll Cry Instead, When I Get Home and You Can’t Do That. He also wrote the majority of If I Fell and I’ll Be Back, and collaborated with McCartney on I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.

It comes and goes. I can’t believe it goes away for ever… but you can never be twenty-four again. You can’t be that hungry twice. That can never, never be.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

McCartney’s contributions to the album were hardly slight either: his highlights were the classic ballads And I Love Her and Things We Said Today, as well as the single Can’t Buy Me Love.

When we knew we were writing for something like an album [John] would write a few in his spare moments, like this batch here. He’d bring them in, we’d check ‘em. I’d write a couple and we’d throw ‘em at each other, and then there would be a couple that were more co-written. But you just had a certain amount of time. You knew when the recording date was and so a week or two before then we’d get into it.

It didn’t seem like pressure. It was – I suppose you’d have to think it was but I don’t remember it being a pressure. It was fun, it was great. I always liken songwriting to a conjurer pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Now you see it, now you don’t. If I now pick up a guitar and start to conjure something out of the air, there’s a great magic about it. Where there was nothing, now there is something. Where there was a white sheet of paper, there’s a page we can read. Where there was no tune and no lyrics, there’s now a song we can sing! That aspect of it made it a lot of fun. We’d be amazed to see what kind of rabbit we’d pulled out that day.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

A Hard Day’s Night is one of only three Beatles albums to contain no lead vocals by Ringo Starr. The others are Let It Be and Magical Mystery Tour.

14 responses on “A Hard Day’s Night

  1. Elsewhere Man

    This was the first of the remasters that I purchased as I had yet to hear most of the songs in stereo.

    The remaster did not disappoint. This is clearly the best of their pre-Rubber Soul albums. And not just because it’s all originals and no covers, but in spite of that fact. The Beatles weren’t exactly going through the motions when they did covers but most of the material on this album was as good or better than any cover version they had recorded to date…

  2. vonbontee

    Interesting that their only (pre-Pepper) album without a Ringo spotlight is also their only LP with 13 songs instead of 14. Maybe they eventually decided against including Ringo’s “Matchbox” cover for the sake of preserving the all-original Lennon-McCartney purity?

      1. vonbontee

        Wow, I didn’t know that! Too bad they hadn’t recorded “Matchbox” a year earlier: If so, then they could’ve used it on WTB in place of “I Wanna Be Your Man”; and reserved THAT one for AHDN. Result = 14 MacLen originals, including one each for George & Ringo. Or, hmmm, maybe they could’ve taken “I Call Your Name” from the 4-song “Long Tall Sally” EP and added the two German songs in its place, thereby turning a 4-song EP and 13-song album into a 5-song EP and 14-song album – albeit one without a Ringo vocal…

        UNLESS…John relinquished “I’ll Cry Instead” for Ringo to sing, which I’m sure he would’ve done quite nicely! It’s got that C&W/rockabilly feel, and of course that was Ringo’s specialty.

  3. M. Whitener

    This album proved that they didn’t need the covers that filled in the first two efforts. Also, it shows the competitive nature of Lennon & McCartney with each other to top the other’s effort, with “A Hard Day’s Night” being put out to no doubt match what Paul had did just before it with “Cant Buy Me Love”.

    However, the album as a whole is John at his best across an entire Beatle album. “If I Fell” is one of his strongest efforts & “You Can’t Do That” could have easily been another #1 if released as a single. Add in “Ill Be Back” and you have John’s voice & songwriting flow at it’s very best in his pure rock singer phase of the early Beatle work.

  4. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you on that one, Liam. On AHDN, Lennon sang lead vocals on 9 of the 13 tracks. On Pepper, Lennon sings lead or has a major vocal contribution to 7 of the 13 songs, Paul 8. The two best songs on the album (arguably, of course) are Lennon’s: “Lucy…” and “A Day in the life.” Hence, Lennon is all over Pepper, even on Paul’s songs: superb vocals on “Sgt. Pepper,” co-writer of “With a Little Help,” middle-eight of Getting Better, co-writer and beautiful vocals on “She’s leaving home.” Given that, it might be somewhat accurate to call AHDN
    John’s but Pepper is definitely not `Paul’s.’ AHDH is a great album.

    1. JohnPaulGeorgeRingo

      Sorry to disagree with your disagreement MMM but I tend to agree with Liam: Paul wrote five songs (and a reprise) while John wrote three songs. John then contributed to two songs from Paul (Getting Better and With a Little Help) and Paul contributed to John’s (A Day in the Life, arguably the best song on the album, by the way). Finally, the whole concept of S. Pepper came from Paul.

  5. Rockpile

    I agree with Liam above about this being John’s album. I truly believe he was carrying the Beatles on his shoulders here when they needed him to. His voice was the strongest, he was cheekiest, he wrote the books, he wore the cap. And here he wrote the songs. His final song I’ll Be Back heralds the next phase of the Beatles the same way Tomorrow Never Knows and A Day in the Life do.

  6. Johan Cavalli

    In 10 of the 13 songs, Lennon was the dominant composer. George Martin and McCartney seldom talk about this album, because Martin wasn´t so influential here, and McCartney didn´t write so many songs.
    The melodies are innovative. The title song has glissando like arabian folk music?, the middle part in I Should Have Known Better has an increasing tension — with two changes of key — instead of the tension only in the A-bits, the intro to If I Fell has three changes of key! and the rest sounds like a madrigal from 15th century, I´m Happy Just To Dance With You is like a mix of Irwing Berlin and Lennon, and in When I Get Home, Lennon changes the melody only by changing the rythm in the same note! Lennon was a pure genius.

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