A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day's Night single - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 16 April 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

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

John Lennon: vocals, electric and acoustic rhythm guitars
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass
George Harrison: lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, cowbell
George Martin: piano
Norman Smith: bongos

Available on:
A Hard Day's Night
Anthology 1
Live At The BBC

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.

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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.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The title A Hard Day's Night had been coined by an exhausted Ringo Starr following a filming session on 19 March 1964.

We went to do a job, and we'd worked all day and we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day I suppose, and I said, 'It's been a hard day...' and I looked around and saw it was dark so I said, '...night!' So we came to A Hard Day's Night.
Ringo Starr, 1964

While appropriated for the film after Starr's utterance, it wasn't a new phrase. It appeared in John Lennon's book In His Own Write, published on 23 March 1964, although Lennon always attributed it to his colleague.

There was no reason for Michael to be sad that morning, (the little wretch); everyone liked him, (the scab). He'd had a hard day's night that day, for Michael was a Cocky Watchtower.
Sad Michael
In His Own Write, John Lennon

The phrase neatly summed up the frenetic pace of The Beatles' existence in 1964, going from hotel room to dressing room to stage and back again. When it was adopted by director Richard Lester as the title of the band's first film, and announced to the press on 13 April, it left Lennon and McCartney with the task of writing a theme tune to order.

I was going home in the car and Dick Lester suggested the title 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

Paul McCartney remembered the selection of the title differently in his authorised biography.

We'd almost finished making the film and this fun bit arrived that we'd not known about before which was naming the film. So we were sitting around at Twickenham studios having a little brain-storming session; director Dick Lester, us, Walter Shenson [film producer], Bud Ornstein [European head of production for United Artists] and some other people were sitting around trying to come up with something and we said, 'Well, there was something Ringo said the other day'... He said after a concert, 'Phew, it's been a hard day's night.' John and I went, 'What? What did you just say?' He said, 'I'm bloody knackered, man, it's been a hard day's night.' 'Hard day's night! Fucking brilliant! How does he think of 'em? Woehayy!' So that came up in this brain-storming session, something Ringo said, 'It was a hard day's night.'
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

30 responses on “A Hard Day’s Night

    1. Joe Post author

      Hi John. I don’t have any info on mics and amps (I suspect they were Vox amps). A couple of books which are on my to-buy list are The Beatles’ Gear by Andy Babiuk and Recording The Beatles(.com) by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew. Those should have the information you need.

      There’s some info on the song’s opening chord here: http://www.beatlesbible.com/features/hard-days-night-chord/
      I hope it’s useful – it has information on the instruments used and the notes played.

    2. Nicolas

      The guitar used for the opening is a Rickenbacker 360/12 twelve string, played by George and the amp is a Vox AC-50. I think that they used Neumann or AKG Mics.

    3. Beatlemaniac 326

      It’s all 4 beatles and George martin on piano
      John: D over and under G
      Paul: D note
      George:F over and under G
      Ringo: ride and crash
      George M: D chord

  1. steve

    That article on the chord is great.

    At the time, 12 string electrics were virtually non-existent. Harrison was given his by Rickenbacker when the Beatles first came to New York in February 1964. It was only the second ever produced by the company, and the first to use the (now) distinctive Rickenbacker string arrangement of having the low string first (higher on the guitar and first to be hit by the pick) then the high string below it. This is part of what makes the sound distinctive. It’s amazing that after 45 years, that sound still sounds new, distinctive and just cool.

  2. Gustavo

    There should be credits for the cowbell, but I´m not sure who played it. Emerick says Ringo at the same time with the bongos, but it seems impossible to play both at the same time.

    Lennon sings both lead and harmony vocals, or at least his main vocal is double-tracked.

  3. carlos

    It´s not a piano. Actually it´s a Hammond organ played in a piano register. This sound was also used in songs like “Misery”, “Things we said today”, “I wanna be your man” & “Any time at all”

  4. Urban Osterman

    I like the solo in ‘a hard days night’ it is supposed to be played fast, but George couldn’t do it so the slowed the tape down to half speed, and then George played his solo at halfspeed an octave lower. And George Martin added the same line on the piano.

    Later when they were supposed to play this song live, there was a problem. George couldn’t play the solo as fast as needed.
    Later when they were playing on the BBC Top of the Pops, as found on the CD Beatles at the Beeb. The song was recorded live but the solo didn’t go well. So what to do..?
    They cut the solo from the LP-album and inserted it inte the live version from TotP. Listen very close to the song ‘a hard days night’ from the Beeb, you’ll hear it, especially in the earphones. These are thing that I do like about the beatles.

  5. Urban Osterman

    I read somewhere that Norman Smith played the congas(bongos on ‘a hard days night’ He showed Ringo at first, but in the end it was Norman who played it on the record.


    I don´t agree with Urban…, please hear the live recording of the song in Live at the Hollwood Bowl (EMI 1977), George plays the solo very well, without any overdubs. And with no piano even.

  7. Roland

    First & last ricky chord, solo and bongoes are overdubbed. John and paul’s voices are both double tracked. About the solo speed, it’s true George wasn’t able to play it on the recording session because it was made in a rush and he didn’t had time to practice enough. But he did it well on live as the song was played on almost every concert they did in 64. Hard Day’s Night was the first album recorded on a 4 tracks tape machine.

  8. Joshua Cook

    Did anybody pick up on the lyrical similarity with Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”? The Beatles had performed this song frequently on their BBC shows during 1963, and given the increasingly hectic nature of their work schedule it’s possible that they adapted the storyline to fit the proposed title “A Hard Day’s Night”…

  9. ray

    What was the German title for ‘A Hard Days Night?

    I have a card that stars Wilfred Bramwell, and has the title, ‘Vier Sind Im Bild’ which translates, according to Google, as ‘Four are in the picture.’

  10. artwest

    I think that Gearge Harrison had a really raw deal. Often songs were arranged or even composed in the recording studio with little or no time for George to think up, let alone practice, solo or other lead parts. At the start of a session he might hear a song played through for the first time but within an hour or three the song was finished, having evolved through several incarnations, but with fresh guitarwork, so appropriate and essential that it’s impossible to think of the songs without it.
    It’s impressive in any circumstances, in those it’s incredible.

    1. Steve Wozny

      Good point. But impromptu can also be an advantage. All of the Beatles were great at just putting it out. Sometimes thinking too much is counterproductive. I have no idea what the deal was in the studio, but these guys were so talented they could run with the moment so well.

  11. Bronx Boy Billy

    Great insight, artwest! I never thought of it that way but you’re right. You’re comment is a breath of frsh air on a site that is chock-ful of lot negativity aimed GH. He was aweome.

    1. metzgermeister77

      Not really. “Many Years From Now” was written over thirty years after the song, and Paul’s quotes were reminiscences, not researched facts. It makes sense he’d get details wrong after that long.

  12. John Wilkinson

    I was there as a kid the day they filmed HDN at Marylebone Station, not Paddington as the sleeve notes say.

    In the opening sequence the Beatles are filmed running, (and tripping) in Boston Place, a street that runs parallel to the station. Later Apple’s offices would be sited there and Paul makes reference on Anthology.

    I love this album. It has John’s toughness in the vocals. He dominates but all the others are firing too. Things become more melodic and equally good in a different way when Paul takes over. All you need is Love being the last John ‘A’ side that really counts.

    Both halves of the Beatles output are great. I don’t favour either. Just count myself bloody lucky.

  13. Joe King

    Is there a book that ACCURATELY reports WHO PLAYED WHAT on EACH SONG the Beatles recorded and released?
    For example, the times PAUL played LEAD, instead of George . . . and the times GEORGE played bass instead of Paul.
    Stuff like that?

    1. Nick

      “Paul McCartney – Bass Master – Playing the Great Beatles Bassline” outlines all of Paul’s bass work and includes a section of who played bass for every Beatles song. It does have some errors (e.g. Paul did not play bass on She Said, She Said) but is fairly accurate.

  14. Graham Paterson

    A great song and as George Martin said in the above article, the guitar opening at the beginning is perfect. It sets the scene for the song, album and brilliant film. I saw the Beatles films on TV as a kid and Let It Be at the movies in 1979, 9 years after its original release. I am so pleased to have them all on DVD now. A Hard Day’s Night is a classic film. The song is a collaboration, but it is mainly written by John Lennon with he and Paul McCartney sharing the vocals on different parts of the song, which works brilliantly. Of course it is legend how Ringo accidentally came up with the title. George Harrison’s lead guitar work using the trusty Rickenbacker is brilliant. First heard this song on a family members 45 and later got the album.

  15. oldFartBassPlayer Walt

    artwest makes a great point, about George needing to time to think out and plan
    a mature guitar part, where unfortunately, the sessions grew very impatient with him
    if he didn’t nail a fully developed part after an hour or so. That apparently was not
    how his music muse works, and he took unfair criticism.

    I love Paul’s bass, but I have to bring up how he would spent hours in the night perfecting
    a bass part (to overdub over his first take), after everyone left. (according to Geoff Emerick)
    And John’s creativity seemed limited to bringing the initial shape of the song, and then getting
    impatient when multiple takes were required to ‘mature’ it. (granted these ‘initial shapes’ were
    masterpieces in the rough!).

    It didn’t seem like George got this privilege.

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