The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night (1964) Album Review

Introduction to A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Sixty years ago, today The Beatle’s touched down on US soil in time for their US television premiere, which allegedly attracted 73 million viewers, an incident that has been attached with the symbolism of when the 1960’s started. However, their explosion onto US soil and its hegemonic power meant the eyes of the world were on the band. Having already signed a movie deal with United Artists (which would come to be a burden for the band) upon returning to England the band began filming for what would become a groundbreaking film. Fearing that the film would only exist in the vacuum of what was thought to be a pop star’s time in the sun, all hope was placed in the ubiquitous soundtrack album, which this article examines.    

Film trailer (1964, Richard Lester, United Artists)

The Songwriting on A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

If the listener were to track the individual Beatle contributions to the album, it could be noted that out of the 13 tracks Lennon was the writer of 9 (including the George Harrison sung I’m Happy Just to Dance With You). Although published under the Lennon-McCartney banner, 1964 was the beginning of Lennon’s songwriting dominance; possibly fuelled by the popularity of 1963’s All My Loving and the then recent McCartney scribed hit Can’t Buy Me Love.

The album gets off to a fantastic start. THAT iconic chord immediately sets the tone: harmony, power and intrigue packaged in a small and succinct fashion, the album in miniature. The chord is then followed by a slice of pop perfection that lifts the listener off their feet, only to be dropped at the album’s conclusion. Lennon’s vocal attack (made famous by his full-blooded rendition of Twist and Shout) is utilised excellently giving the song a severe sense of urgency. This is then complimented by McCartney’s harmony in the middle 8. 

Whilst it is true that Lennon dominates the songwriting spectrum of the album, McCartney also gets some time to shine. With the first flourish of Spanish guitar work (provided by George Harrison) And I Love Her immediately strikes up intimate and romantic imagery. This illusion is somewhat shattered by some forgivably infantile lyrical content comparing dark and bright (this is 1964 after all, heaven forefend that love be more than hand holding!). However, the yearning delivery and evocative instrumental make the song unignorably compelling. To such an extent that the movie’s depiction of the song takes the intimate and romantic tone and runs with it.   

The End of A Hard Day’s Night

While the album’s second side is characterised by some meandering tracks (Thing’s We Said Today, When I Get Home) the conclusion to the album stops the listener in their tracks. I’ll Be Back immediately strikes a chord with the alternating major and minor chords of the verse melody. Lennon’s yearning delivery compliments the songs melody perfectly, its effect is amplified when coupled with the songs subject matter of waving goodbye to a lost love. Comparing the album version to earlier takes (available on The Beatles Anthology) the way the track is arranged compliments the songs tone brilliantly, leaving the listener wanting more on subsequent listens.

Review Conclusion

Overall, A Hard Day’s Night is a stellar album. Expertly crafted pop music that somehow still feels timeless; but somehow the antithesis of the 1960’s and Beatlemania, 8/10.