Saturday, September 12, 2009

"A Hard Day's Night"

"A Hard Day's Night" is a song written by John Lennon, with help from Paul McCartney, and credited to Lennon/McCartney; it was released on the movie soundtrack of the same name in 1964. It was later released as a single, with "I Should Have Known Better" as its B-side.

The song featured prominently on the soundtrack to The Beatles' first feature film, A Hard Day's Night, and was on their album of the same name. The song topped the charts in both the United Kingdom and United States when it was released as a single. Featuring a prominent and unique opening chord, the song's success demonstrated that The Beatles were not a one-hit wonder in the United States.

The American and British singles of "A Hard Day's Night" as well as both the American and British albums of the same title all held the top position in their respective charts for a couple of weeks in August 1964, the first time any artist had done this.


The song's title originated from something said by Ringo Starr, the Beatles' drummer. Starr described it this way in an interview with disc jockey Dave Hull in 1964: "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.'"

Starr's statement was the inspiration for the title of the movie, which in turn inspired the composition of the song. According to John Lennon in a 1980 interview with Playboy magazine: "I was going home in the car and Dick Lester [director of the movie] suggested the title, 'Hard Day's Night' from something Ringo had said. I had used it in In His Own Write [a book Lennon was writing then], but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo. You know, one of those malapropisms. A Ringo-ism, where he said it not to be funny... just said it. So Dick Lester said, 'We are going to use that title.'"

In a 1994 interview for The Beatles Anthology, however, Paul McCartney disagreed with Lennon's recollections, basically stating that it was the Beatles, and not Lester, who had come up with the idea of using Starr's verbal misstep: "The title was Ringo's. 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... and we said, 'Well, there was something Ringo said the other day.' Ringo would do these little malapropisms, he would say things slightly wrong, like people do, but his were always wonderful, very lyrical... they were sort of magic even though he was just getting it wrong. And he said after a concert, 'Phew, it's been a hard day's night.'"

In 1996, yet another version of events cropped up; in an Associated Press report, the producer of the film A Hard Day's Night, Walter Shenson, stated that Lennon 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 (the originally planned title was Beatlemania). Shenson then told Lennon that he needed a theme song for the film.


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 original manuscript lyrics may be seen in the British Library, scribbled in ballpoint on the back of an old birthday card). As he described in his 1980 Playboy interview, "...the next morning I brought in the song... 'cuz there was a little competition between Paul and I as to who got the A-side — who got the hits. If you notice, in the early days the majority of singles, in the movies and everything, were mine... in the early period I'm dominating the group.... The reason Paul sang on A Hard Day's Night (in the bridge) is because I couldn't reach the notes."

In the Associated Press report, Shenson described his recollection of what happened. At 8:30 in the morning, "There were John and Paul with guitars at the ready and all the lyrics scribbled on matchbook covers. They played it and the next night recorded it." Shenson declared, "It had the right beat and the arrangement was brilliant. These guys were geniuses."

On 16 April 1964, the Beatles gathered at Studio 2 of the Abbey Road Studios and recorded "A Hard Day's Night". It took them less than three hours to polish the song for its final release, eventually selecting the ninth take as the one to be released.

Release and Reception

"A Hard Day's Night" was first released to the United States, coming out on 13 June 1964 on the album A Hard Day's Night, the soundtrack to the film, and released by United Artists. The album was a hit, selling over two million copies.

"A Hard Day's Night" was the first Beatles single released in the UK not to use a pronoun in its title. On all of their previous British singles ("Love Me Do," "Please Please Me," "From Me to You." "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "Can't Buy Me Love"), the group had intentionally relied on the use of a pronoun to make a song "very direct and personal," so that, according to McCartney, "people can identify...with it."

The United Kingdom first heard "A Hard Day's Night" when it was released there on 10 July 1964, both on the album A Hard Day's Night, and as a single, backed with "Things We Said Today" on the B-side. Both the album and single were released by Parlophone Records. The album proceeded to sell 1.5 million copies within a fortnight of its release. The single began charting on 18 July 1964, a week later ousting the Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now" from the top spot on the British charts on 25 July 1964, coincidentally the day when both the American and British albums too hit the peak of their respective charts. The single stayed on top for three weeks, and lasted another nine weeks in the charts afterwards.

America first saw the single of "A Hard Day's Night" on 13 July 1964, featuring "I Should Have Known Better" on the B-side, and released by Capitol Records. Capitol had been in a quandary about cashing in on the success of the movie A Hard Day's Night, as United Artists held the publishing rights for the soundtrack (thus owning the rights to release the album of the same title). However, there was nothing preventing Capitol from releasing the songs in other forms, leading to six out of the seven songs from the movie's soundtrack coming out on singles.

The American single began its 13-week chart run on five days after release, and on 1 August started a two-week long run at the top, setting a new record—nobody before had ever held the number one position on both the album and singles charts in the United Kingdom and the United States at the same time. The Beatles were the first to do so, and continued to be the only ones who had done this until 1970 when Simon and Garfunkel achieved the same feat with their album Bridge Over Troubled Water and its title track. "A Hard Day's Night" went on to sell one million copies in America within just over five weeks.

After the Beatles had performed on The Ed Sullivan Show when they first came to America in early 1964, some American critics had dismissed them as one-hit wonders. "A Hard Day's Night" proved them wrong, as it only strengthened The Beatles' dominance of the world music scene in 1964. They would continue to feature prominently for the next six years until their disbanding in 1970.

In 1965, "A Hard Day's Night" won the Beatles the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group. In 2004, this song was ranked number 153 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Opening chord

"A Hard Day's Night" is immediately identifiable before the vocals even begin, thanks to George Harrison's unmistakable Rickenbacker 360/12 12-string guitar's "mighty opening chord". According to George Martin, "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" having what Ian MacDonald calls "'a significance in Beatles lore matched only by the concluding E major of "A Day in the Life", the two opening and closing the group's middle period of peak creativity.'" "That sound you just associate with those early 1960s Beatles records."

Analysis of the chord has been the subject of considerable debate, with it being described as G7add9sus4, G7sus4, or G11sus4 and others below.

The exact chord is an Fadd9 confirmed by Harrison during an online chat on 15 February 2001:

Q: Mr Harrison, what is the opening chord you used for "A Hard Day's Night"?
A: It is F with a G on top, but you'll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper story.

According to Walter Everett, the opening chord has an introductory dominant function because McCartney plays D in the bass; Harrison and Martin play F A C G in twelve-string guitar and piano, over the bass D, giving the chord a mixture-colored neighbor, F; two diatonic neighbors, A and C; plus an anticipation of the tonic, G — the major subtonic as played on guitar being a borrowed chord commonly used by the Beatles, first in "P.S. I Love You" (see mode mixture), and later in "Every Little Thing", "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Got to Get You into My Life" (in the latter two against a tonic pedal).

Film of the Beatles performing "A Hard Day's Night", shows both John and George gripping a Gm11 in 3rd position, not an Fadd9. The Fadd9 is used during the chorus and is the chord form used for the outro fade out.

In contrast, Alan W. Pollack interprets the chord as a surrogate dominant (surrogate V, the dominant preparing or leading to the tonic chord), in G major the dominant being D, with the G being an anticipation that resolves in the G major chord that opens the verse. He also suggests it is a mixture of d minor, F major, and G major (missing the B). Tony Bacon calls it a Dm7sus4 (D F G A C), which is the dominant seventh (plus the fourth, G).

Everett points out that the chord relates to the Beatles' interest in pandiatonic harmony.

Dominic Pedler has also provided an interpretation of the famous chord, with the Beatles and George Martin playing the following:

* George Harrison: Fadd9 in 1st position on Rickenbacker 360/12 12-string electric guitar
* John Lennon: Fadd9 in 1st position on a Gibson J-160E 6-string acoustic guitar
* Paul McCartney: high D played on the D-string, 12th fret on Hofner 500/1 electric bass
* George Martin: D2-G2-D3 played on a Steinway Grand Piano
* Ringo Starr: Subtle snare drum and ride cymbal

This gives the notes: G-B-D-F-A-C (the B is a harmonic). One of the interesting things about this chord (as described by Pedler) is how McCartney's high bass note reverberates inside the soundbox of Lennon's acoustic guitar and begins to be picked up on Lennon's microphone or pick-up during the sounding of the chord. This gives the chord its special "wavy" and unstable quality. Pedler describes the effect as a "virtual pull-off."

Jason Brown, Professor for the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, whose research interests include graph theory, combinatorics, and combinatorial algorithms, announced in October 2004 that after six months of research he succeeded in analyzing the opening chord by de-composing the sound into original frequencies using a mathematical technique known as the Fourier transform. According to Brown, the Rickenbacker guitar wasn't the only instrument used. "It wasn't just George Harrison playing it and it wasn't just the Beatles playing on it... There was a piano in the mix." Specifically, he claims that Harrison was playing the following notes on his 12 string guitar: a2, a3, d3, d4, g3, g4, c4, and another c4; McCartney played a d3 on his bass; producer George Martin was playing d3, f3, d5, g5, and e6 on the piano, while Lennon played a loud c5 on his six-string guitar.

A repeated arpeggio outlining the notes of the opening chord ends the song in a circular fashion, fading out with the sound of helicopter blades. This provides "a sonic confirmation that the thirty-six hours we have just seen [in the movie] will go on and on and on." The song contains 12 other chords.

Music and lyrics

The song is composed in the key of G major and in a 4/4 time signature. The verse features the ♭VII or major subtonic chord that was a part of the opening chord as an ornament or embellishment below the tonic. Transposed down a perfect fifth, the modal frame of the song though pentatonic features a ladder of thirds axially centered on G with a ceiling note of B♭ and floor note of E♭ (the low C being a passing tone).

A Hard Day's Night Melody

According to Middleton, the song, "at first glance major-key-with-modal-touches," reveals through its "Line of Latent Mode" "a deep kinship with typical blues melodic structures: it is centered on three of the notes of the minor-pentatonic mode (E♭-G-B♭), with the contradictory major seventh (B♮) set against that. Moreover, the shape assumed by these notes - the modal frame - as well as the abstract scale they represent, is revealed, too; and this - an initial, repeated circling round the dominant (G), with an excursion to its minor third (B♭), 'answered' by a fall to the 'symmetrical' minor third of the tonic (E♭) - is a common pattern in blues."

Lennon opens the twelve measure-long verse and carries it along, suddenly joined at the end by McCartney, who then sings the bridge.

The instrumental break, is often credited to George Harrison on a 12-string guitar. This is not entirely accurate. The break was played by George Harrison on 12-string guitar with George Martin doubling the solo on a piano.

According to the book 'Recording the Beatles', Martin plays a piano not harpsichord at half speed, speeded back up (see note at bottom).

The song closes with Harrison playing the arpeggio during the fade-out, the first time the Beatles had used such a technique — most, if not all, of their earlier work had closed with a final chord (and cadence), such as "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

The lyrics speak about the singer's undying devotion to his lover, and how he toils so she can purchase the items she fancies. The singer sings about his tiredness when he comes home from work, but how the things that his lover does perk him up.

On the day the song was written, Lennon is purported to have shown reporter Maureen Cleave of London's Evening Standard the lyrics, and she said that word "tiredness" sounded weak in the line "I find my tiredness is through/And I feel alright." Lennon subsequently replaced the lines in question with "I find the things that you do/They make me feel all right."

The solo and outro features Harrison on his Rickenbacker 12 and George Martin simultaneously playing the same notes at half speed then speeding them backup to include on track 4 based on a detailed description of this recording in the book 'Recording the Beatles' by Brain Kehew and Kevin Ryan.

During the recording of Hard Days Night, John and Paul double track their vocals throughout including the chorus. John sings the main lead vocal and Paul sings the middle eight. During the chorus Paul handles the high harmony and John the low harmony. Take 7 reveals that the lyrics were still not set with John singing "you make me feel all right"and Paul still unsteady with his bass line during the middle eight which ends with John chiding him with the line "I heard a funny chord".

Other recordings

Many artists besides the Beatles have recorded "A Hard Day's Night."

Peter Sellers recorded a comedy version of the song "A Hard Day's Night", in which he recited the lyrics in the style of Laurence Olivier in Olivier's film version of Shakespeare's play Richard III. Sellers' version was a UK Top 20 hit in 1965.

Billy Joel recorded the song which was released on his Complete Hits album and My Lives, his ultimate collection.

Sugarcult recorded the song for a EP titled A Hard Day's Night.

The Punkles did a Punk cover of this song on their first album.

Beatallica recorded a thrash version of this song called "A Garage Dayz Nite", with some references to Metallica's songs (coz when I see you, it's nice to play you "Trapped Under Ice" or wherever I may roam, the road becomes my bride), and other bands like Scorpions (and it kicks ass just to hear you say, when you don't want Love at First Sting).

Swedish band Mando Diao recorded a version and released it as a B-side to "TV & Me".

The Bosnian band Indexi covered this song in 1965, with the title Učini jednom bar.

Brazilian rock singer and composer Rita Lee recorded the song in 2001 for a Beatles bossa nova album named "Aqui, Ali, em Qualquer Lugar", Portuguese for "Here, There and Everywhere".

The Cirque Du Soleil production Love uses the opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" to introduce "Get Back". The chord is played forward, and while the drum solo from "The End" is playing, the chord is reversed to the beginning.


John Lennon: Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar
Paul McCartney: Lead Vocals (Bridge) & Bass
George Harrison: 12-String Guitar
Ringo Starr: Drums
George Martin: Piano

B-side: "Things We Said Today" (UK), "I Should Have Known Better" (US)
Released: 10 July 1964
Format: 7"
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, 16 April 1964
Genre: Rock
Length: 2:32
Label: Parlophone R5160 (UK), Capitol 5222 (US)
Writer(s): Lennon/McCartney
Producer: George Martin


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