Before I begin, I feel like I have to say it. The Beatles are ‘not’ the best band of all time. Not saying who is, but for me the Beatles might actually be overrated. Now, my mini-bio says I’m a self proclaimed anglophile so I should automatically love the Beatles, right? Not necessarily, but A Hard Day’s Night is definitely my favorite Beatles without question.
A Hard Day’s Night was filmed and released in following the Beatles’ burst and exploding
popularity in America which started on February 7, 1964 when they boarded a plane in London’s Heathrow Airport and stepped off said plane at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Filmed nearly chronologically in March and April of the same year, the film was released on July 6, 1964 along with a new album of the same name with songs played during the film. There’s plenty of documentaries on the nitty gritty about the film itself with all the usual tidbits I’ve pointed out about other films in the past. This time though I wanted to pass on some observations.
The first related to my opening statement about A Hard Day’s Night having my favorite Beatles. At this point in their careers, the Beatles were all in their early to mid-20’s. This is before Sargent Pepper, before Yoko (apologies for setting off the alarm), before their introduction to Bob Dylan, before the blending of international sounds into the sound and repertoire of the band, and far before Phil Spector’s ‘wall-of-sound’. They’re 4 guys in their 20’s full of energy, wit, and happiness at just being where they are. Being washed along with the fun because it means they get to do more.
Think of some of your favorite bands, and you’ll likely notice how many of them follow that same theme. First album is incredible, so energetic and they’re so happy for others to like what they’re doing. By the fourth album though, it may be 10 years on and what used to be 20 something band members have spouses, kids, and a lot more to juggle. They spend much more time on introspection and being a parent. Songs with spark and energy about falling in love and being happy slide into melodramatic songs about legacy and generational values. Hard Day’s Night has none of that later moroseness. It’s all about being in a “train and a room, and a car and a room, and a room and a room.” as Paul’s Grandfather says in the film. The plot is centered around that immediacy of fame that the band was encountering.
Another thing that keeps cropping up throughout the film is the generational struggles between the older adults, primarily authority figures, and the band which got me thinking about the older character’s perspective of the younger characters. Much of A Hard Day’s Night is told from the perspective of the band, but there’s loads of dialogue from older characters that emphasize the older generation’s frustration in trying to understand the fads that the youth are obsessing over. Older adults at the airport, train station, on the train itself, or even the police can’t understand why these 4 lads don’t stop acting like fools and just what the fuss is all about. Even the band’s manager takes John’s aloofness, restlessness, and tendency to evade control as a personal affront to the manager’s own mental health.
And finally the last thing I’ll note is the audience in the film. Not sure if the director and/or production crew insisted on it, but in the audience watching the Beatles perform in either the train-car, during rehearsals, or at the broadcasted performance at the end of the movie, none were singing along. Since that’s so much a part of many concerts today (or even movies, as I overheard some fellow audience members singing along, and couldn’t help own self) that I wonder when we collectively switched from singing along at home to our LP’s, tapes, and/or CD’s but not in person at the show to singing everywhere. Just a thought.
So, in conclusion, A Hard Day’s Night is a really fun film. There’s sight gags, one-liners, disguises, and even a walkabout. Not loaded with Oscar winning performances, but then you don’t go to the Beatles for high drama, you go to them for fun, and A Hard Day’s Night certainly is.