On today’s date (June 26) back in 1964, just as Beatlemania was starting to grip popular culture by the knickers, The Beatles released their third studio album in the U.S. with A Hard Day’s Night. It was the first of their many future albums that would feature every track penned by its two principal singers on the recording in Lennon and McCartney, a rock and roll rarity in those days.
Many of the 13 songs on the album also appeared in the now famous feature film under the same name that was released a month later in July of that year. As fans listen to A Hard Day's Night all these years later, one can hear the start of the band's shift from bubblegum pop to experimental recording artists. Even though they were still considered to be in their early years by the time this album was released just months after their iconic performance on the "Ed Sullivan Show," you can already hear their confidence in recording start to take off while also balancing their hectic touring schedule.
So as classic rock fans celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the album’s arrival in the U.S., here are 5 of the best tracks on A Hard Day’s Night.
5. “And I Love Her”
When was the last time your favorite rock and roll band got away with using bongo drums and spanish guitars on their album and not only got away with it, but made the song shine and glisten? “And I Love Her” stands out because of how well the band was early on at taking non-traditional styles at that time in commercial music, and turning them into what could now be considered rock and roll. At a manageable 2:30 minutes in length, it’s one of the longer tracks on the album, and also one of the strongest.
4. “Things We Said Today”
Paul McCartney re-defines the use of minor, dissonant-sounding chords in this side two gem on the album. The song’s verses run on top of the darker sounding A-minor to E-minor chord progression, while Paul’s lighter vocals fit perfectly on top like a proper British top hat. As the song heads into the chorus, the gloom disappears and transitions into a more nostalgically-haunting romantic love letter. It is a rather interesting take on a love song, especially while being listened to by mostly teenagers at the time.
3. “A Hard Day’s Night”
Guitar players only think of one thing anytime the album’s title track is mentioned or comes on the radio - that opening chord. Yes the mysterious rung-out chord to start out the song not only opened up new songwriting doors for future musical innovators, but also started a 50-year debate from guitar scholars as to what George Harrison’s 12-string is actually playing here. Debate aside, “A Hard Day’s Night” is still catchy and fun enough all these years later to be worthy enough of being one of their all-time best B-side singles.
2. “I Should Have Known Better”
“I Should Have Known Better” is one of those rare, catchy-but-also-well-written tracks from the band’s early years, although it never cracked the top 50 on the Billboard 100 charts following its release. Lennon’s writing of the song was heavily inspired by Bob Dylan, which could probably explain why the harmonica has such a strong presence. Add Harrison’s signature electric 12-string to balance out Lennon’s acoustic strumming on top of his dreamy lyrics, and you’ve got another classic pop hit.
1. “Can’t Buy Me Love”
How does a band follow up a hugely successful hit like "I Want to Hold Your Hand?" By writing and releasing a track like “Can’t Buy Me Love,” that’s how. This uptempo, more pop-friendly restructure of a traditional 12-bar blues became a smash hit for them, giving the group their third consecutive number one single in the U.S. It’s seems to be one of the few recorded Beatle songs that really captures the youthful energy of their live shows from their pre-Beatlemania years with that McCartney shriek just as Harrison goes into that jangly guitar solo.