Remember The Time – August 1964 By Sharon Davis

Cast your CDs to the side this month as we embark on a journey back to the sixties to meet The Beatles who had just branched out into the world of films.  A natural progression because with Beatlemania in full swing across the world, the Fab Four couldn’t possibly tour everywhere.  A film was the obvious answer.  And the lead single from that movie sat at the top of the UK chart during August 1964.  Titled “A Hard Day’s Night”, it was credited to Lennon-McCartney when in actual fact, it was John who wrote the bulk of the song with a little input from Paul. So they say.

The Beatles single ousted The Rolling Stones’ “It’s All Over Now” from the top spot on the same day that both the American and British “A Hard Day’s Night” albums hit the top of their respective charts.  No other act had held the top spot on both the album and singles charts in the UK and USA at the same time.  The Fab Four held this record until 1970 when Simon and Garfunkel replaced them with their brilliant “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and its title track.

Folklore has it that John ‘dashed off’ the song in one night, and played it to the rest of the group in the studio the following morning. In a 1980  interview with Playboy he said “..There was always a little competition between Paul and I as to who got the A-side – who got the hits.  If you notice, in the early days the majority of singles, in the movies and everything, were mine…in the early period I’m dominating the group.  The reason Paul sang on ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (in the bridge) is because I couldn’t reach the notes.”   By all accounts, it took the foursome about three hours to record the song in Studio 2 at Abbey Road, eventually agreeing to release the ninth take.

So, what about the actual single’s title?  Again, over the years there have been varying explanations, although the group’s drummer Ringo Starr’s name was always mentioned. So, for starters here’s one version. Ringo told Dave Hull in 1964. “We went to do a job, and we had worked all day and we happened to work all night.  I came up still thinking it was day I suppose, and said ‘It’s been a hard day’ and I looked around and saw that it was dark so I said ‘night’.  So we came to ‘A hard day’s night’.” 

In an Associated Press report, Walter Shenson, producer of the film, insisted that it was John Lennon who told him about Ringo’s little gaffs, and ‘a hard day’s night’ was one of them. Said producer loved the phrase so much that he changed its original title from Beatlemania to Ringo’s most ingenious gaff. And there’s Paul McCartney’s take which he gave in a 1994 interview for “The Beatles Anthology”.  He explained that Ringo had these wonderful little malapropisms which had a certain kind of magic – “We’d almost finished making the film, and this fun bit arrived…which was naming the film. So we were sitting around at Twickenham studios having a little brain-storming session..and we said ‘there was something Ringo said the other day’. …He said after a concert ‘Phew, it’s been a hard day’s night’.”  At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter does it, but I do like to get things right.

Then I uncovered another interesting story, this time from Maureen Cleave, a reporter for the Evening Standard, and her conversation with John Lennon during a cab ride to the Abbey Road studios on the morning the single was being recorded. She wrote that the tune for “A Hard Day’s Night” was spinning around in his head, and he was scribbling a few lyrics on a birthday card from a fan to his young son Julian. “’When I get home to you’ it said, ‘I find my tiredness is through…’”  Maureen suggested the line was a smidge on the feeble side, and John agreed.  So he borrowed her pen to immediately change it around to “When I get home to you, I find the things that you do, will make me feel all right.” Bingo!  The lucky Maureen then went on to stay in the studio while the song was being recorded, and remembered “John hummed the tune to the others, they had no copies of the words or anything else.  Three hours later I was none the wiser about how they’d done it but the record was made.”   By all accounts, the birthday card is in the British Library.

Advertised as a musical comedy “A Hard Day’s Night” was one of the first films to be devoted to the life and times of a pop group.  With a script written by Alun Owen, and distributed by United Artists, the film covered 36 hours in the lives of the four group members as they prepared themselves for a television appearance.  Naturally, by the very fact it was a Beatles’ movie – the hottest group in the world at the time – it earned barrel loads of money, before being cited as one of the most influential of all musical films, inspiring other low-budget movies, like Ferry Cross The Mersey and Catch Us If You Can

OK, I confess now. I re-visited The Beatles’ film in the recent past and, surprisingly, experienced that same sort of fan worship as I did in 1964, watching the guys being chased by a horde of over enthusiastic, screaming fans while trying to hop aboard a train bound for London.  On the journey, they meet up with Paul’s grandfather, splendidly played by Wilfrid Brambell, best known for his cantankerous role in Steptoe & Son, playing opposite Harry H Corbett, his long-suffering son. Now, he has a long-suffering grandson.

Once in London, all sorts of shenanigans went on including the group being holed up in a hotel, while their manager sifted through fan mail.  So engrossed was he that he failed to notice they had snuck out.  Naturally, they had a few silly adventures before being caught and returned to said hotel.  The day of the television performance was next and, of course, it didn’t go according to plan, as an interfering grandfather made mischief, and the individual Beatles got into all types of silly scrapes. It really was a British nod at Laurel and Hardy, and the Keystone Cops – it worked well too.    Everything fell into place with a happily-ever- after- ending.  The Beatles’ television spot was faultless, whereupon a helicopter whisked them away for another performance.

In between their comings and goings on film, the music was sublime, and as I noted some of the tracks, was mentally humming them, with “I Should Have Known Better”, “If I Fell”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “And I Love Her”, “Any Time At All” and “You Can’t Do That”  were among them.

Damned if I can remember the lyrics though.

Sharon Davis