We were different. We were older. We knew each other on all kinds of levels that we didn’t when we were teenagers. The early stuff – the Hard Day’s Night period, I call it – was the sexual equivalent of the beginning hysteria of a relationship. And the Sgt Pepper-Abbey Road period was the mature part of the relationship.”
– John Lennon (1980)
A Hard Day’s Night is the third album by The Beatles; it was released on July 10, 1964. The album is a soundtrack to the A Hard Day’s Night film, starring the Beatles. The American version of the album was released two weeks earlier, on 26 June 1964 by United Artists Records, with a different track listing. This is the first Beatles album to be recorded entirely on four-track tape, allowing for good stereo mixes.
In 2000, Q placed A Hard Day’s Night at number 5 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 388 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The soundtrack songs were recorded in late February, and the non-soundtrack songs were recorded in June. The title song itself was recorded on April 16.
…but A Hard Day’s Night is perhaps the band’s most straightforward album: You notice the catchiness first, and you can wonder how they got it later.
The best example of this is the title track– the clang of that opening chord to put everyone on notice, two burning minutes thick with percussion (including a hammering cowbell!) thanks to the new four-track machines George Martin was using, and then the song spiraling out with a guitar figure as abstractedly lovely as anything the group had recorded.”
– Tom Ewing, Pitchfork
The final Beatles Christmas offering was also recorded separately, as the band had effectively split by this point. It features an extensive visit with John and Yoko at their Tittenhurst Park estate, where they play “what will Santa bring me?” games. Harrison only appears briefly, and Starr only shows up to plug his recent film, The Magic Christian. Paul sings his original ad-lib, This is to Wish You a Merry, Merry Christmas. Starting at 1:30, at the tail-end of Ringo’s song, the guitar solos from The End are heard, followed by Yoko interviewing John.
… Lennon presents everything on the surface, and the song titles — “Mother,” “I Found Out,” “Working Class Hero,” “Isolation,” “God,” “My Mummy’s Dead” — illustrate what each song is about, and charts his loss of faith in his parents, country, friends, fans, and idols. It’s an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon’s catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.
~Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic.com)
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
From the Liverpool docks to the red light Hamburg streets
Down in the quarry with the Quarrymen.
Playing to the big crowds
Playing to the cheap seats
Another day in your life on your way to your journey’s end
Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
― John Lennon
Songs from live albums not allowed (that’s another & more complicated list)
Please feel free to publish your own favorite songs from 1971 in the comments section…
AND lists like this are supposed to be fun! Don’t take it too seriously.
My favorite (studio) albums from 1971 include:
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2, If Only I Could Remember My Name (David Crosby), There’s a Riot Goin’ On (Sly & the Family Stone), What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye), Who’s Next (The Who), Tapestry (Carole King), Shaft: Music from the Soundtrack (Isaac Hayes), Sticky Fingers (The Rolling Stones), Imagine (John Lennon), Surf’s Up (Beach Boys), LA Woman (The Doors), Coat of Many Colors (Dolly Parton), IV (Led Zeppelin), Every Picture Tells a Story (Rod Stewart), Songs of Love & Hate (Leonard Cohen), Blue (Joni Mitchell), Pearl (Janis Joplin), White Light (Gene Clark), John Prine (John Prine), Nilsson Schmilsson (Harry Nilsson), Hunky Dory (David Bowie), Tupelo Honey (Van Morrison), Jack Johnson (Miles Davis), The Cry of Love (Jimi Hendrix), In Search Of A Song (Tom T. Hall), Crazy Horse (Crazy Horse) & Just as I Am (Bill Withers).