Jan 05

THE BEATLES – “A Hard Day’s Night”

Popular46 comments • 3,845 views

#174, 25th July 1964

The Beatles at a peak of high-energy Fabness, “A Hard Day’s Night” is crammed with hooks and ideas – they don’t all neccessarily fit, but the record’s so irrepressible it’s hard to care. The opening chord makes this feel like a challenge, a comeback, a statement – we’re the biggest band in the world, and we’re the best too, so clear out of the way. The final, sudden jangle into almost melancholy is harder to fathom – acknowledgement that they can’t keep this pace up forever? In its way it’s as striking as the first chord – so casually pretty, sounding like an afterthought but as lovely as most bands’ best work. In between it’s Ringo who thrills the most, pushing the pace of the song with furious bongo and (I think) cowbell work. Definitive pop.



  1. 1
    Joe Williams on 31 Aug 2005 #

    Just wanted to confirm that there is indeed a cowbell on this record. Never noticed before how much percussion there was on it, but now you mention it, there’s loads.

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 9 Sep 2010 #

    Sally O’Rourke reaches this milestone of the British Invasion on her US equivalent of Popular, here: http://nohardchords.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/114-the-beatles-a-hard-days-night/

    This still sounds fresh and modern – far more interesting rhythmically, instrumentally and vocally than Kylie’s ‘Hand on your heart’ * which inexplicably earns a 7 compared to 8 for this.

    * and when visitors from the future wonder at this comparison, it’s because that’s where Popular has got to at the time of writing

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 9 Sep 2010 #

    ‘Hand on Your Heart’ might well be the better song of the two, though. And is much the more enjoyable of the two singles to dance to!

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 9 Sep 2010 #

    I don’t think HOYH is a better song – but I must admit I was surprised when making a mixtape for a party a few years back how few Beatles songs lent themselves to dancing.

  5. 5
    Tom on 9 Sep 2010 #

    I did a poll of “most danceable Beatles track” when the reissues came out and “I Saw Her Standing There” was the winner. First track first album – all downhill from there!!

    As the numbers suggest, “A Hard Day’s Night” is indeed better than “Hand On Your Heart”. AHDN should probably have got a 9, but we’ve had commenters complaining of Beatley favouritism before.

  6. 6
    flahr on 9 Sep 2010 #

    This was the number one in an edition of Pick of the Pops I heard a while back (or possibly number three or two), and what was surprising after sitting through the gentle tones of the rest of the chart was what a din this was by comparison. Especially Ringo banging away on any percussion he can get his hands on. Joyous stuff.

    (The reissues of course exactly a year old today!)

  7. 7
    rosie on 9 Sep 2010 #

    On the contrary, Tom, while I appreciate that you came from scepticism to a genuine admiration for the Fabs, from my perspective (as one who grew up with them) you appear to have been hard on them.

    Incidentally, you can leroc just fine to AHDN. Perhaps it comes down to differing understandings of ‘dancing’. I’d be at a loss to dance to Kylie, or Madonna, or the electronic noise combo of your choice, even before my failing knees and general unbendiness put paid to my dancing days.

  8. 8
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Sep 2010 #

    I’d like to see somebody grooving to “Revolution # 9″… It would take a lot of tepid supermarket cider pull that one off.

  9. 9
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #


    James Clavell, Novelist (1981)

    Monty Don, Horticulturalist, Broadcaster(2006)

    Sir Stuart Rose, Businessman (2009)

    Lawrence Dallagio, Rugby player (2011).

  10. 10
    Nixon on 14 Nov 2011 #

    Why is there a horrible amateur choir cover of this appearing during every ad break on commercial radio? I think it’s a Halifax advert, so the choir may be bank staff (“we’re just like you!”) but it’s really poor, weedy and simpering – the opening chord and drums are a big loss, but I never realised how important it is that the singer sounds as though they have ACTUALLY been working like a dog, or the whole thing collapses.

  11. 11
    vinylscot on 14 Nov 2011 #

    Agree with Nixon – makes you hanker for the days when the Beatles wouldn’t allow any of their songs to be used in adverts.

  12. 12
    wichita lineman on 14 Nov 2011 #

    Tom, could you provide a link to your ‘most danceable Beatles track’ poll ? I’m intreeged. Sgt Pepper (side 2 version) springs to mind as a conventional dancer, but Ringo was a singular drummer wasn’t he?

  13. 13
    Paulito on 15 Nov 2011 #

    The Fabs have a fair number of danceable tunes, especially the funky R&B-styled ones like Drive My Car, Got To Get You Into My Life, Hey Bulldog, Birthday, …Me And My Monkey, Come Together etc. Some of their out-and-out rockers are also good for shaking a tail feather to.

  14. 14
    Erithian on 15 Nov 2011 #

    I always thought someone like the Specials could ska up “You Won’t See Me” nicely.

  15. 15
    Mark G on 15 Nov 2011 #

    The Beatles did ska twice, on the “Anthology” version of “You know my name”, and the break on “I call your name”

  16. 16
    punctum on 15 Nov 2011 #

    Three if you count “Ob-La-Di.”

  17. 17
    Mark G on 15 Nov 2011 #

    That was more a straight four-beat, but true, true….

  18. 19
    swanstep on 25 Aug 2013 #

    Paul Morley at his Morleyist comparing One Direction’s new film to Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night.

  19. 20
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2013 #

    .. Except he comes out in favour of the Beatles

  20. 21
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 26 Aug 2013 #


  21. 22
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2013 #

    Dunno, I’ve not seen the 1D fillum

  22. 23
    swanstep on 27 Aug 2013 #

    It would, of course, be a complete miracle if This Is Us were anywhere near as good and fun as AHDN. I guess I wondered whether it was better than, say, Spice World or Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience or Justin Bieber: Never Say Never or Katy Perry: Part of Me? not just because those would be fairer comparisons but because if one is inclined to pop declinism (or some such thing) then ‘worse than AHDN’ is weak sauce (almost everything is). Couldn’t Morley have written the same despairing article fifteen years ago about Spice World?

  23. 24
    Mark G on 27 Aug 2013 #

    it would be a fairer comparison as they are both scripted fiction, not documentaries.

  24. 25
    tm on 28 Aug 2013 #

    Are 1D the purest hype ting to date? When this kind of media buzz/instant mega fame whirlwind kicks off, either the object of the hype reveals itself to have some sort of intriguing qualities to sustain the buzz or it fizzles out quick smart but with them I can’t see anything: they’re exciting because people find them exciting, a phenomenon because the media keep talking about what a phenomenon they are. A running joke throughout the x factor but Cowell said they were “the most exciting pop group in the country” enough that it came true.

    Obv, there’ve been nothing bands that have sold millions in the past (West life, Boyzone, Travis, Bread – cue snarky link to great underrated Bread B-side from HATERZ) but while they’ve been heavily marketed, I don’t remember media treating their success as any more exciting than the success of any other well-marketed product.

    1D always look like they’re having good clean fun, a rare commodity in pop these days: is it as simple as that?

  25. 26

    The purest hype ting to date (never yet challenged):

    By comparison, 1D are shaped through and of the vast surging passions of their thousands of fans (and seem cheerfully able to to work with and on this energy)

  26. 27
    tm on 29 Aug 2013 #

    But did SSS enjoy anything like the success of 1D?

  27. 28

    No: bcz they were (and remain) the “purest hype ting to date”*

    1D’s success very much rides on its fandom energising and entertaining and “hyping” itself (meaning that the hype is mixed of source and hence not “pure”)

  28. 29
    tm on 29 Aug 2013 #

    “Early names considered for the band included Sperm Festival and Nazi Occult Bureau” – SSS that is, not 1D

  29. 30
    Mark G on 29 Aug 2013 #

    yeah, those were the proposed tour names for 1D

  30. 31
    tm on 29 Aug 2013 #

    That’s what you get if you ask Louis Walsh’s advice!

  31. 32
    tm on 29 Aug 2013 #

    sukrat @ 28: that’s what I meant by purest hype ting: with a band like SS Sputnik, you had this whole propaganda campaign with ludicrous costumes and press-baiting slogans and it amounted to a #3 single and a couple of lower charters (over a suprisingly drawn-out career according to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigue_Sigue_Sputnik) whereas 1D seem permanently carried along on a self-sustaining furore: they’re interesting because lots of people are interested in them, they’re exciting because they make people excited and at the centre of this whirlwind of excitement and activity and generally fairly reverant analysis by the serious grown up’s press are five very ordinary young men: blandly good looking, just about competent singers and dancers, high street clothes (check the list of outfits they say they won’t wear at the start of the Best Song Ever video…), unobtrusive personalities…Harry Styles’ much reported prediliction for older women is the closest I can think to a characteristic that one might pin on any of them*. And no-one seems bored of them yet. I can’t even say I find their perma-presence annoying, just somewhat puzzling.

    But it’s interesting what you say about 1D’s fan base engergising and hyping each other: 1D as golden calf at the centre of a worship and excitement borne out a need for worship and excitement more than anything coming from the band?

    *(Friend of friend worked with them on a photoshoot and said they are genuinely warm and charming people in the flesh – though you’d have to be a Crispian Mills-sized brat to be anything other than permanently delighted in their position – HS popped out for a coffee and took orders for the entire crew which he paid for out of his own pocket and bussed back himself, apparently)

  32. 33
    tm on 29 Aug 2013 #

    Did SS Sputnik have much of a following. I’d always assumed Love Missile F1-11 was viewed as a novelty record even by those who bought it but did they actually have legions of worshippers during their 15 minutes?

  33. 34
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 29 Aug 2013 #

    Insofaras I’ve been keeping up, it’s part-fueled by an endless series of tumblr-gifs of members of 1D, so I can’t accept that there’s *nothing* coming from the band — they came of age just in time to catch the rhythms and values of a particular mode of social media, and I think they’re using it (and it’s using them) as effectively as early beatles playing with BBC press conference conventions, to speak by this means over the heads of the adults direct to the fans… perhaps it’s the case (as it was possibly not with the beatles) that the records are entirely secondary, merely a pretext for the unfolding of the performative-and-interactive story on this relatively untried primary stage (ppl who’ve actually listened to the records will have to interrupt here)

  34. 35
    Mark G on 29 Aug 2013 #

    I think what did for SSSputnik was that the animations showed action and flash, but in real life the platform boots were so tall, they couldn’t actually walk at any kind of speed in them, which looked very static on stage/performance.

  35. 36
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 29 Aug 2013 #


    ^^^for a cross-media hype-assault blizzard, this is surely no one’s idea of “bringing yr top game”

  36. 37
    tm on 29 Aug 2013 #

    Re: 34: Are 1D better then their pop peers at using social media to connect directly with their fans? I’d have thought most pop groups would be pretty savvy to this stuff. The Beatles’ wit and irreverence seemed like something only they were offering at the time (cf the halting and apologetic interviews on the recent Searchers boxset)

  37. 38
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 29 Aug 2013 #

    a better question may be: are 1D’s fans better at using social media to steer what 1D are giving them into being the thing they enjoy most

    (and i don’t know the answer — except to say that yes, i imagine with any new media there’s going to be someone using it better than anyone else) (it’s often a surprisingly low bar to clear: i find it interesting how hopelessly inept SSS are in that clip, given their pretensions and ambitions)

  38. 39
    swanstep on 29 Aug 2013 #

    perhaps it’s the case (as it was possibly not with the beatles) that the records are entirely secondary
    Not *entirely* secondary: their breakout hit, ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful’ (or whatever it’s called) performed the nifty trick of simultaneously *defining* and *diagnosing* and *pandering to* their canonical audience member’s insecurity and self-regard. The song’s not up to ‘She Loves You’ standards, but the nifty lyrical trick is in the ballpark of SLY’s craftiness, so that (a) it was obvious at the time that this was a legit massive hit, and that most likely (b) they’d won the hearts of a whole generation of young girls, who were now going to cut them a lot of slack after this.

  39. 40
    hectorthebat on 25 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs (2010) 11
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 153
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 154
    Stephen Spignesi and Michael Lewis (USA) – The 100 Best Beatles Songs (2004) 49
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 79
    Colin Larkin (UK) – The All-Time Top 100 Singles (2000) 7
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 101
    Mojo (UK) – The 101 Greatest Tracks by The Beatles (2006) 10
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 88
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 786
    Q (UK) – The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever (2002) 3
    Uncut (UK) – The 50 Greatest Beatles Tracks (2001) 50
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  40. 41
    lonepilgrim on 19 Mar 2015 #

    as a kid what I liked about the Beatles was wackiness – whether it be singing along to ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘I am the walrus’ or just being tickled by the idea of a hard days night. They were never silly for the sake of it (unlike Freddie and the Dreamers who I just found embarrassing) but used wordplay and surrealism to cut through adult conventions and connect to a younger audience brought up on nursery rhymes and playground chants. Listening to AHDN now I am struck by how casually Lennon speaks of coming home to his beloved and how ‘the things that you do will make me feel alright’. Sexuality is considered commonplace, not something to be leered about as the Stones might do. The music bounces along on waves of clanging guitar, frantic percussion and giddy harmonies to create a huge rush of energy and expectation.

  41. 42
    Tommy Mack on 12 Oct 2015 #

    Something I wrote after watching A Hard Day’s Night for the first time last night


    PS: can’t believe how brief and brusque Tom’s entries were back then! I rather like it, though don’t get me wrong, I prefer the lengthy, eloquent and superlative essays of present day Popular.

  42. 43
    enitharmon on 12 Oct 2015 #

    Good write-up Tommy. Yes, that’s what the world looked like. AHAD is deliberately done in imitation of a TV documentary of the day, in black and white of course. Richard Lester’s stroke of genius was filling the film with top character actors of the day to carry the framework while letting the Beatles just be themselves.

    Wilfrid Brambell wasn’t post-Steptoe in 1964, he’d been Albert for over two years, some would say the best years of the show. Hence the recurring “very clean”, echoing Harry H Corbett’s catchphrase “You dirty old man”.

    But you knew all that already didn’t you?

    And it is a real documentary as well as a spoof one; it captures a lost London in the same way that Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe books capture a lost Los Angeles; a way which no end of Swinging London films of the time could by focusing on the glamorous aspects.

  43. 44
    Mark G on 12 Oct 2015 #

    It was a real documentary, it was, basically, the Maysles’ one they had already made, copied stylistically and scripted. I think they got paid off to keep it off the market.

  44. 45
    Tommy Mack on 12 Oct 2015 #

    #43 I actually meant to say pre-Steptoe which would have been even further from the truth! I didn’t realise Steptoe had started so early. My bad. I’ll correct the piece – thanks!

    I also hadn’t twigged that the ‘clean’ thing was a reference to his role as a dirty old man (since I didn’t realise he’d already been Steptoe Sr by 1964)

    A thing called Research you say?

  45. 46
    Gareth Parker on 8 Jun 2021 #

    Perfectly reasonable from the Beatles, a decent enough stomp. 5/10 from me.

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