The Story How “A Hard Day’s Night” By The Beatles Came To Be
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With an abundance of iconic Beatles hits, ranking any one as superior to the others is quite a challenging task. Nevertheless, if you were seeking the most dynamic composition by the Fab Four, “A Hard Day’s Night” would undoubtedly secure a prominent spot on that list.
Released on July 10, 1964, this classic Beatles track is one of the most iconic songs in music history, as it achieved chart-topping success in both the UK and the US, becoming the band’s first No. 1 single in America.
This composition, primarily attributed to John Lennon within the Lennon-McCartney partnership, served as the eponymous theme for the band’s maiden feature film, which shared the same title.
And what’s more, it features one of the most iconic and discussed opening of a song in history – a clanging chord heard around the world.
The Fab Four’s silver screen debut
“A Hard Day’s Night” was significantly featured in the soundtrack of the Beatles’ debut feature film, A Hard Day’s Night, and was included on their album bearing the same title.
Upon its release as a single, the song ascended to the pinnacle of the music charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the early part of 1964, the Fab Four found themselves caught in a whirlwind of activity. Fresh off the massive success of their first visit to the United States, they hastily returned to England to commence work on their first feature film with director Richard Lester. Simultaneously, they had to record the accompanying music for the film.
The four musicians were so occupied that Ringo Starr once left the studio in a daze, unsure if it was morning, afternoon, or evening. The confused drummer began lamenting about their busy day only to realize that it was already night.
A tired Ringo once said “a hard day’s night”
When Ringo realized that darkness had already blanketed outside that day, he uttered the phrase “a hard day’s night”, which caught the fancy of Lester.
The director swiftly latched onto it as the movie’s title. The only hitch was that a song needed to be written to fit this title. It might have seemed like a somewhat unconventional approach, but The Beatles were operating at such an extraordinary level that no obstacle could hinder them at that juncture.
John Lennon, as recounted in the book All We Are Saying by David Sheff, saw it as a challenge and an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience.
The Beatle recalled: “I was going home in the car and Dick Lester suggested the title Hard Day’s Night from something Ringo’d said. I had used it in In His Own Write but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo. You know, one of those malapropisms. A Ringoism, where he said it not to be funny, just said it. So Dick Lester said we are going to use that title, and the next morning I brought in the song.”
The chord heard around the world
That magical intro chord in “A Hard Day’s Night” has perplexed musicians ever since it burst forth from radio speakers in 1964. Even more so when the song swiftly ascended to global number one status, much like everything else The Beatles touched during that era.
A chief source of bewilderment lies in the common misconception that it originates from a solitary guitar, whereas, in reality, it results from the collective force of an entire band harmoniously converging into a unified sound.
While George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 12-string guitar takes the lead in this sonic ensemble, the instrument of his bandmates such as Lennon’s acoustic guitar, Paul McCartney’s upright bass, Starr’s cymbals, along with producer George Martin’s piano also contribute to the auditory alchemy.
Harrison primarily plucks an F chord, but the additional notes interwoven from the other instruments imbue it with an aura of enigma and enchantment. It’s challenging to imagine a more captivating way to kick off a song, an album, or a film.
A hard day that paid off well
“A Hard Day’s Night” marked the fifth among seven Beatles tracks to reach the coveted number 1 position in a remarkable one-year timeframe, establishing an enduring record on the US music charts.
Furthermore, it also represented the sixth among seven songs penned by Lennon-McCartney to achieve the number 1 status in 1964, solidifying a record for the most songs written by a duo to attain number 1 in the US charts within a single calendar year.
The song’s distinctive opening chord and concluding arpeggios exerted a profound influence on the Byrds. Following their viewing of the film “A Hard Day’s Night” and taking note of George Harrison’s choice of guitar, Roger McGuinn adopted the Rickenbacker as the signature instrument for himself and the Byrds.
“A Hard Day’s Night” also clinched the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group in the same year. Notably, in 2004, Rolling Stone accorded the song a ranking at number 153 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.