Rock Music Wiki

"A Hard Day's Night" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. Written by John Lennon,[2] and credited to Lennon–McCartney, it was released on the movie soundtrack of the same name in 1964. It was later released as a single, with "Things We Said Today" as its B-side.

The song featured prominently on the soundtrack to the Beatles' first feature filmA Hard Day's Night, and was on their album of the same name. The song topped the charts in both the United Kingdom and United States when it was released as a single. The American and British singles of "A Hard Day's Night" as well as both the American and British albums of the same title all held the top position in their respective charts for a couple of weeks in August 1964, the first time any artist had accomplished this feat.[3]


 [hide*1 Title


The song's title originated from something said by Ringo Starr, the Beatles' drummer. Starr described it this way in an interview with disc jockey Dave Hull in 1964: "We went to do a job, and we'd worked all day and we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day I suppose, and I said, 'It's been a hard day...' and I looked around and saw it was dark so I said, '...night!' So we came to 'A Hard Day's Night."[4]

Starr's statement was the inspiration for the title of the movie, which in turn inspired the composition of the song. According to Lennon in a 1980 interview withPlayboy magazine: "I was going home in the car and Dick Lester [director of the movie] suggested the title, 'Hard Day's Night' from something Ringo had said. I had used it in In His Own Write [a book Lennon was writing then], but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo. You know, one of those malapropisms. A Ringo-ism, where he said it not to be funny... just said it. So Dick Lester said, 'We are going to use that title.'"[5]

In a 1994 interview for The Beatles Anthology, however, McCartney disagreed with Lennon's recollections, basically stating that it was the Beatles, and not Lester, who had come up with the idea of using Starr's verbal misstep: "The title was Ringo's. We'd almost finished making the film, and this fun bit arrived that we'd not known about before, which was naming the film. So we were sitting around at Twickenham studios having a little brain-storming session... and we said, 'Well, there was something Ringo said the other day.' Ringo would do these little malapropisms, he would say things slightly wrong, like people do, but his were always wonderful, very lyrical... they were sort of magic even though he was just getting it wrong. And he said after a concert, 'Phew, it's been a hard day's night.'"[6]

In 1996, yet another version of events cropped up; in an Associated Press report, the producer of the film A Hard Day's Night, Walter Shenson, stated that Lennon described to Shenson some of Starr's funnier gaffes, including "a hard day's night", whereupon Shenson immediately decided that that was going to be the title of the movie (replacing other alternatives, including Beatlemania[7]). Shenson then told Lennon that he needed a theme song for the film.[8]


Regardless of who decided on the title, Lennon immediately made up his mind that he would compose the movie's title track.[9] He dashed off the song in one night, and brought it in for comments the following morning. As he described in his 1980 Playboy interview, "...the next morning I brought in the song... 'cuz there was a little competition between Paul and I as to who got the A-side — who got the hits. If you notice, in the early days the majority of singles, in the movies and everything, were mine... in the early period I'm dominating the group.... The reason Paul sang on 'A Hard Day's Night' (in the bridge) is because I couldn't reach the notes."[5]

On 16 April 1964, the Beatles gathered at Studio 2 of the Abbey Road Studios and recorded "A Hard Day's Night". It took them less than three hours to polish the song for its final release, eventually selecting the ninth take as the one to be released.[10] Evening Standard journalist Maureen Cleave described a memorable taxi ride the morning the song was recorded:

"One day I picked John up in a taxi and took him to Abbey Road for a recording session. The tune to the song 'A Hard Day's Night' was in his head, the words scrawled on a birthday card from a fan to his little son Julian: 'When I get home to you,' it said, 'I find my tiredness is through...' Rather a feeble line about tiredness, I said. 'OK,' he said cheerfully and, borrowing my pen, instantly changed it to the slightly suggestive: 'When I get home to you/I find the things that you do/Will make me feel all right.' The other Beatles were there in the studio and, of course, the wonderful George Martin. John sort of hummed the tune to the others – they had no copies of the words or anything else. Three hours later I was none the wiser about how they’d done it but the record was made – and you can see the birthday card in the British Library."[11]

In the Associated Press report, Shenson described his recollection of what happened. At 8:30 in the morning, "There were John and Paul with guitars at the ready and all the lyrics scribbled on matchbook covers. They played it and the next night recorded it." Shenson declared, "It had the right beat and the arrangement was brilliant. These guys were geniuses."[8]

Release and reception[edit][]

"A Hard Day's Night" was first released to the United States, coming out on 26 June 1964 on the album A Hard Day's Night, the soundtrack to the film, and released by United Artists. It was the first song to be released before single release (see below).

The United Kingdom first heard "A Hard Day's Night" when it was released there on 10 July 1964, both on the album A Hard Day's Night, and as a single, backed with "Things We Said Today" on the B-side. Both the album and single were released by Parlophone Records. The single began charting on 18 July 1964, a week later ousting the Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now" from the top spot on the British charts on 25 July 1964, coincidentally the day when both the American and British albums too hit the peak of their respective charts. The single stayed on top for three weeks, and lasted another nine weeks in the charts afterwards.

America first saw the single of "A Hard Day's Night" on 13 July 1964, featuring "I Should Have Known Better" on the B-side, and released by Capitol Records. Capitol had been in a quandary about cashing in on the success of the movie A Hard Day's Night, as United Artists held the publishing rights for the soundtrack (thus owning the rights to release the album of the same title). However, there was nothing preventing Capitol from releasing the songs in other forms, leading to six out of the seven songs from the movie's soundtrack coming out on singles.[citation needed]

The American single began its 13-week chart run five days after release, and on 1 August started a two-week long run at the top, setting a new record—nobody before had ever held the number one position on both the album and singles charts in the United Kingdom and the United States at the same time. The Beatles were the first to do so, and continued to be the only ones who had done this until 1970 whenSimon and Garfunkel achieved the same feat with their album Bridge over Troubled Water and its title track. "A Hard Day's Night" went on to sell one million copies in America within just over five weeks.[citation needed]

In 1965, "A Hard Day's Night" won The Beatles the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group. In 2004, this song was ranked number 154 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[12]

Opening chord[edit][]

[1][2]"A Hard Day's Night" opening chord option: G7sus4.

One may quickly and easily compare the presence or absence of notes, and their 

range, even without the ability to read music.[3][4]"A Hard Day's Night" opening chord option: Dm7sus4.[5][6]"A Hard Day's Night" opening chord option: Prof. Brown's analysis.[7][8]"A Hard Day's Night" opening chord option: F9.

"A Hard Day's Night" is immediately identifiable before the vocals even begin, thanks to George Harrison's unmistakable Rickenbacker 360/12 12-string guitar's "mighty opening chord".[13] According to George Martin, "We knew it would open both the film and the soundtrack LP, so we wanted a particularly strong and effective beginning. The strident guitar chord was the perfect launch,"[10] having what Ian MacDonald calls, "a significance in Beatles lore matched only by the concluding E major of "A Day in the Life", the two opening and closing the group's middle period of peak creativity".[14] "That sound you just associate with those early 1960s Beatles records".[15]

[9] Listen to the opening chord (help·info)

Analysis of the chord has been debated,[16] it having been described as G7add9sus4,[17] G7sus4,[18][19] or G11sus4[13] and others below.

The exact chord is an Fadd9 confirmed by Harrison during an online chat on 15 February 2001:[20]

Q: Mr Harrison, what is the opening chord you used for "A Hard Day's Night"?
A: It is F with a G on top, but you'll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper story.

According to Walter Everett the opening chord has an introductory dominant function because McCartney plays D in the bass: Harrison and Martin play F A C G, over the bass D, on twelve-string guitar and piano, giving the chord a mixture-coloured neighbour, F; two diatonic neighbours, A and C; plus an anticipation of the tonic, G — the major subtonic as played on guitar being a borrowed chord commonly used by the Beatles, first in "P.S. I Love You" (see mode mixture), and later in "Every Little Thing", "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Got to Get You into My Life" (in the latter two against a tonic pedal).[21]

Alan W. Pollack also interprets the chord as a surrogate dominant, the G being an anticipation that resolves on the G major chord that opens the verse. He suggests it is a mixture of d minor, F major, and G major (missing the B).[22] Tony Bacon calls it a Dm7sus4 (D F G A C),[23] which is the minor seventh chord (plus the fourth, G). (For more information regarding chord functions see diatonic function.)

Everett points out that the chord relates to the Beatles' interest in pandiatonic harmony.[24]

Dominic Pedler has also provided an interpretation of the famous chord,[25] with The Beatles and George Martin playing the following:

  • George Harrison: Fadd9 in 1st position on Rickenbacker 360/12 12-string electric guitar
  • John Lennon: Fadd9 in 1st position on a Gibson J-160E 6-string acoustic guitar
  • Paul McCartney: high D played on the D-string, 12th fret on Hofner 500/1 electric bass
  • George Martin: D2-G2-D3 played on a Steinway Grand Piano
  • Ringo Starr: Subtle snare drum and ride cymbal

This gives the notes: G-B-D-F-A-C (the B is a harmonic). One of the interesting things about this chord (as described by Pedler) is how McCartney's high bass note reverberates inside the soundbox of Lennon's acoustic guitar and begins to be picked up on Lennon's microphone or pick-up during the sounding of the chord. This gives the chord its special "wavy" and unstable quality. Pedler describes the effect as a "virtual pull-off".[20]

The chord's notes were estimated using Fourier analysis,[26] according to which Harrison played the a2, a3, d3, d4, g3, g4, c4, and another c4 on his 12-string guitar; McCartney played a d3 on his bass; producer George Martin played d3, f3, d5, g5, and e6 on the piano; and Lennon played a loud c5 on his six-string guitar.[27]

In November 2009, Wired published an article where Celemony's Melodyne Editor with Direct Note Access technology was used to analyse the opening chord.[28]

Randy Bachman has stated that he heard the original masters of the recordings and could hear the 12-string guitar playing "an F chord, but you put a G on top, and you put a G on the bottom, and you put a C next to that G", "a D on the bass", and "rhythm guitar was a D chord with a sus 4".[29]

A repeated arpeggio outlining the notes of the opening chord ends the song in a circular fashion, fading out with the sound of helicopter blades. This provides, "a sonic confirmation that the thirty-six hours we have just seen [in the movie] will go on and on and on".[17] This was an inspiration of George Martin, who said: "Again, that's film writing. I was stressing to them the importance of making the song fit, not actually finishing it but dangling on so that you're into the next mood."[30] The song contains 12 other chords.[13]

Music and lyrics[edit][]

The song is composed in the key of G major[21][22] and in a 4/4 time signature.[19] The verse features the VII or major subtonic chord that was a part of the opening chord as an ornament or embellishment below the tonic. Transposed down a perfect fifth, the modal frame of the song though pentatonic features a ladder of thirds axially centred on G with a ceiling note of B and floor note of E (the low C being a passing tone)[31]


According to Middleton, the song, "at first glance major-key-with-modal-touches", reveals through its "Line of Latent Mode" "a deep kinship with typical blues melodic structures: it is centred on three of the notes of the minor-pentatonic mode (E-G-B), with the contradictory major seventh (B) set against that. Morever, the shape assumed by these notes - the modal frame - as well as the abstract scale they represent, is revealed, too; and this - an initial, repeated circling round the dominant (G), with an excursion to its minor third (B), 'answered' by a fall to the 'symmetrical' minor third of the tonic (E) - is a common pattern in blues."[32]

Lennon opens the twelve measure-long verse and carries it along, suddenly joined at the end by McCartney, who then sings the bridge.


During the recording of "A Hard Days Night", Lennon and McCartney double track their vocals throughout including the chorus. Lennon sings the lead vocal on the verses and Paul sings lead on the middle eight. During the chorus McCartney handles the high harmony and Lennon the low harmony. Take 7 reveals that the lyrics were still not set with Lennon singing "you make me feel all right" and McCartney and Harrison still unsteady with their respective lines, ending with Lennon chiding them with the line "I heard a funny chord".

The instrumental break, sometimes credited solely to George Harrison on a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, is probably played by Harrison on 6-string guitar with George Martin doubling on a piano recorded to tape at half-speed and then sped up to normal.[33] Recording this solo was the most challenging aspect of the session; a take that surfaced on a bootleg in the 1980s reveals Harrison fumbling over his strings, losing his timing and missing notes. But by the time the session wrapped at 10 p.m. that night, he had sculpted one of his most memorable solos — an upward run played twice and capped with a circular flourish - in illustration of an observation made by engineer Geoff Emerick: "George would spend a lot of time working out solos. Everything was a little bit harder for him, nothing quite came easily."[30]

The song closes with Harrison playing an arpeggio of the opening chord (Fadd9) during the fade-out, the first time the Beatles had used such a technique — most, if not all, of their earlier work had closed with a final chord (and cadence), such as "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand".


The lyrics speak about the singer's undying devotion to his lover, and how he toils so she can purchase the items she fancies. The singer sings about his tiredness when he comes home from work, but how the things that his lover does perk him up. Critics have pointed out that the first verse, repeated as the last verse, exploits three worn-out-sounding cliches, "a hard day's work," "working like a dog," and "sleeping like a log," only to quicken up the pace with a patter-couplet reassuring the singer's girlfriend that his energy and pleasure level have been renewed by her ministrations.[34]

In 1965, for the television show The Music of Lennon and McCartneyPeter Sellers recited the lyrics to "A Hard Day’s Night" in the manner of Laurence Olivier's famous performance of Shakespeare'sRichard III.[35]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[14]

Cultural references[edit][]

  • "A Hard Day's Night" was used as wake-up music on Space Shuttle Missions STS-30STS-61, and STS-69.[36]
  • The song was played to conclude the Channel Four breakfast programme The Channel Four Daily in 1992.[37]
  • The song was used as the main theme for the controversial Mikie arcade video game from the mid eighties.

Cover versions[edit][]

[11]This list of songs or music-related items is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
Year Group or artist's name Album title Additional information
1964 The Chipmunks The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits
1964 The Supremes A Bit of Liverpool
1964 Quincy Jones Golden Boy[38]
1964 Peggy Lee In the Name of Love
1964 Ramsey Lewis In Person 1960-1967[38]
1964 Gary McFarland single
1964 Santo & Johnny single[38]
1964 The Typhoons EP Side One A Hard Day's Night'And I Love Her Side Two I Should Have Known Better'Tell Me Why [39]
1965 The Kingsmen The Kingsmen On Campus Instrumental. Also on Greatest Hits in 1966.
1965 Ella Fitzgerald Ella in Hamburg[38] Instrumental
1965 Indexi With title "Učini jednom bar"
1965 Peter Sellers single[38] A comedy version in which he recited the lyrics in the style of Laurence Olivier in Olivier's film version ofShakespeare's play Richard III.[40] Sellers' version was a UK Top 20 hit in 1965.[41]
1966 Chet Atkins Chet Atkins Picks on The Beatles[38]
1966 Earl Grant Bali Hai'h Instrumental
1966 Billy Preston The Wildest Organ in Town!
1967 Johnny Rivers Whisky à Go Go Revisited
1968 Bar-Kays Single (Volt148) Appears on the 1993 various artists compilation album Rubber Souled.
1969 Katja Ebstein The In-Kraut: Vol 3.[42][43]
1969 Dionne Warwick Soulful[38]
1976 John Mayall Notice to Appear
1979 The Knack Live at Carnegie Hall
1979 Max Bygraves At His Very Best
1982 Otis Redding Recorded Live: Previously Released Performances
1982 Shockabilly The Dawn Of Shockabilly (EP)[38]
1984 Pat Kelly One In A Million
1985 Gerry Tenney and the Lost Tribe Heart Will Carry On Sung in Yiddish and titled Shvere togndike nakht/שװערע טאגנדיקע נאכט
1991 The Kelly Family Honest Workers
1995 Manuel Barrueco Manuel Barrueco plays Lennon & McCartney[38]
1996 Hoodoo Gurus Electric Chair
1998 Goldie Hawn In My Life
1998 Shameless Flaming Youth Titled "Hard Dayz Night"
1998 The Punkles The Punkles
2000 Hank Marvin Marvin at the Movies Instrumental
2001 Rita Lee Aqui, Ali, em Qualquer Lugar

("Here, There and Everywhere")

2001 Alexander Zonjic Reach for the Sky[44][45]
2004 Rene Marie Serenade Renegade
2005 Billy Joel My Lives[46] Recorded live
2005 Sugarcult A Hard Day's Night[38]
2007 Mando Diao single B-side to "TV & Me"
2009 Nat and Alex Wolff single Live Performances "TBA Album"
2012 Big Time Rush single Big Time Movie Soundtrack - EP
2013 Glee Glee Sings The Beatles Duet between Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) in the season 5 opener Love Love Love.