This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #113: A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles.
The song, “A Hard Day’s Night” comes from a Beatles movie of the same name that was released the year I was born in 1964. There is much about this, seemingly simple song, that helps illustrate the musical skills and creative mindset that elevated The Beatles from their peers and helped make them the greatest band of all-time.
For instance, as we have discussed previously, The Beatles (along with The Rolling Stones) were the first band to take creative control of their music by singing songs that they actually wrote. John Lennon wrote the lyrics to “A Hard Day’s Night” in a taxi cab, on the back of his son, Julian’s birthday card, on the way to the studio. Lennon had been tasked with writing the final song for the soundtrack and was given one night to do it. So, the legend goes, Lennon rolled into the studio, picked up his guitar, laid out the birthday card before him and launched into the song. The rest of the band fleshed out their own, individual roles and then, they all recorded the song in one day; using the ninth of ten takes, I believe.
What made The Beatles so special was not just that they could whip up a hit song in twenty-four hours. It was that they could do so and still incorporate such amazingly detailed touches that most bands wouldn’t think of if they had twenty-four days to come up with them. A case in point is the opening guitar chord. If you know the song, you know it opens with one, crisp guitar chord and then, the rest of the song begins. Well, apparently, that opening chord has gone on to be studied for its meticulous construction and sound techniques. To my untrained ears, it sounds like one person strumming a guitar. The lead guitarist happened to be George Harrison, who used a twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar for “A Hard Day’s Night” *(Which, when heard a year or so later by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, became the inspiration for him to use a Rickenbacker guitar for “Turn, Turn, Turn.) Anyway, it was not one person (Harrison) strumming a guitar that starts “A Hard Day’s Night”. In fact, it is five people hitting various chords on various instruments simultaneously: Harrison, on the Rickenbacker guitar, John and Paul on acoustic guitars, Ringo on his drums and producer, George Martin, on the piano. Because of the nature of the chords each struck, the sounds wrapped around each other to make a fuller sound that appears to vibrate. In fact, I read that Paul positioned himself in such a way that the vibrations from his acoustic guitar entered the sound box of John Lennon’s acoustic guitar, causing Lennon’s notes to vibrate differently than they would have on their own. If I was talented enough to play guitar, my opening chord would sound like a meat-and-potatoes version compared to the chef’s banquet of sounds created by The Beatles on that one opening chord.
The phrase “A Hard Day’s Night” has been credited to Ringo who, according to the boys in the band, was known for speaking in Lewis Carroll-esque malapropisms, which are mixed up sayings and phrasings. In this case, after a recording session that had started during the day and gone on until well into the night, Ringo had lost track of what time of day it was and announced that it had been “a hard day’s night”. The band thought that sounded like a good title for their first movie which, until that time, was going to be called, “Beatlemania”. It is, also, noteworthy that “A Hard Day’s Night” was The Beatles first foray into movies and that the film ended up winning an Academy Award that year for best original song. It, also, shows their ability to be forward-thinkers because their movie signalled a broader, multi-pronged approach to marketing themselves and their music. The Beatles were never content to “just be singers”; they produced many movies, books, magazines, comics, documentaries and so on, making them one of the first true multi-media organizations in the UK and around the world.
In any case, “A Hard Day’s Night”, has gone on to become one of the classic Beatles songs. It was regularly played in their live shows and always finds its way on to all of the various Greatest Hits albums and playlists that abound these days. So, without further delay, here is “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles; released in 1964, just like me. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles, can be found here.
The link to the video for the movie trailer for the film, “Hard Day’s Night”, can be found here.
The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.