Beatles fans are always arguing over which one of the original 13 U.K. Beatles albums was the group’s best work. It really is an argument that is impossible to win. There are so many variables as to which record is the most important, the most enjoyable, or whatever means of grading one may wish to utilize. Many fans argue that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was their greatest musical achievement. Others rave about Abbey Road as the culmination of their entire careers. Some will always speak very highly of the Revolver and Rubber Soul albums from the Beatles 1965 and 1966 years. However, the one album that is often overlooked when talking about the greatest Beatles albums is their 1964 release A Hard Day’s Night.
The Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night was the The Beatles first record that consisted entirely of original songs. The first two Beatles albums Please Please Me and With The Beatles featured a mixture of songs written by the Beatles and well-known 1950’s and early 1960’s songs. The third song entitled “Anna,” on the Beatles first album was written by Arthur Alexander. It was followed by “Chains,” which was written by Carole King and Gerry Goiffin. “Chains,” was followed by “Boys,” which was composed by Wes Farrell and Luther Dixon. Wes Farrell would go on to compose many of The Partridge Family hits about eight years later. The rest of The Beatles first album also contained songs written by Burt Bacharach, Phil Medley and Bert Berns, and Bobby Scott, and Ric Marlow. The Beatles first album Please Please Me contained six cover songs. However there was nothing shocking about it, The Rolling Stones also featured many cover songs on their first couple of albums.
The Beatles second album With The Beatles continued the same concept of blending cover songs and originals on the same record. Meredith Wilson had composed the song “Till There Was You,” which landed as the sixth track on side A of the album. The song was followed by the classic Marvelettes tune” Please Mr. Postman.” The album’s second side opened with the iconic Chuck Berry song “Roll Over Beethoven.” The album also featured a fantastic cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” which would be covered by so many artists including Eddie Money’s brilliant version in 1979. Both albums With The Beatles and Please Please Me featured fourteen songs. Both albums also featured six cover songs on each record.
The Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night album was an exception during their early years. The follow-up album to A Hard Day’s Night entitled Beatles For Sale once again featured six more cover songs. However, The Beatles third album A Hard Day’s Night stood alone as the only Beatles album from their early period that did not feature any cover songs. It was not until the release of Rubber Soul in 1965 that The Beatles had released another album without any cover songs.
Another incredible attribute that made The Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night so special was the fact that it was the only Beatles album to feature songs only written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A Hard Day’s Night did not feature any songs written by George Harrison or Ringo Starr.
All Beatles songs not written by George Harrison or Ringo Starr were always credited as Lennon McCartney. However, as many Beatles fans have learned over the years the Lennon McCartney attribution was not always a 50-50 songwriting partnership. From interviews with John Lennon and Paul McCartney, fans have learned which one of them wrote most of certain songs and which songs were co-written. While listening to their material during their solo years, it also became more clear as to what part of songs each one of them composed. On The A Hard Day’s Night Album, John Lennon served as the main composer on ten of the album’s tracks while Paul McCartney took principal composer kudos on three album tracks. The Paul McCartney songs however were major hits. McCartney’s “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “And I Love Her,” and “Things We Said Today,” became all time Beatles classics. Nonetheless, John Lennon’s three major hits off the recording; “A Hard Day’s Night”, “I Should Have Known Better,” and “If I Fell,” just about pretty much leveled the playing field of competition between the two iconic Beatles.
All of the songs on A Hard Day’s Night were sung by either John Lennon or Paul McCartney. The one exception was the track, “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.” The John Lennon composed song was sung by George Harrison. No one can ever forget the magical moment in the film A Hard Day’s Night when the Beatles performed the song on the television show they were filming. George Harrison’s presence is so strong on-screen it made many fans shake their heads wondering why Harrison had not sung more lead vocals. In recent years Paul McCartney has stated that he thinks one of the biggest mistakes The Beatles made was not allowing George Harrison more time up front.
The release of the film A Hard Day’s Night played a major role in the success of the soundtrack and for what many term, the start of the Beatles Second Era. The Beatles and their record company held many press conference to help promote the film and album. It was at these press conferences that fans and writers first began to discover the personalities of the four Beatles. Many will never forget the moment when Ringo Starr was asked why he seemed to receive more fan mail that the other Beatles. Ring Starr replied to the question by saying, “I dunno, I suppose it’s because more people write me.”
In the end, what made The Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night so special was not the fact that it was the first album of non-cover songs or that it also served as the soundtrack to a very successful movie. What made The Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night so special was the depth of the songs. The music from the album A Hard Day’s Night has become timeless. Just like George Martin had once said that fans would look back at the Beatles music the same way people were looking back at the brilliance of Beethoven. Martin was right, the Beatles music has not only become the soundtrack of the lives of those born from the mid twentieth century to current days, it has become the standard to which all pop music is judged against. The first two Beatles albums were great, but its the A Hard Day’s Night album that really began to display the brilliance of the band and the way they would change the course of popular music forever.
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