What You Need to Know: A Hard Day’s Night the album is the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night the movie. The first half is composed of the songs actually in the movie, and the second half is a group of songs in the same vein included to make it a complete album.
A Hard Day’s Night has some notable firsts for the group – it is their first album made up entirely of original songs (no cover songs here), it is their first done on a four-track tape recorder (their earlier albums were recorded on two-track machines, with instruments on one track and vocals on the other), and it is their first to show signs of the experimentation with sound that would later become a driving force in the studio (the jangle of George Harrison’s new twelve-string guitar is all over the place).
The Songs You’ve Heard: “A Hard Days Night” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” are the two singles from this album, and there’s basically no way you’ve gotten to this point in your life without hearing them at least once.
Any fans of A Hard Day’s Night (the movie) will be familiar with the entire first half of the album. “I Should Have Known Better” is an upbeat rocker, and “If I Fell” is one of the band’s best early ballads with one of their tightest harmonies. Sometimes I’ll listen to it a couple of times back to back and follow a different voice each time.
The Songs You Haven’t: The second half of this album doesn’t get as much exposure. There’s some filler here, but among it is some of my favorite early-Beatles stuff – the forceful “Any Time At All,” the moody “Things We Said Today,” the creepy “You Can’t Do That,” gentle closer “I’ll Be Back.”
Why I Like It: A Hard Day’s Night is The Beatles’ best pre-Rubber Soul album. The original compositions range from good to outstanding, and the album definitely benefits from the absence of the fine-but-mostly-filler cover songs that populate Please Please Me and With The Beatles.
That being said, most of what I wrote about their first two albums applies to this one as well – energetic, fun and the rest. This was their third album in less than a year and a half, to say nothing of the filming of A Hard Day’s Night and their first, historic tour of the United States – the energy still evident on this album is nearly as remarkable as the volume of their output.