A Hard Day’s Night
PersonnelJohn Lennon: vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar, harmonica
Paul McCartney: bass
George Harrison: lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
Memorably performed during a train carriage scene in the A Hard Day’s Night film, ‘I Should Have Known Better’ was written by John Lennon, and was the second song on the soundtrack album.
That’s me. Just a song; it doesn’t mean a damn thing.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
‘I Should Have Known Better’ was written in January 1964, and shows the emerging influence of Bob Dylan upon Lennon’s writing. George Harrison had acquired a copy of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in Paris that month, which the group greatly admired.
The song opens with an approximation of Dylan’s harmonica style. The song was one of The Beatles’ last to feature the instrument, which had been prominent on their earlier hits ‘Love Me Do’, ‘Please Please Me’, and ‘From Me To You’.
John Lennon played a Gibson Jumbo J-160E electro acoustic guitar. Harrison, meanwhile, used his new Rickenbacker 360/12 Deluxe 12-string, which quickly became a trademark sound on the A Hard Day’s Night album.
‘I Should Have Known Better’ was featured in a memorable scene in the A Hard Day’s Night film. The Beatles mimed to the song and played cards in a train, while actors, including George Harrison’s future wife Pattie Boyd, looked on.
The scene was actually filmed in a stationary van at Twickenham Film Studios, London, on 11 March 1964. The van was rocked by members of the film crew to mimic the movements of a train.
In the studio
That day the group recorded three takes of ‘I Should Have Known Better’. At this stage the song was quite different to the final version, containing a Dylanesque harmonica solo and ending on a lead guitar line.
Only one of the three takes was complete; the second attempt was a false start which ended when Lennon collapsed into hysterics over his harmonica playing.
The Beatles returned to the song the next day, recording 18 takes. Again there were many aborted attempts, and the final version was take nine.
Lennon double-tracked his lead vocals and overdubbed his harmonica part to complete the song. The final version, including these additions, was take 22.
The song was released as a single in a number of European countries, including Norway, where it topped the charts, and West Germany, where it reached number six.