Monday, December 24, 2007

The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night

(Capitol, 1964)

Without fail, pulling an all-nighter upsets my stomach, and this year’s Christmas travel made necessary a sleepless Amtrak Sunday that had my insides churning for much of the following day. So as I watched the dawn puke itself all over the New England landscape this morning from a train window, I was already considering finding a paper bag so I could follow suit. Grim hours indeed. But happily, things were looking up after I caught some accidental z’s on a cousin’s sofa later in the afternoon, nog in hand (oh that nog). In my improved mood, I am able to mull how totally my railway experience stands as a pathetic contrast to the zany choo-choo boogaloo of those fun-lovin’ Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night’s opening sequence. Which is a convenient topic of thought, because that movie’s titular single is next up in our hit parade of reviews. How ’bout that!

The Beatles are completely locked in by now, operating at full power with a dense, exciting production that’s sandwiched between two unorthodox snatches of chiming guitar – the first announces the group with a powerful, ringing blast; the last fades away as the band sprints off into the distance. Ringo comes through yet again, layering cowbell and subtle, galloping hand-percussion tracks around his “hit it on the two and the four” rockbeat. On the tra-la-la front, Lennon handles the verses and McCartney the bridge, and DANG do their double-tracked voices sound perfect chasing after one another. In fact, the whole song has a chase-like quality to it, successfully conveying – aurally – the crazy pop-world rush of the film with which it shares its name. Very nice soundtrackin’ fellas, very nice soundtrackin’ indeed. On the B-side, “I Should Have Known Better” (also featured in the movie) gives us an early hint at the self-doubt John’s lyrics would investigate much more sharply on albums like Help! and Beatles For Sale. But the creeping maturity and self-awareness manage to heighten rather than dampen the fun on this single as new musical and lyrical possibilities are enthusiastically mined. You win again, Beatles!

1 comment:

Donald Brown said...

What? No mention of the harmonica on ISHKB? It's not quite as effective as that opening chord on AHDN to snap me back into a pre-traumatic world of childhood bliss (oh look at the yellow-orange spiral on that label go round and round on a record player that is a PIECE OF FURNITURE), but almost.

The two together are dy-no-mite, as they say.