You Learn Something New Every 'Hard Day's Night': The Beatles' Classic Turns 50
photo: Janus Films
It's been a hard day's semi-century. But the passage of 50 years since the debut of A Hard Day's Night hasn't robbed the Beatles' first and best movie of any of its youthful zest or Fab-ulosity. In honor of the anniversary of the July 6, 1964 opening night, here are some facts about the film and its wildly successful soundtrack you probably didn't know:
The famous weird chord that kicks off the album and film is… well, what is it? For five decades, guitar-strumming Beatlemaniacs have gone in search of the lost chord. The book All the Songs declared it was a D major 7th sus 4. In 2012, a mathematician made news by declaring that it involved a bit of trickery with George Harrison playing "a straightforward Fadd9 on his 12-string electric Rickenbacker guitar" but curling his thumb around the neck of the guitar to press down the bottom E string. But for many fans, the mystery was solved in 2011 when Randy Bachman (of Guess Who and BTO fame) filmed a lengthy explanation of how it was done, after being allowed to visit Abbey Road and listen to the master tapes. His conclusion was that it involved Harrison and John Lennon striking chords and Paul McCartney hitting a bass note simultaneously. But even that doesn't allow for the presence of a piano that some say is subliminally audible in the sacred chord.
The solo on "A Hard Day's Night" was a special effect that could not be reproduced onstage. For the instrumental break, music producer George Martin sat down at the piano and doubled Harrison's guitar part, which they played at half-tempo and an octave lower, before the inventive producer sped the tape up.
Legend has it that the lack of a love interest in the film was contractually mandated. Some source have claimed there was a clause in the movie's contracts ensuring the lads didn't woo any women, so as not to make any female fans insanely jealous. This may be apocryphal, although it does strike some viewers as odd that John Lennon sings "If I Fell" to Ringo Starr while young ladies are only allowed to look on.
The original lyrics of "If I Fell" revealed a seemingly crueler John. Originally, Lennon wrote, "I hope that she will cry/When she hears we are two," seemingly reflecting a growing disdain for his first wife, Cynthia. The line was eventually softened to eliminate any "hope" that the spurned woman in his life would end up in tears over discovering his new love.