"A HARD DAY'S NIGHT"
ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUND TRACK
Released June 26th, 1964
A new and exciting way for Beatlemaniacs the world over to get to know their favorite new recording artists arrived in the form of a big screen, theatrical release entitled "A Hard Day's Night." In fact, this medium cemented the popularity of The Beatles in ways they may not have realized.
From seeing them interact and react to the circumstances that presented themselves in the movie, die-hard fans of their music got to know their (perceived) personalities, idiosyncrasies and sense of humor. The youth of that time felt more like they knew their favorite musicians and, therefore, grew ever more attached. Henceforth, the Liverpudlian accent become synonymous with the group as everyone under the sun became amateur impressionists; a practice which continues on to this day.
The financial and critical success of the movie was astounding, as is the legacy it continues to leave. This highly respected "mock documentary" was nominated for two Academy Awards, made the Time Magazine list of all-time great 100 films, and was described as "the Citizen Cane of jukebox musicals" by The Village Voice. Roger Ebert, world renowned film critic, describes "A Hard Day's Night" as "one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies." The film has been credited as influencing and/or inspiring the 60's spy movie craze, the popular television show "The Monkees," and even MTV.
Origin Of The Album
In actuality, this may have been one of the only movies that has ever been produced without the intention of it ever being successful. Bud Ornstein, the European head of production for United Artists, helped conceive a plan to 'cash in' on the unparalleled success of The Beatles' British fame.
Although The Beatles were virtually unknown in America as of October of 1963, UA knew they would be huge there too. They were aware that Capitol Records (the American EMI affiliate who had first shot at releasing Beatles music in the states) kept refusing to release their material in the US. They also knew that two small labels, Vee Jay Records and Swan Records, were struggling to promote The Beatles records in America but with extremely limited success.
This is where United Artists' plan went into action. "Our record division wants to get the soundtrack album to distribute in the States," Bud Ornstein explained, "and what we lose on the film we'll get back on this disc." The plan was to produce a low-budget "exploitation" movie, which was very commonly done to promote recent hits by popular artists, and obtain the rights to release the "soundtrack album" in the US.
After a tentative agreement with The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, United Artists hired American producer Walter Shenson to work on the film and arranged a meeting in October of 1963 between Bud Ornstein, Shenson and Epstein. After Brian accepted the soundtrack deal, he was asked what would be a fair percentage The Beatles should get for the movie. "I couldn't accept anything less than seven-and-a-half percent" was Brian's reply. Since Onstein and Shenson resolved before the meeting that they would offer up to twenty-five percent, they had a deal.
Little by little, the movie deal was used as leverage for further deals, such as the Ed Sullivan Show, and for promotion of their albums. When Capitol finally exercised their "right of first refusal" to release the album "Meet The Beatles!" in January of 1964, it included verbiage in the liner notes about their upcoming United Artists motion picture.
Recording The Album
With a mere $500,000 in the budget, and the tentative title "Beatlemania," shooting for the movie was scheduled to begin on March 2, 1964. First order of business, though, was to record the music to be used in the film. This began immediately after their first historic visit to America in February of 1964. From February 25th to March 1st, eight new songs were completed, which were thought to be plenty to fill the seven song requirement.
Two more songs ended up being recorded with the intention of being in the movie. When the title of the movie was changed to "A Hard Day's Night," a title song was quickly written and subsequently recorded on April 16th. Well after the Beatles were finished with filming duties on April 24th, another song was written and recorded with the intention of being included in the film. "I'll Cry Instead" was recorded on June 1st and quickly dispatched to United Artists for possible inclusion in the film and soundtrack album.
This is not to say that "I'll Cry Instead" made it into the movie. Director Richard Lester required a song to be used during the "escape/fire escape" sequence of the film, which was inspired by his earlier "Running Jumping & Standing Still Film" and was said to be the precursor to the music videos of today. When "I'll Cry Instead" was suggested for this sequence, Richard Lester vetoed it no doubt because of its downbeat lyrics.
His intention was to use current successful hit "Can't Buy Me Love," so this was played as a backdrop to the previously filmed footage instead. This song was mostly recorded in Paris on January 29th and finished off at the February 25th recording session at EMI.
Since the decision to replace "I'll Cry Instead" with "Can't Buy Me Love" wasn't finalized by the time the American soundtrack album was being put together, both songs appeared on this release. Therefore, the timeframe for recording the album spans from January 29th to June 1st, 1964.
The Make-Up Of The Album
Since three other Beatles songs were included in the actual movie ("She Loves You," "Don't Bother Me" and "I Wanna Be Your Man"), including them on this soundtrack album would have made a suitable and conventional eleven-song release. And since "I Call Your Name" was submitted to United Artists as well, a full twelve song soundtrack album would have been possible.
But this was not to be. Since Capitol did decide to release The Beatles records in the US, and all four of the songs mentioned above were already released in America by this time, United Artists were kept to the seven main songs featured in the film as well as the tentative "I'll Cry Instead." Since "Can't Buy Me Love," which was also already released by Capitol in the states, was prominently featured in the movie, an exception was made and permission was given for its inclusion on the soundtrack album.
Standard practice of the day for soundtrack albums was to include instrumental or orchestrated recordings, so this idea was utilized to pan out the eight available Beatles tracks with George Martin produced versions of Beatles songs. The four instrumental songs chosen from the film were renditions of "I Should Have Known Better," "And I Love Her," "Ringo's Theme (This Boy)" and "A Hard Day's Night," all performed by "George Martin And His Orchestra."
Since United Artists Records were only allowed to release The Beatles material as a soundtrack album, Capitol Records were free to use the same recordings in any form they pleased as long as it wasn't touted as a "soundtrack album." Capitol's planned release of the single "A Hard Day's Night" as well as an August 1st release of an album called "Something New" featuring all seven movie songs inspired United Artists to rush-release their album even before the films American debut on August 11th, 1964. Therefore, UA released the official soundtrack album of "A Hard Day's Night" on June 26th, 1964.
This highly anticipated album, which even beat Capitol's July 13th release date for the "A Hard Day's Night" single, rushed to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts, where it remained for an amazing fourteen weeks, the longest run at number one that year. This early success made Capitol rethink its strategy and they reformatted their "Something New" album to feature only five of the songs on the UA album and include more new Beatles material that was just made available. Capitol's July 20th released album was kept out of the number one spot by United Artists' soundtrack album, although it did sell very well and peaked at #2 for nine weeks straight.
United Artists did whatever else it could to generate as much sales from the project as possible. Even though they were restricted from releasing The Beatles material as singles, they could release the George Martin instrumentals any way they pleased. Two singles were released, the first being "And I Love Her" with "Ringo's Theme (This Boy)" as the B-side. While "And I Love Her" only reached #105 on the Billboard charts, "Ringo's Theme (This Boy)," probably because of its being heard as a backdrop to the popular "lonely Ringo" segment in the movie, nearly made the top 40, peaking at #53. The deceptive use of Beatles images on the picture sleeve of the single may also have generated sales.
The second George Martin Orchestra single that was released contained the other two instrumental songs on the soundtrack album: "A Hard Day's Night" and "I Should Have Known Better." It may have been thought to confuse record buyers that this was The Beatles version, not only because it featured The Beatles on the picture sleeve, but because it contained the same exact songs as on the #1 Capitol single. This single generated somewhat less sales, "I Should Have Known Better" peaking at #111 and "A Hard Day's Night" peaking at #122.
Also released was a full album of George Martin instrumentals entitled "By Popular Demand, A Hard Day's Night, Instrumental Versions Of The Motion Picture Score." This album, which contained the four instrumentals on the soundtrack album as well as nine others, generated little success, which disputes the "popular demand" claim of the title.
The album remained in print throughout the '60s and '70s but, when United Artists was acquired by EMI, Capitol released the album on August 17th, 1980 and kept it in print throughout the life of the vinyl record industry.
Another interesting note regarding the United Artists album is their label mistakes. "I'll Cry Instead" was mistakenly printed as "I Cry Instead" on both the sleeve and the label, which was never corrected until the final printing in the late 70's. But when they finally did correct this, the same label titled the song "Tell Me Why" as "Tell Me Who." Either way, with that album being reported in Billboard magazine as one of the fastest selling albums in the history of the record business, getting the label right didn't really matter.
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski