When mentioning the most influential albums of all time, I always forget A Hard Day’s Night. Even though this was a major breakthrough for artists wanting to write and produce their own material instead of going through the usual process of adding cover songs this record gets skipped over even within the Beatles substantial catalog. Sure their next two albums had covers, probably one of the reasons AHDN gets slighted, but given the Beatles put out 4 albums in two years (or more if you split it between U.S. and UK releases), multiple singles, made a movie, toured and conquered the universe they had a lot going on. Plus this was pre-Harrison contributions so the songwriting hadn’t peaked, but then again it wasn’t long before the partnership between Lennon-McCartney started to become more of an individual process with the two unique personalities veering into their own styles but keeping the publishing the same. Rubber Soul was the next album to contain all original material, including Harrison and is generally more hailed as a breakthrough since it finally severs the cord from the old songwriting factory days of reworking older tunes. The title track and Can’t Buy Me Love are the two most notable tracks but every song on AHDN sounds like a hit and my favorite two tracks are near the end. When I Get Home and You Can’t Do That adds an incredible one-two punch and Lennon sounds inspired singing them. They sound like they could be covers except the sound is different, there’s an aggressive edge to them mixed with the pop sound and the band all converge on When I Get Home for an exhilarating chorus. It’s a moment that makes me think about how loud and raunchy they must have sounded playing in the small confines of The Cavern. A Hard Day’s Night sounds like the last album that is free of any commercial influences, yes they wanted hits but they sound free to play what they want without being caught up in the burden of Beatlemania. Kind of a last hurrah before the reality of worldwide fame and the pressures associated with it settled in. It’s that purity that shines through in this record, the fragmentation or division of labor that would eventually take its toll on The Beatles every time they entered the studio would already be present on Rubber Soul.
A Hard Day’s Night may get hampered slightly since it is a soundtrack but its hard to think of a better example of what 60’s pop music could achieve at least until Dylan changed everyone’s outlook. AHDN may be a bit of a time capsule but one that is worth reopening often. And just try not cranking up When I Get Home and You Can’t Do That, in my car, it can’t be done!