We are now up to #6 in ranking The Beatles albums from bottom to the top- to review at #13- Yellow Submarine, #12-The Beatles For Sale, #11- Let It Be, #10- With The Beatles, #9- Please Please Me, #8- Help! #7- Magical Mystery Tour and now #6- A Hard Day’s Night.
A Hard Day’s Night was the soundtrack to The Beatles first movie and it was released in the summer of 1964- the first new Beatles album released after Beatlemania had hit America. It was their third album and their first album to contain all original material written by the band.
There is no way of course to prove this but I am willing to bet that the combination of the A Hard Day’s Night movie and album inspired more people to pick up guitars and become rock musicians and form a band than any other album that The Beatles released. And to add on to that I bet there were numerous young musicians who saw the movie/ heard the album who switched musical directions from say playing folk to rock.
The first two albums which were released exactly eight months apart in 1963 have a similar sound- and both had eight original songs and six covers- A Hard Day’s Night released just shy of eight months after With The Beatles contain 13 originals- and although they still sound like The Beatles of the first two albums- the songwriting- all Lennon- McCartney written-is a lot more focused and the sound is starting to progress. They weren’t going to repeat the same winning formula they had. If they had repeated the first two albums and not moved on- I would guess they the end of 1965 their career would have taken a nose dive. The Dean of Rock Journalism- Robert Christgau sums it up well- “The Lennon-McCartney songs are more sophisticated than before” Critic Dave Donnelly observes “short, peppy” pop songs characterised by layered vocals, immediate choruses, and understated instrumentation.” In 1980 Elvis Costello released an album called “Get Happy” I think that title would have worked fine with this album- of all The Beatles albums- A Hard Day’s Night always seems to make me Get Happy.
There were two #1 hit singles on the album- “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night” and two other hits- “I’ll Cry Instead” and “And I Love Her.” In America in 1964 the charts were owned by The Beatles with past hits from the UK also flowing in once they hit American the previous winter. The singles are certainly highlights but songs like If I Fell -which may be my favorite track on the album- And I Love Her- a McCartney highlight, I Should Have Known Better and others are just as outstanding. The closing song “I’ll Be Back” wasn’t used in the film and is a hidden gem- another song showing the growing songwriting maturity.
This is in many ways a showcase for John Lennon- he was the primary writer on nine of the thirteen songs. The songs are short ones- they range from the shortest I’ll Cry Instead” at 1:45 to the longest I Should Have Known Better at 2:43. There is only one song on the album that to me is a little iffy- the song John wrote for George to sing “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You”- it doesn’t rank with the rest of the album. John later said he wrote it for George to give him a piece of the action-[at the time George’s songwriting was in its early stages} and that it was a song he couldn’t have sung. It does sound like a throwaway that John wrote quickly. This is one of the few albums were Ringo doesn’t have a song to sing- but I think it is in the movie where Ringo shines. The movie is just as much fun as the album. Clearly the best Beatles movie.
It is to the point in the countdown where it is very difficult to rank these albums. I was very tempted to place this album a notch or two higher. I went back and forth on it but finally thought #6 is the proper slot for it. I can understand if others would rank it higher.