When was it recorded? Apr. 16, 1964
When was it first released, and on which album? Jul. 10, 1964 on “A Hard Day’s Night”
Who wrote it? Lennon
Have I heard this song before? Heck yeah
What my research dug up:
(It’s definitely shaping up to be a hard day’s night on my end, so this is more than appropriate.)
The phrase “a hard day’s night” was one of Ringo’s more famous malapropos.
“We went to do a job, and we’d worked all day and we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day I suppose, and I said, ‘It’s been a hard day…’ and I looked around and saw it was dark so I said, ‘…night!’ So we came to A Hard Day’s Night.” — Ringo Starr (of a Mar. 19, 1964 filming session)
The saying first appeared in John’s book, In His Own Write, published Mar. 23, 1964. There are three different stories on how it wound up as the title of the Beatles’ current movie and album.
- According to John, “I was going home in the car and Dick Lester [the film’s director] 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” (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
- According to Paul, “We’d almost finished making the film and this fun bit arrived that we’d not known about before which was naming the film. So we were sitting around at Twickenham studios having a little brain-storming session; director Dick Lester, us, Walter Shenson [the film’s producer], Bud Ornstein [European head of production for United Artists] and some other people were sitting around trying to come up with something and we said, ‘Well, there was something Ringo said the other day’… He said after a concert, ‘Phew, it’s been a hard day’s night.’ John and I went, ‘What? What did you just say?’ He said, ‘I’m bloody knackered, man, it’s been a hard day’s night.’ …So that came up in this brain-storming session, something Ringo said, ‘It was a hard day’s night.’” (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
- According to Walter Shenson, the film’s producer, John “described to Shenson some of Starr’s funnier gaffes, including ‘a hard day’s night,’ whereupon Shenson immediately decided that that was going to be the title of the movie (replacing other alternatives, including Beatlemania). Shenson then told Lennon that he needed a theme song for the film” (Associated Press).
According to Wikipedia, “Regardless of who decided on the title, Lennon immediately made up his mind that he would compose the movie’s title track. He dashed off the song in one night, and brought it in for comments the following morning.” The title of the movie was chosen and announced publicly Apr. 13, 1964, and John wrote the song that evening on the back of a birthday card for his son, Julian.
John and Paul performed “A Hard Day’s Night” for Shenson the next day in their dressing room on acoustic guitars. Recording began two days later. Nine takes of “A Hard Day’s Night” were recorded. The first take appears on “Anthology 1” – behold.
Here are takes six and seven (plus some excellent studio chatter).
Of course, we can’t talk about this song without talking about George’s guitar work, particularly the opening chord.
“We knew it would open both the film and the soundtrack LP, so we wanted a particularly strong and effective beginning. The strident guitar chord was the perfect launch.” — George Martin (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
I read conflicting reports on whether George was playing a 12-string guitar or two six-strings, but I’d put my money on the 12-string. His solo is doubled by George Martin’s piano party and “taped at half speed so they sounded speedier when played back” (Beatles Bible). According to Guitar World, “This is why the solo from the studio version of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was ever-so-unsubtly edited into the otherwise-live version of the song on the Live At The BBC album — and why it never sounds quite right on other live versions.”
“A Hard Day’s Night” first appeared in America on the “A Hard Day’s Night” soundtrack/album on Jun. 26. The album was released in the UK on Jul. 10, as was the single version of “A Hard Day’s Night” (with the B-side “Things We Said Today”). Not to be outdone, the single version of the song was released Jul. 13 in the US (with the B-side “I Should Have Known Better”).
In the UK, the single first charted Jul. 18; it then reached #1 on Jul. 25. The exact same day, the album “A Hard Day’s Night” topped the charts in both America and Britain. If you trust Wikipedia’s claims, the was the first time any musician had “the number one position on both the album and singles charts in the United Kingdom and the United States at the same time.”
(I’m having trouble dating it, but here’s the version from “Live at the BBC” mentioned above.)
The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and won the Beatles a Grammy for Best Performance by a Vocal Group in 1965. Quoth Alan Pollack, “Even if you had somehow missed them on Ed Sullivan, or if perhaps you had seen them on Ed’s show yet their impact somehow missed you… it would have become increasingly, if not impossibly, difficult to ignore the Beatles once the likes of this song and its associated film came on the scene.”
As previously mentioned “A Hard Day’s Night” opens the movie of the same name. Here’s the scene it appears in/music video.
I had somehow seen all that footage of the band on the run (pun fully intended) but never seen it with “A Hard Day’s Night” backing it. So much more fun! I just found a copy of that film so hopefully I can squeeze watching it in over the weekend.
I looped around listening to this song — starting out thinking it was alright, got sick of it, then came back to wholly loving it. I know for sure “A Hard Day’s Night” will be stuck in my head tomorrow, but I won’t complain.