Saturday, February 09, 2008

160. The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Now we continue our journey through the back catalog of a little-known '60s band I've recently discovered.

You have to give credit to this little band. Perhaps recognizing the dead-end nature of the cover songs on their previous record, they stocked up their third album with originals only, and the result is that much better for it!

This lightning fast (just under 31 minutes!) platter starts off with the title track, and composers John Lennon and Paul McCartney trading the lead. In another world this song would have been a big hit, I assure you!

Despite the equity on that song, John dominates the rest of the album, from the harmonica-driven I Should've Known Better to the speedy rock of Tell Me Why to the country-leaning Any Time At All. In fact, 9 of the record's 13 songs feature John on lead vocals.

Even so, Paul makes his contributions count! And I Love Her continues his proclivity toward ballads, but doesn't overdo it. Can't Buy Me Love is a rave-up featuring an insanely melodic bass line. I wonder if the Patrick Dempsey movie got its name from this song, or if that's just a coincidence? Finally, Things We Said Today features Paul all on his own, thoughtful and melancholy.

That darkness is actually somewhat of a theme on A Hard Day's Night. If I Fell, while actually a very sweet song lyrically, has a minor key sadness. When I Get Home doesn't sound depressed, but features a narrator whose mind is not in the here and now. I'll Be Back and You Can't Do That are opposite sides of the coin (in the former John vows, "I'll come back again" and in the latter he threatens "I'm gonna let you down and leave you flat") but both show the grimmer side of romance.

Unlike The Beatles' first two efforts, drummer Ringo star doesn't get a song to sing here. Likewise, George Harrison - who showed songwriting promise himself on With The Beatles - is reduced to one lead vocal on the Lennon-McCartney-penned I'm Happy Just To Dance With You. One almost wonders if it was just to placate Harrison, as the song's carefree Latin vibe doesn't suit his voice. One of the darker songs above would have been much more suitable.

Overall, an excellent, excellent record. I even heard a rumor that they made a little film to go along with the album, but I haven't been able to find any hard evidence to corroborate that. Too bad. It would be interesting to see, I'm sure.

Grade: A+
Fave Song: If I Fell

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