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.

The Beatles 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 PepperAbbey 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 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 of 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.

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