It is believed that The Beatles may have intended to record a 14th song for A Hard Day’s Night on 3 June 1964. However, Ringo Starr was taken ill with tonsillitis and pharyngitis during a photo session that morning, and stand-in drummer Jimmie Nicol was brought into Abbey Road for a rehearsal ahead of The Beatles’ imminent world tour.
The rehearsal took place between 2.30 and 5.30pm, replacing a pre-booked recording session. After Nicol had left the studio, The Beatles recorded demos of You Know What To Do, No Reply, and It’s For You. The latter song was given to Cilla Black.
It is not known whether the group intended for any of these songs to feature on A Hard Day’s Night. However, The Beatles’ failure to record a final song for the album meant that it was released, unusually, with 13 tracks.
The ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ opening chord
The clanging chord which opened the title track of The Beatles’ first film, third album and seventh UK single remains one of the most iconic moments of their career. Along with the final piano chord that ends A Day In The Life in 1967, it bookended what was perhaps the group’s most creative phase as songwriters and recording artists.
We knew it would open both the film and the soundtrack LP, so we wanted a particularly strong and effective beginning. The strident guitar chord was the perfect launch.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
The chord was identified as an Fadd9 by George Harrison during an online chat on 15 February 2001:
Q: Mr Harrison, what is the opening chord you used for A Hard Day’s Night?
A: It is F with a G on top (on the 12-string), but you’ll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper story.
Paul McCartney added a D note, played on the 12th fret of the D string on his Hofner violin bass. For more information, read our feature on the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ opening chord.
In the studio
The Beatles met Francis Hall, the president of guitar company Rickenbacker, during their first visit to America in February 1964. Hall set up a meeting in New York City to demonstrate new instruments and amplifiers, and George Harrison was given one of the new 12-string 360 electric guitars. John Lennon also requested a custom-made 12-string 325 model, which was delivered at a later date.
How do I like it? Marvellous. It’s gear. It sounds a bit like an electric piano, I always think, but you get a nice fat sound out of it.
The sound of the Rickenbacker became a key part of A Hard Day’s Night. The 12-string was perhaps most notable in the iconic opening chord of the title track, and in I Should Have Known Better and You Can’t Do That. The instrument also influenced many of recordings that followed by bands such as The Byrds and The Searchers.
The very first records we made were mono, though I did have stereo facilities. To make mixing easier I would keep the voices separate from the backing, so I used a stereo machine as a twin-track. Not with the idea of stereo – merely to give myself a little bit more flexibility in remixing into a mono. So the first year’s recordings were made on just two tracks and were live; like doing broadcasts. With the great advance of four-track we were able to overdub and put on secondary voices and guitar solos afterwards. By the time we did A Hard Day’s Night we would certainly put the basic track down and do the vocals afterwards. Invariably, I was putting all the rhythm instruments onto either one or two tracks (generally one track) so you would have bass lumped with guitar. It wasn’t until later still that we began putting bass on afterwards as well, giving Paul the opportunity of using his voice more.
The first song to be recorded for A Hard Day’s Night was Paul McCartney’s Can’t Buy Me Love. It was taped on 29 January 1964 in EMI’s Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris, in a daytime session before one of their residency concerts at the city’s Olympia Theatre.
The session had been booked for The Beatles to record German-language versions of She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand. The recordings were completed ahead of schedule, leaving the group free to record a new song.
Can’t Buy Me Love was taped in just four takes, in probably less than an hour. The song became the follow-up to I Want To Hold Your Hand when released in the UK as a single on 20 March 1964, simultaneously acting as a stopgap between future recordings and a teaser for The Beatles’ forthcoming LP.
The small matter of conquering America meant The Beatles didn’t return to the studio until 25 February, when they recorded You Can’t Do That, and early versions of And I Love Her and I Should Have Known Better; both were remade in subsequent days.
For the rest of February and early March the group recorded songs for the film soundtrack. They also taped several songs which were eventually issued on the standalone Long Tall Sally EP.
As was typical in the early 1960s, The Beatles didn’t attend mixing or editing sessions for the album. George Martin worked on the recordings in the group’s absence, on one occasion adding a piano part to You Can’t Do That while The Beatles were on holiday.
Filming for A Hard Day’s Night was over by the end of April, but touring duties continued. The Beatles recorded the non-soundtrack songs for the LP in just three consecutive days from 1 June, before beginning their world tour of Denmark, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand on 4 June.
In their absence the album was edited and mixed for mono and stereo by George Martin and the EMI studio engineers. It was completed on 22 June and released in the United Kingdom on 10 July.