Their seemingly superhuman musical abilities were matched only by their superhuman energy levels. Or so it seemed of The Beatles in 1964. They could write and record songs at the drop of a hat, tour the world, and become film stars to boot during their off-hours! Only four months after exploding on the U.S. scene via the Ed Sullivan Show, they were out with their fourth North American album, A Hard Day’s Night. This came a few weeks before the opening of the film of the same name, in which they starred, and two weeks before Brits themselves (as well as the rest of Europe and Australia) got their copies. However, as was usually the case with Beatles releases back then, it was a little confusing and the Europeans probably found the wait was worth it because the American and European albums were quite different!
The British one (with the familiar blue-trimmed cover and a grid of 20 B&W headshots of the band ) contained more original songs, 13 in all. The North American issue, the only one which came out on United Artists, had a red-trimmed cover, with larger, individual photos of each band member, had eight of the same songs plus four instrumentals scored by George Martin that were from the actual film. The Brits got added songs “Any Time At All,” “Things We Said Today”, “When I Get Home” (the three which would come out later in the summer on Something New here) plus “You Can’t Do That” and “I’ll Be Back.”
What didn’t differ was that no matter where you bought it, it contained some future Beatles classics and was their first entry they’d written entirely themselves – or actually, John and Paul had. It was very much a Lennon & McCartney vehicle, even if George did play a more prominent role with his Rickenbacker 12-string than before and get to sing “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.” Ringo’s only contribution writing-wise, seemed to be originating the title, through a “Ringo-ism” someone at the record company had overheard. Among the featured songs were the iconic title track, “And I Love Her”, “Tell Me Why” and the already-released single “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Not surprisingly, the album and the single “A Hard Day’s Night” hit #1 in North America, the UK, Australia, Germany and quite a few other places; “And I Love Her” was released as a single in North America, and was a rarity for them then in, while not flopping, not being a chart topper (it hit #15 in the States, #12 in Canada.)
Of course, the album’s importance became clearer as time went by; it represented a leap forward for them and pointed the direction to what they’d be doing soon with records like Rubber Soul. Both Rolling Stone and allmusic rank it a perfect 5-star rating; Q magazine put it at #5 on their list of greatest British albums of all-time. But perhaps the best summation of the record comes from the book Pop Music From Bill Haley to Beyonce : “if you had to explain the Beatles impact to a stranger, you’d play them the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night.”