Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
Although The Beatles had taped much of ‘Can’t Buy Be Love’ while in Paris on 29 January 1964, the first scheduled recording sessions for the A Hard Day’s Night LP took place on this day. It was also George Harrison’s 21st birthday, which was celebrated in the evening.
The London Express office booked me into a dusty Bloomsbury hotel to cover an event of some excitement in the Beatle world: George’s 21st birthday. With an Express photographer, Larry Ellis, I was supposed to stake out George’s party and report on the guests, the food and so on. First, though, I had to find out where it was to be held. On the morning of the birthday, 25 February, I went with Judith Simons (London ‘pop’ reporter on the Daily Express) to the EMI studios in Abbey Road and found George posing for pictures among a whimsical assortment of gifts. It was all very cheerful and friendly and I took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere to nudge and hint a little about the title of the next Beatles single: a major scoop, if I could get it.
George Martin and Epstein, divining the drift of my gentle interrogations, said at first that they couldn’t reveal the name of the new song; but eventually they did tell me (it was ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’) and just after that the picture-session ended. George looked much relieved; he shook his head, much as a dog shakes its coat after swimming, and let out his breath in a single sharp explosion. ‘Whew!’ Then he chatted for a while about the New Experience of Being 21. The certainty that every word was a pearl for the press was lost on none of us, George included. These were hungry times, loaves-and-fishes days. We on the Express were feeding five thousand thousand, at least, on very little.
There followed a great deal of whispering – about the party, I supposed – but nothing more for the press. ‘Sorry, Derek, know you’re a friend of the family, but…’ But writing George’s column didn’t entitle me to hang out at private parties? That’s about it, a still, small voice whined within. And [press officer] Brian Sommerville couldn’t help: ‘Like to very much old man but it’s not easy. Ring me tonight and I’ll see what I can do. That’s it, fellers.’ Out! We slunk off, dragging our feet, watching each other suspiciously in case one of our number should make a quiet break for it and attempt another crack at Epstein and Sommerville. We were more like children playing ‘grandmother’s footsteps’ than adult reporters going about their job. My God, I thought, as we emerged into the wetness of Abbey Road, leafless in late winter; sod this for a lark.
Fifty Years Adrift
The Beatles were due to begin shooting their first feature film on 2 March, leaving them with little time for recording. There were two sessions on this day: the first began at 10am and ended at 1.30pm, and the second from 2.30-5.30pm, both in Studio Two at EMI Studios.
The first song to be tackled was ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. Vocals and guitar parts were overdubbed onto the backing track recorded in Paris, after which the song was complete and ready to be The Beatles’ next single.
The group then turned their attentions to the song’s future b-side, John Lennon’s ‘You Can’t Do That’. The Beatles finished the song in nine takes, only four of which were complete. The previously-unreleased take six was included on 1995’s Anthology 1.
In the afternoon session they worked on two songs which ended up on the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack. ‘And I Love Her’ was the first to be tackled. The Beatles recorded just two takes on this day; the second of these, the only complete run-through, was also released on Anthology 1. The group remade the song on the following day.
Also begun on this day was ‘I Should Have Known Better’. Three takes were recorded, but only one was complete. As with ‘And I Love Her’, the song was remade on 26 February.
Also on this day...
- 2020: George Harrison Woodland Walk in Liverpool announced
- 1972: UK single release: Give Ireland Back To The Irish by Wings
- 1970: Recording, mixing: You Always Hurt The One You Love by Ringo Starr
- 1970: Recording, mixing: Man We Was Lonely by Paul McCartney
- 1969: Recording: Old Brown Shoe, All Things Must Pass, Something
- 1968: George Harrison celebrates his 25th birthday in India
- 1965: Filming: Help!, the Bahamas
- 1964: George Harrison’s 21st birthday
- 1963: Live: Casino Ballroom, Leigh
- 1963: Editing, mixing: Please Please Me album
- 1962: Live: Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Lathom Hall, Liverpool
- 1961: Live: Aintree Institute, Liverpool
- 1943: George Harrison is born
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.
an image of the Beatles in the studio was sent to me in an email. we’re trying to figure out if the bass amp is next to Ringo behind a set of gobos (to his right). seems an odd thing to do, as bass notes would make the drums ring artificially with each note. Can you shed some light?
For A Hard Day’s Night, not a bad day’s work!