As of July 2022, the classic Beatles album A Hard Day's Night, their defining third record and first all-original output, is now 58 years old. Unsurprisingly, it's as great as the day it came out, a pinnacle of gently aching ballads and exuberant British pop. Here's everything you need to know about every song from A Hard Day's Night, each one composed by the undefeated songwriting champions John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
"A Hard Day's Night"
This joyous pop masterpiece was actually the final song written for the film and album of the same name, but it's simple brilliance is unquestionable. 'A Hard Day's Night' demonstrates all of the band's skills simultaneously while being insanely catchy and under three minutes, so it's not shocking it went No. 1 in both the U.S. and U.K.
"I Should Have Known Better"
A bit of the California sound that was also popular across the globe (The Beach Boys covered it the following year, no surprise there), 'I Should Have Known Better' is a happy Lennon-led song that uses the common early sound of John, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, just like their debut single 'Love Me Do.' If it seems too simple, remember that this only came out a year after their debut!
"If I Fell"
Though not as good as an upcoming ballad on this album, 'If I Fell' is still strongly written, the first proper ballad written by Lennon. Paul's backing vocals add some crunch to what is really a subtly cruel song, and John's melody here is particularly gorgeous at parts.
"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Of course, there are always a few songs that are quite safe on the surface, but 'I'm Happy Just To Dance With You' is a prime example of the Beatles formula done right. It has an irresistible minor twist to a typical chord progression, and while it was indeed a throwaway track for George Harrison to sing in the film, it's a solid album track nonetheless.
"And I Love Her"
Perhaps the best early ballad from the Beatles is the first official 'Paul' song on A Hard Day's Night. 'And I Love Her' is such an interesting song for a pop band, recorded with all acoustic instruments and written with a musical-ballad sultriness that is undeniably alluring. You'd never guess from its intimacy that it's lyrics are a completely fictional tale.
"Tell Me Why"
Possibly a filler track, this upbeat number is reminiscent of the Four Seasons with its drenching of harmonies, but that sound was instrumental in the Beatles' rise to stardom. They even included a cover of The Shirelles' 'Boys' on their first album, so this tribute/ripoff to that sound seems fitting for variety and for the rate that The Beatles were composing at this time.
"Can't Buy Me Love"
The only other A Hard Day's Night track that can really sum up the grandeur of the record's fame, 'Can't Buy Me Love' was another astounding hit at the time and presently. They definitely rock as much as they ever had hear, with some screaming vocals and guitars that suggest the influence of American rock music of the 1950s.
"Any Time At All"
Lennon's vocals shining here! He already took lead on four of the seven songs used in the film, and for the remaining non-film songs, he'd be leading five! 'Any Time At All' is basically the same idea as his With The Beatles leadoff track 'It Won't Be Long,' but it's still a fun one.
"I'll Cry Instead"
It's a bit of a country song! 'I'll Cry Instead' actually took things a bit dark, with Lennon exploring anger, sadness, and revenge in ways he never had before. The song feels highly personal, and marks an interesting start to the songwriting development of John.
"Things We Said Today"
The only Paul track from side two of the album is unsurprisingly an underrated great. The folky jangle of 'Things We Said Today' is emotionally complex and intricately textured from section to section, evident of the personal connection to McCartney's relationship at the time with Jane Asher.
"When I Get Home"
Another tribute/ripoff that lends some musical diversity to the album, 'When I Get Home' takes on the Motown sound, which Lennon was very fond of. It's another that shows how the Beatles wanted to keep things simple despite their continued maturation, knowing full well that less often means more.
"You Can't Do That"
The angriest, meanest song on the album tops the emotional catharsis of 'I'll Cry Instead' by a wide margin, and though it can be a little unsavory in present times, 'You Can't Do That' is still a rocking track.
"I'll Be Back"
Though possibly another ripoff song, 'I'll Be Back' is a very interesting closer for the album, moving back and forth between major and minor tonalities. It's the perfect lead-in to the darker sentiments of their next record, Beatles For Sale, which opens with the bleak 'No Reply.'
A Hard Day's Night can be found on all streaming services! Listen to this great album today.