Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The #56 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era: "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles

One of the ground rules for consideration of being one of the Top Albums of All-Time in the Rock Era* is that no greatest hits packages are allowed, no soundtracks are allowed unless one artist did the music of original material and no live albums are allowed unless it was the first time that the artist had been heard by the mass public.

We have one of those exceptions here at #56.  The Beatles recorded music for the Soundtrack to "A Hard Day's Night", the movie in which they also starred in.  It was their third studio album of new material and hence its eligibility for this special countdown in the summer of 2011.  In fact, this album was the first in which the Beatles featured all original tracks and the only Beatles album to contain only songs from John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  The title of the album was taken from an off-the-cuff remark that drummer Ringo Starr had made.

The album quickly rose to #1, where it remained for 14 weeks.  I spent 28 in the Top 10 and 51 on the chart.  A Hard Day's Night has now sold 4 million copies and has an outstanding 9.19 Track Rating*.

The album demonstrated the ever-increasing songwriting talents of the Fab Four and it was by far the best album to that point in their careers.  The title track and smash "Can't Buy Me Love" are two of the Top Songs of the Rock Era*; "And I Love Her" was also released as a single.  But as is almost universally the case with these Top 100 Albums*, there is much more to the album.  This is where the Beatles really began to change pop music, not making an album of 2-3 singles and meaningless filler but an entire album of quality music.  "If I Fell", "I'm Happy Just To Dance with You", "I Should Have Known Better" and "I'll Cry Instead" have become fan favorites and are still played on radio stations in the United States and around the world even though they were not officially "singles".  When you consider the quality of all of those songs, it's easy to see the high Track Rating*.

As was often the case, two different versions of this album were produced.  The American version, which was released two weeks prior to the U.K. version, had a different track listing.  It also contained instrumental versions of "A Hard Day's Night", "This Boy", "And I Love Her" and "I Should Have Known Better" featuring producer George Martin and his Orchestra.    Side one of the U.K. LP contained the songs featured in the movie while side two includes the songs written for but not featured in the film.  The two versions were reconciled when the album was released on CD in 1987.

A Hard Day's Night:
Side one
1.  "A Hard Day's Night" --2:34
2.  "I Should Have Known Better" --2:43
3.  "If I Fell" --2:19
4.  "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" --1:56
5.  "And I Love Her" --2:30
6.  "Tell Me Why" --2:09
7.  "Can't Buy Me Love" --2:12
Side one
1.  "Any Time at All" --2:11
2.  "I'll Cry Instead" --1:46
3.  "Things We Said Today" --2:35
4.  "When I Get Home" --2:17
5.  "You Can't Do That" --2:35
6.  "I'll Be Back" --2:24
American version:
Side one
1.  "A Hard Day's Night" --2:33
2.  "Tell Me Why" --2:10
3.  "I'll Cry Instead" --2:06
4  "I Should Have Known Better" (Instrumental) --2:10
5.  "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You" --1:59
6.  "And I Love Her" (Instrumental) --3:46
Side two
1.  "I Should Have Known Better" --2:44
2.  "If I Fell" --2:22
3.  "And I Love Her" --2:29
4.  "Ringo's Theme (This Boy)" --3:10
5.  "Can't Buy Me Love" --2:12
6.  "A Hard Day's Night" (Instrumental) --2:06

The Beatles were:  George Harrison on lead guitar (both six- and 12-string), acoustic and Spanish guitars and the claves on "And I Love Her" and lead and backing vocals, John Lennon on rhythm, lead and acoustic guitars, piano, tambourine, harmonica, and lead, harmony and backing vocals, Paul McCartney on bass and acoustic guitar, piano, and lead, harmony and backing vocals and Ringo Starr on drums, cowbell, maracas and tambourine.  Additionally, producer George Martin played piano on the album.
A Hard Day's Night was recorded January 29, February 25-27, March 1 and June 1-4 of 1964 at London's EMI Studios and Pathe' Marconi Studios in Paris, France.  The American version of the album was released June 26, 1964 on United Artists Records to coincide with the release of the movie.  The U.K. Version was released July 10, 1964 on Parlophone Records.

The Beatles have the #56 Album--A Hard Day's Night.

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