Thursday, February 28, 2008

No. 388: A Hard Day's Night

(U.K. cover)

(U.S. cover)
Band: The Beatles
Album: A Hard Day's Night
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The soundtrack to the band's first movie, "A Hard Day's Night" is classic early Beatles: Great hooks, melodic solos and unparalleled harmonies.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I imagine this could be higher. It is, after all, The Beatles.
Best song: "Things We Said Today" is amazing.
Worst song: "You Can't Do That" isn't perfect.
Is it awesome?: Yes!

Here's an interesting thought: The Beatles recorded "A Hard Day's Night" in one day. I cannot fathom that a band could be so prepared and ready for recording wherein they did not tinker at all with the songs while recording. That's the famous Beatles discipline in its truest form.


"A Hard Day's Night" isn't a great film by any stretch. It is, however, a lot of fun and a great piece snapshot of Beatlemania.

Because of my own melancholy, I cannot fathom being a Beatlemaniac. In the midst of the 2008 presidential race, I often see people at Barack Obama's rallies fainting or crying. Just the idea of Obama makes these people cry.

I'm in the middle of reading "American Brutus," an excellent book about the conspiracy to kill President Lincoln. The book goes into great detail about the passion and emotion surrounding the evening Lincoln was shot. The fellow theatergoers were all exceedingly excited to catch a glimpse at Lincoln in his box at Ford's Theater that evening.

Celebrities all have varying degrees of import in our lives. I wouldn't cry if saw any presidential candidate speak, but I have a friend who often tears up while watching Obama speak on TV. I imagine I'd cry if Lincoln spoke, but that'd be because the zombies are about to take over.

And, you know, Zombie Lincoln probably knows where to find Zombie General Ulysses S. Grant. And Zombie Grant could surely plan a successful campaign against the living.

But, I digress... I guess I just can't imagine screaming or crying when I see someone famous. Famous people are just people, despite how talented they are.

Look at Paul McCartney. I would argue that he's on the shortlist of greatest songwrtiers ever. As much as I mock his sunnyness, he's written more great songs than anyone outside of a small group (his bandmate John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, maybe Pete Townsend). But, he's still just an aging hippy who thinks nature is totally awesome and fascinating.

(For what it's worth, I agree with him.)

So, the question is this: Is it worth screaming if you see him? I'd suggest that it is not.

Hank Azaria tells a story that his brother-in-law met George Harrison at a party and started, essentially, freaking out. Azaria's brother-in-law approached Harrison and said "It can't be! It can't be you! It can't be!" Harrison, calmly, replied "No, it can't."

(Man, how sad is it that my frame of reference is largely based on Simpsons commentaries? I need to get out more.)

So, my point is this: I've met some of my idols (Steve Albini at a show and I worked with Tony Kornheiser after he got me my job at the Post) and they're just dudes. The Beatles were four young men from Liverpool. Yes, they were four very talented young men, but young men.


"A Hard Day's Night" is very Lennon-heavy in its songwriting. Ironically, the best song on the album is a McCartney-penned track, "Things We Said Today." It is probably McCartney's best vocal performance, as he stays within his lower vocal range.

Early Beatles records are fantastic in that the albums are full of songs you know. They're wonderful as the intersection of early rock music and popular music. The hooks are unstoppable ("A Hard Day's Night" and "Can't Buy Me Love" are great) and the musicianship is great.

1 comment:

padraig said...

I'd like to humbly submit a few suggestions to your short list of great, prolific songwriters - Sly & Robbie (riddims, in their case), David Porter & Isaac Hayes at Stax, Aphex Twin, etc. Not to mention bandleaders/arrangers like Fela Kuti, George Clinton, Sun Ra, Coltrane, Davis, etc. I'm not taking anything away from the dudes you mentioned - it was just kind of a narrow view of what constitutes a songwriter. :)