THE BEATLES A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

A Hard Days NightA Hard Day’s Night (1964)
50 Years Later, An Argument For It Being Their Best!

Beatles fanatics are all familiar with the ‘Best Album’ debate. It’s a way to pontificate about the Fab Four, while simultaneously showing your pals what a know-it-all you are. Throughout the years, most of us have often re-assessed our opinions of The Beatles’ “best,” partly because at least four or five of them are pretty hard to argue against. Post 1967, the pick for many was Sgt. Pepper’s for its magical and timely cultural impact. Later, many found themselves drawn to The Beatles (White Album) for its double LP depth and jarring individuality. Personally, I’m not one who ever seriously considered Abbey Road, though, I understand its appeal with mainstream fans. Serious students have historically lingered around Rubber Soul for its sophisticated acoustic prowess, before switching to Revolver, for its druggy innovations and re-stylization of the entire pop format. Some might even choose Magical Mystery Tour, despite its patchwork, non-LP status. Naturally, I’ve settled on nearly all of those myself at one time or another. You probably have, too.

But, after decades of study, debate, discussion, hand-wringing and good old fashion repeated listening, I’ve finally come to realize that when I think of The Beatles, I think first of A Hard Day’s Night – the band’s first LP to fully shed their 50s influences, creating a music that was truly innovative and truly their own. It’s nearly impossible to trace A Hard Day’s Night‘s lineage. It sounds like The Beatles, and nothing that came before them. Credit its sheer exuberance and vitality… and the compositions, all by Lennon & McCartney for the first time. AHDN is littered with milestones – including the daring introduction of acoustic guitars into a successful beat group formula/fad that was already pre-figured to fail within six months. Still, it all seemed so easy… so effortless. Sheer talent captured on tape. The band never again made an overall album that was this joyous, this uplifting… and that atmosphere is still tangible 50 years later. Like many of the greatest albums ever made, A Hard Day’s Night has a consistent stylistic feel from start to finish. Its self-confidence is pure allure. It was an obvious peak, even in its day, though, no one ever imagined it would be only one of many.

It’s because of all the groundbreaking music that followed A Hard Day’s Night that the album is routinely overlooked as their best (or, qualified as the best of their “early LPs“). The album’s irresistible innocence is still ill-defined as pop candy when compared to The Beatles’ “important” cultural contributions, like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “I Am The Walrus” or “A Day In The Life.” Yet… it’s A Hard Day’s Night that still rings true with a genuine spirit of discovery that greats like Revolver or Abbey Road could never match. Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour might come close as creative adventures, but then… that’s why it’s always been impossible to decide. Is it The Beatles’ best album? It’s preposterous to suggest, of course. But, since you can hear it all below (in MONO), this might be a good reason to give A Hard Day’s Night another 30 minutes of your time. Just in case.

Find it at Amazon, HERE.

40 Comments

  • 1
    Bada Bing Crosby
    November 21, 2008 - 20:20 | Permalink

    Amen! What made the boys so great was their music was so joyous and uplifting (even the sad songs had a life-affirming beauty to them). This out and out happy album is a joy start to finish. Listen to John and Paul's orgasmic background vocals on "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You". Or the bittersweet fade of "I'll Be Back." Or George's stately yet strangely tentative guitar solo on "And I Love Her" and you'll know what I mean.

    My God, they were good.

  • 2
    A BEATLES' HARD-DIE'S SITE
    November 21, 2008 - 23:39 | Permalink

    Words of wisdom, as ever, whatever anyone could think about the Best Album question…
    Cheers
    Beatlesite

  • 3
    roy rocket
    November 22, 2008 - 03:20 | Permalink

    Good commentary; and I immediately want to listen to it.
    In many ways each of the Beatles albums could be big-upped, they all stand alone and can be recognised as part of the band's evolution.
    Rubber Soul's 'In My Life'; Revolver's 'Tomorrow Never Knows' (I could go on).
    A great tome that really cracks the Beatles is Ian Macdonald's 'Reolution in the Head'. Most enjoyable, well worth a read.
    Right, my download's finished, so I'm going to spend the next thirty minutes or so of my life enjoying this album, which I haven't listened to properly for bloody years.
    So thanks.
    Shanti, roy

  • 4
    Pants Elk
    November 22, 2008 - 05:50 | Permalink

    Well, yeah.

    There is not a single below-par or lazy track on this album. It's cohesive, insanely entertaining, and distills their pre-acid moptop appeal into one condensed blast of pop fun that has never been bettered.

    I never pledged allegiance to Rubber Soul as their best, although I can understand why some do. I love half of Abbey Road, because that's all there is to love. I am continuously in awe of the White Album – it may sound dumb, but it scared me as a thirteen year-old kid (still have the mono numbered vinyl) and it still has the power to unsettle. Pepper for me is untouchable, because of the times, and what it meant to me, and would be the greatest album ever made if they hadn't left off Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. So Revolver it is, for this season, but I'm delighted to get a chance to listen to this again.

    Beatle fans should check out the totally jaw-dropping new Fireman album. It has a definite White Album vibe. Amazing Macca.

    You have a wide diaspora – I'm on the banks of the Mekhong, looking across at Lao as I type.

  • 5
    illlich
    November 22, 2008 - 22:42 | Permalink

    A good argument, though I may still disagree.

    I saw the film again recently (first time in many years, basically the first time since I was a small child), and I found it to be a very entertaining and funny movie, ignoring the music.

  • 6
    Pants Elk
    November 23, 2008 - 12:35 | Permalink

    Something that occurs to me as I listen to this again is how perfect a blueprint this album – above all others – is for the entire powerpop movement. Few other labums can claim to have spawned an entire genre!

  • 7
    rap
    November 24, 2008 - 02:38 | Permalink

    I'd decided a few years back that the British version of Help is their first "modern" album.

    But your argument for AHDN is a persuasive one, too, Willard.

    Kumbaya!

  • 8
    Sam
    November 24, 2008 - 15:01 | Permalink

    A great album, if for no other reason that that it contains my all-time favorite Beatle song: "You Can't Do That." AHDN is mostly John's album, and "You Can't Do That" is one of his finest moments, including his scorching, aggressive guitar solo.

  • 9
    Will
    November 25, 2008 - 00:58 | Permalink

    thanks willard! rgds, will

  • 10
    3410
    December 1, 2008 - 02:02 | Permalink

    Willard, I've been thinking the same thing recently.

  • 11
    Argantonio
    December 7, 2008 - 17:13 | Permalink

    Well… I do not agree.
    I think it's still another aprenticeship album.
    Their very first GOOD one, was HELP.
    It's a question of taste!

    PS: This is my favourite blog. Thanks for everythin'!

  • 12
    Capt. Willard
    March 9, 2009 - 04:20 | Permalink

    Thanks for all the comments and opinion. It's very appreciated.

  • 13
    Anonymous
    May 11, 2009 - 08:40 | Permalink

    so – finally,I now have a beatles album.- seriously! -in the post war dereliction that was england ( still bomb sites up to the 60s) I could never afford them .I can remember hearing 'with the beatles'
    wafting across from the boarders block at school- that was the nearest I got. even writing 'the beatles' is enough to unleash torrents of memeories- the beatles magazine bought at edinburgh airport -the smell of record shops -saturday morning excursions to get whatever the single of the week was ( and the 'box' of she loves you singles on the counter ready for the hordes.) when did music suddenly become 'the industry' etc etc – I could go on forever – thanks a bunch -!!!

  • 14
    La Piazza Gancio
    August 30, 2009 - 11:42 | Permalink

    If you wrote that, and you aren't a music journalist, you are in the wrong business.

    P.S. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of AHDN.

  • 15
    Anonymous
    September 18, 2009 - 22:17 | Permalink

    I also love HDN and it often is my fave FAB album, in fact its maybe the first Beatles album I truely loved, but thats the jou of their music and declare a favourite album, something like HELP jumps up and bites yer hairy bum and screams "WOTTABOUT ME"

    loving the remastered monos.

    TT

  • 16
    sitarswami
    November 28, 2009 - 15:25 | Permalink

    A great record. Martin Newell once said that the 1960s really began during the opening guitar chord to A Hard Days Night.

  • 17
    John Medd
    February 18, 2010 - 20:19 | Permalink

    I'm still trying to find THAT chord!

  • 18
    Anonymous
    February 4, 2011 - 04:03 | Permalink

    Cap, you know I agree completely with the "it's sounds like the Beatles" and nothing else statement.

    In fact, before I bought the 1987 CD boxset in my teens, I believed that Beatles For Sale came before AHDN. While loaded with great songs, it still seems like a step back to me.

    Cheers,

    Cedre

    PS I'm still with Revolver but it's a pointless argument ;-)

  • 19
    Anonymous
    February 4, 2011 - 04:08 | Permalink

    By the way, the magic chord has been scientifically analyzed (by a Canuck no less!) and here it is:

    http://www.science20.com/news_releases/beatles_unknown_hard_days_night_chord_mystery_solved_using_fourier_transform?%2522

    Cheers,

    Cedre

  • 20
    W
    February 4, 2011 - 04:30 | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment. I was a Revolver guy for years.

  • 21
    Travis T.
    April 14, 2011 - 12:02 | Permalink

    There's really nothing else to say, you summed it all up perfectly. I've gone through the same decades-long evolution of finally appreciating this record as their finest moment, too. A while back I was talking with friends about "what's the best power pop album ever" and everyone named records from the 70's through the 90's but for me AHDN not only defined the genre but hasn't been bettered.

  • 22
    W
    April 14, 2011 - 12:15 | Permalink

    You're right. When most think of Power Pop they think of the 70s (or later). After The Beatles lost their more obvious 50s influences, this is pretty much where it all started. Thanks.

  • 23
    Willard
    July 9, 2011 - 12:08 | Permalink

    Mono it is…
    .
    .
    .
    Search HERE
    .
    .
    .

  • 24
    greggery
    March 15, 2013 - 08:41 | Permalink

    Fabtasic, will get it!

    Cheers W.

    greggery

  • 25
    Bob
    July 13, 2013 - 10:55 | Permalink

    Your comments are always astute… As compared to most music “journalism”.

  • 26
    Anonymous
    January 15, 2014 - 02:05 | Permalink

    many tanx! I just can’t pick my best.

  • 27
    Sean
    March 30, 2014 - 01:32 | Permalink

    Recorded in a day, I believe?

    • 28
      Willard
      March 30, 2014 - 05:48 | Permalink

      No… that was their first album. AHDN was recorded piecemeal, between bouts of world domination and movie making, beginning Jan 29 (Can’t Buy Me Love), picking up a month later with And I Love Her (Feb 25), with the bulk of the movie songs happening before the first days of March, 1964, 50 years ago. The rest of the songs, and the entire album, wouldn’t be wrapped up for release until June. So even though it looks like it took months, it was really only like 10 recording days, give or take a few of those to work on other material (like Long Tall Sally, I Call Your Name and a few others). Though, it only took about half that time for the 7 songs that were actually used in the film.

      • 29
        Sean
        March 30, 2014 - 17:49 | Permalink

        Damn, all the information available these days!

        I prefer the old days where memories were all we had! (I was right more often then!)

        AHDN is a personal favorite: all original compositions made on the quick by a very busy group of people. Impressive.

  • 30
    Bruce
    March 30, 2014 - 01:33 | Permalink

    I believe I came to the same conclusion about 30 years ago. While I consider the UK Help to contain songs that represent their artistic peak (particularly “A Ticket To Ride” which I’ve concluded is their all time greatest song), as an album it is flawed, primarily for the inclusion of cover songs, particularly “Act Naturally.” But A Hard Day’s Night is flawless. And speaking of “Act Naturally,” it’s hard not to conclude that one of the reasons A Hard Day’s Night is flawless is that it only contains 13 tracks (rather than the customary at this time 14) and that not one of those tracks has a vocal by Ringo (could this be the missing 14th track?) unlike all their other albums except Let It Be.

  • 31
    Neil
    March 30, 2014 - 05:28 | Permalink

    Great to hear everybody’s views and opinions. AHDN is so uplifting. But for me The White Album will always be ‘the one’. It was the first I ever bought on the day of release and I can still recall the thrill of hearing for the first time Back In the USSR, Blackbird, Martha My Dear, I Will, etc. As you can tell from the titles, I’m a big Paul man and his contributions to The White Album were wondrous. Great site!

  • 32
    Marco Perut
    March 30, 2014 - 11:35 | Permalink

    Amazing your comment. Never thought about it before. In hindsight, analyzing their points of view, really, the conclusion that you have, is that AHDN is perhaps the best Beatles album. Always loved AHDN after this review I’m loving it more. Thank you. P.S. Sorry I’m a little crazy English, but I am Brazilian and my english is translated by google.

  • 34
    James
    March 30, 2014 - 12:15 | Permalink

    It’s still a great album of its time and, as has been argued, the touchstone for an entire genre -power pop.

    It seems timeless, perhaps because there is still contemporary musicians doing a contemporary take on this blueprint, and it doesn’t feel ‘aged’. Sergeant Pepper, on the other hand, is time-locked and not something I feel I need to hear again, particularly.

    And there’s a constancy and solidity to it. The next one, ‘For Sale’, was a bit of a step backwards, a band looking exhausted on the front cover, and reverting to their old stage set favourites to get it complete. ‘Help’ is, I think, largely flat. After treading water on those two, they then notch it up a gear on ‘Rubber Soul’.

    “AHDN’ is certainly the zenith of the beat boom they and their city colleagues began a couple of years earlier. But as well as ‘AHDN’, the first two (UK) releases are both wondrously exciting and still feel fresh and vital.

    So…personally, the first three would be amongst my favourites -but then I can get drawn to the first couple of Stones albums, the Animals debut, and even a comp like the Various Artists ‘At the Cavern’ album as symbolising the entire hope, expectation and sense of excitement the 60s appeared to offer.

    By the time we get to 68…the Grosvenor Square riots, Vietnam, political assassinations and so on, the 60s dream was almost dead, and the Beatles themselves that their time was up. ‘Abbey Road’ (and indeed, the White Album -in demo form, The Fabs invent ‘Unplugged’-) are fine swansongs, but by that stage they’re four individuals who just happen to work together.

  • 35
    Brubeck & Maitland
    March 30, 2014 - 13:23 | Permalink

    Nice article and an excellent perspective.

    Personally, I always mentally divided their library into three phases, chronologically: 1) Moptop pop 2) studio psychedelia 3) back-to-basics journeyman. I always felt their work needed to be regarded in those separate eras because it denotes the leaps and bounds made by them. After all, it is the most massive progression any band could make in only 8 years of recording.

    Having said that, I always go back and forth deciding which album best represents the early ‘Moptop pop’ era. I’d never ignore the majesty of ‘Help!’, but I still go back to AHDN as the better album. It’s more of a stand-still statement with its feet firmly cemented in 1964 – unaware of the psychedelia coming ahead.

  • 36
    March 30, 2014 - 13:23 | Permalink

    John Medd, et al

    ‘That Chord’! : sit a friend down with a guitar opposite you with yours…
    Have him play a nice ringing D bar chord.
    [or if obliging pal-less record same on track 1]

    On your guitar, [or on Track 2]
    play at the same time a C bar chord:
    See wot i mean?
    such a ‘mistake’ is jumped on & used by genii
    [pl of genius] faster than you can say ‘I wanna hold your sweet patootie’

  • 37
    pete
    March 30, 2014 - 19:10 | Permalink

    What I hear is a sense of liberation deriving from a combination of success and paradoxically unfulfilled ambition — biggest band ever? Not enough! It’s John’s album, clearly, and seems full of a sense that he can really do all the things he once dreamed he’d be able to do. Not much later the crash would come (“I’m a Loser”), but for now the sound is all joy, even when the lyrics are sad (“I’ll Cry Instead”). Side one is an astonishing collection of hits for the movie; side two is a groove and a gas, when it could have been a throwaway. No crap, no covers, boundless energy.

    As to best? Well, there are no wrong answers. My most consistent fave is Please Please Me, even though I know that Revolver is better. Sometimes I pick Pepper; for me, it’s mostly those three. But you make a good case for A Hard Days Night, yes indeed you do. Let’s turn it UP.

    • 38
      Willard
      March 30, 2014 - 19:17 | Permalink

      Sometimes the closest we can get is by picking two or three to cover our ever-changing, schizophrenic moods. Thanks.

  • 39
    March 31, 2014 - 07:50 | Permalink

    I listened to it twice (love the Mono) and agree with you Willard. I think this is because this particular album is captures a moment in time of pure youthful energy….and for my money, that is the essence of rock & roll.

  • 40
    courtney
    March 31, 2014 - 16:08 | Permalink

    The Cap leads us to an often-overlooked practice in the enjoyment of music: don’t rely on your memories of how you heard an album, blow the dust off and play the thing through from time to time to rekindle your appreciation or to spark a reassessment.

    I just did the same this past weekend with a favorite novel from long ago—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—and was enthralled all over again. If only I’d been listening to AHDN whilst perusing…

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