A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles

A Hard Day's NightA Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles

1964

Parlophone

 

Well, I’m starting this off with A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles, which is a rather obvious choice (don’t worry, I’ll hopefully get more obtuse in the future), being that it’s my favorite album ever by my favorite band ever.

No, A Hard Day’s Nightis not the greatest album ever, nor is it even the best from The Beatles, for that matter.  But it’s still amazing and hugely influential.  By early 1964, “Beatlemania” was in full swing.  Hell, this is the third album by John, Paul, George, and Ringo (If you don’t know their last names, don’t ever come back to this site. You won’t be welcome.), and the soundtrack to their first movie.  Got that?  They were so popular they made their first movie by their third album.  I’ll give you a second to contemplate that. 

And it’s not even like the album was a bunch of random throwaway songs for a movie soundtrack (Cough, Yellow Submarine, Cough).  A Hard Day’s Night is filled with great material, where every song keeps the audience’s attention.  Not to mention this is the first album composed of all original songs.

Ok, I’ll move on, and actually get to the songs now. 

“A Hard Day’s Night” is the first song and the second single from the album.  How many album openers are this memorable?  In fact, how many album opening chords are this memorable?  It grabs the attention right away, and John and Paul’s harmonies refuse to let go.  And the ringing guitar outro is stuff that would influence numerous 60’s bands that tried to emulate George’s sound. 

The second track is “I Should Have Known Better”, one of my favorite songs, which again focuses on tight-knit harmonies.  The song is composed of, what? Two, Three chords?  And yet, it still sounds fresh with it’s harmonica and simple guitar solo.  Proof that The Beatles did not have to be complex to be enjoyable.

“If I Fell” brings the album to a great ballad.  Here, Lennon shows off his maturity as a song writer, not only exposing his vulnerability, but his musical knowledge.  Almost every syllable of the melody falls on a different chord, in stark contrast to “I Should Have Known Better.”

The fourth track, Lennon and McCartney give Harrison a shot at vocals.  “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” is rather second-rate to most of the other songs on the album, probably why they allowed George to sing.  However, you can hear Harrison’s confidence start to build on this album, and he makes the song thoroughly enjoyable, if not all that great.

“And I Love Her,” is one of the more meaningful ballads from McCartney’s repetoire.  This competes with Lennon’s “If I Fell” for best ballad on the album, actually.  There’s even a shift in the key signature, after George’s tasteful guitar solo, that shows off McCartney’s musical maturity. 

The sixth song “Tell Me Why” does not hold up to the other songs based on musicality or lyrical development, but it serves as a nice foil to the ballad that comes before it.  And it leads up to one of the best songs on the album…

Which is “Can’t Buy Me Love”.  Here the Lennon / McCartney songwriting team takes everything they’ve learned that makes a hit single and put it into one song.  Like most of their early singles, “Can’t Buy Me Love” uses pronouns to appeal to their audience.  “I’ll buy you a diamond ring”, “If you say you love me too” , “But what I got I’ll give to you.”  It’s also an upbeat song, with an exorbitantly catchy melody, and tight harmonies.  What makes the song is that it opens with the chorus (a great suggestion by producer George Martin), automatically pulling the listener into the song.

Side Two  (yes, I’m using vinyl terminology, oh well) opens with “Any Time at All.” This song almost opens as memorable as “A Hard Day’s Night,” with its drum crack, and followed a cappella harmonies.

“I’ll Cry Instead”, “You Can’t Do That” , and “I’ll be Back” are three more Lennon numbers that all focus around his vulnerability and jealousy issues.  They each show a writer maturing and coming to terms with himself and his relationships.  Although none are included in the category of his best songs, they all show his development that would be realized later on.

Also on Side Two, the two songs “Things We Said Today” and “When I Get Home” fill out the track listing to a total of thirteen songs.  While the latter is just that, filler (compared to everything else – although still a decent song), the former again shows off McCartney’s musicality (changing from an F major chord to a B flat major contented the author).  However, John adds great harmonies, really making the song work extremely well.

Yes, in conclusion, A Hard Day’s Night, shows a band (the most influential band ever, just to get that out-of-the-way now), coming to terms with its development.  Each track flows into the next so nicely that after hearing the album so much, I now expect to hear the very next song come on a few seconds later (I get very disappointed when I finally remember that I’m listening to the radio (a very rare occurence, I’ll admit (What’s this? Parenthesis inside of parenthesis inside of parenthesis? Did I just blow every English major’s mind?)) and instead of hearing The Beatles, Metallica will come on).  One strange thing about the album: no token Ringo song.  However, it must be said, Ringo’s drumming is so amazing on this album.  He’ll be content with playing whatever he has to in order to make the songs work, even if it’s just playing the bongos for two minutes and thirty three seconds.  Anyway, A Hard Day’s Night serves as a great album, leading up to even greater albums.

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