“A Hard Day’s Night: Original Motion Picture Sound Track” by The Beatles - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1964Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

The third Beatles “A-list” LP arrive in the summer of ’64 and, in America at least, served as a full-on soundtrack to their movie, “A Hard Day’s Night”. The original working titles of the film had been “The Beatles” and then “Beatlemania” (although the name of the group is never spoken in the movie) but it was a Ringo-ism which prevailed as the title. Said Paul: “We often could rely on Ringo for titles cos Ringo had this happy knack of getting things wrong – little malapropisms – and it was always better than the real one. Someone said to him, you know, you look a bit tired today. He said, 'Yeah, I've had a hard day's night, you know'. He meant it, and we all went, 'Hard Day's Night, that's great!'”

The promotional posters were straight and to the point: “Starring in their first full-length, action-packed film – The Beatles!” Elvis and Cliff had been there and done it – but this was new territory for a group. EMI had sold the American rights for “A Hard Day’s Night” to United Artists, the film’s producers. This was before the height of Beatlemania – but as it transpired, by springtime ’64, UA were sitting on a goldmine. Viewing the albums from a chronological viewpoint, it’s the first time the US had got the scoop; UA rush-released their idea of what the new Beatles album should be – a whole 2 weeks ahead of the group-approved UK edition, which was entirely different. United Artists UAL-3366 was dedicated to the concept of the album as a full-on soundtrack to the movie; 7 of the new tracks had featured in the film, as did 4 of the incidental instrumentals which had been arranged and recorded by George Martin and a range of studio session men. “I'll Cry Instead”, which was left on the cutting room floor when it came to the final film-edit as it was deemed too downbeat, at least still merited a place on the album. Thankfully, the LP never sunk to an all-out cheese-fest, although the instrumental versions of 4 Beatles songs (not actually performed by the group) must have been a worrying sign for some of their cooler fans in the US. Notably, the album is the first to feature all Lennon / McCartney compositions – their talent is on show for all to see and hear.

The album gets off to a fantastic start with “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Tell Me Why”; the chemistry between John’s lead and Paul’s harmony vocals is a simple joy. Not so great is the country rocker “I’ll Cry Instead”. It’s immediately followed by George Martin’s studio session men who rip through a brassy Shadows-esque reading of “I Should Have Known Better [instrumental]”; as per but not exactly the same as the version which aired on the film itself. It’s not too bad, even if it is a bit of a WTF? moment in the Beatles album story. Side 1 closes with a namby-pamby orchestral version of McCartney’s “And I Love Her [instrumental]”. Why do these things never come with Rock n Roller advisory stickers? “Beware the dodgy film soundtrack makers”, that sort of thing. Surely these things are more traumatic than the odd sweary word?

Flipping over, “I Should Have Known Better” immediately restores order and then some, as the band pay subliminal homage to Dylan in stupendous fashion, with a harmonica-driven pop-rock swinger. For the third non-Beatles incidental break, there’s a reprise for the November ’63 single “This Boy” (retitled here as “Ringo’s Theme (This Boy)”) which had also appeared on their stateside LP “Meet the Beatles!” in January ’64. It’s a case of an awesome song completely ruined. This is not what we need – who wants this muzak on a Beatles album? Again, the rescue is immediate, courtesy of the fab swinging merseybeat of “Can’t Buy Me Love”. The strange old instrumental break palaver has the last word, as the album ends where it begun; “A Hard Day’s Night [instrumental]” albeit reimagined in the snazzy, jazzy style of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. America lapped it up – one million copies were sold in the States within 4 days of release. United Artists knew what they were doing alright…

n.b. the UK edition of the album was released 2 weeks later and offered 5 new tracks (none of which were related to the film) at the expense of the 4 soundtrack instrumentals.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:33] 8.3.png The Beatles - A Hard Day’s Night (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
A2 [02:11] 8.2.png The Beatles - Tell Me Why (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
A3 [02:08] 5.1.png The Beatles - I’ll Cry Instead (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Folk Rock / Americana
A4 [02:20] 5.5.png The Beatles - I Should Have Known Better [instrumental] (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
A5 [01:59] 6.7.png The Beatles - I’m Happy Just To Dance With You (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
A6 [03:49] 3.3.png The Beatles - And I Love Her [instrumental] (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Orchestra Dance
B1 [02:46] 9.7.png The Beatles - I Should Have Known Better (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
B2 [02:22] 6.7.png The Beatles - If I Fell (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
B3 [02:34] 7.4.png The Beatles - And I Love Her (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Songwriter
B4 [03:19] 3.4.png The Beatles - Ringo’s Theme (This Boy) (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Orchestra Dance
B5 [02:15] 8.3.png The Beatles - Can’t Buy Me Love (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
B6 [02:12] 4.7.png The Beatles - A Hard Day’s Night [instrumental] (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Jazz

© The Jukebox Rebel 2005-2020 All Rights Reserved