Magical History Tour: The Beatles in A HARD DAYS NIGHT - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Magical History Tour: The Beatles in A HARD DAYS NIGHT

Chris Morley should be sleeping like a log...

As we've glimpsed a look at Disney's ultimately failed plans to remake Yellow Submarine, why not take up an invitation to make a reservation on our magical history tour around the Beatles' films? Their big début on celluloid, A Hard Days Night, premiered at the Pavilion Theatre in London on 6th July 1964.

Richard Lester's 1964 musical comedy gave a surreal account of 36 hours in the life of the Fab Four at the absolute height of their fame, with more than a spoonful of Scouse humour aided by Alun Owen's script. The writer was chosen as the men he was penning lines for felt he had a decent grasp of Liverpudlian linguistics, having seen his play No Trains To Lime Street.

All things considered, it seems unthinkable now that United Artists gave A Hard Day's Night such a small production budget. But £200,000 and seven weeks of filming later it was all done! The studio were more interested in beating Capitol to issuing the soundtrack album in the United States, according to its European head of production Bud Ornstein who would let slip their key priority.
"Our record division wants to get the soundtrack album to distribute in the States, and what we lose on the film we'll get back on this disc.”
Shooting began on March 2nd 1964 at Marylebone Station, with the first week spent on a train going from London to Minehead as Lester began to try to capture...
“...the quality of confidence that the boys exuded. Confidence that they could dress as they liked, speak as they liked, talk to the Queen as they liked, talk to the people on the train who 'fought the war for them' as they liked. ... “
One of the schoolgirls on that train was model Pattie Boyd, who would later become Mrs Harrison after George's pestering for a date paid off.

A brief snippet of Harrison's Don't Bother Me appeared on the soundtrack otherwise monopolised by Lennon & McCartney compositions. Ringo Starr would sing one of them, I Wanna Be Your Man, as well as contributing the title of the film. Though the two main songwriters had differing memories as to exactly how they'd arrived at A Hard Day's Night. In a 1990s Beatles Anthology interview, Paul McCartney would say that,
"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.'"
In the 1970s John Lennon had contributed a different account.
"I was going home in the car, and Dick Lester suggested the title, 'Hard Day's Night' from something Ringo had said. I had used it in In His Own Write, 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.'"
The Starrs were clearly in alignment, as the finished product would première the day before the man born Richard Starkey turned 24. The title track was written in just one night, with Lennon claiming he'd written it on his own. Maureen Cleave of the Evening Standard got a peek at the lyrics even before the rest of the band...
“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.”

As well as the title track and film, The Beatles also retrospectively created what would now be recognised as a music video thanks to Lester's creativity in the cutting of the footage for the Can't Buy Me Love sequence to the beat of the music.

Paul had written the song on an upright piano which he'd asked to be moved into The Beatles' suite at the George V Hotel in Paris during an eighteen-night residency at the city's Olympia Theatre, just after I Want To Hold Your Hand had reached number one in the United States.

The day after the Can't Buy Me Love section was in the can, the final scene for the film was shot, though when A Hard Days Night was delivered to United Artists in America, Lester was asked to dub over those distinctive Liverpool accents! The suggestion drew fire from the man with the Hofner violin bass who said simply,
"Look, if we can understand a fucking cowboy talking Texan, they can understand us talking Liverpool."
Manner of speaking intact, the result of their hard day's night's work eventually got a U certificate from the British Board of Film Classification. Although only after the phrase “get knotted”, which was spoken in an early version of the film was cut out. It's bizarre that those two words raised concern among the censors, yet several innuendos and one allusion to cocaine did not!

No matter the certification A Hard Days Night would go on to be probably the best-remembered of The Beatles big screen outings. Upon release it set records at the London Pavilion by grossing over $20,000 in the first week, ultimately becoming so popular that more than 1,600 prints were in circulation simultaneously, making back its production budget 55 times over to the tune of £11 million!

Demand was high for another Beatles film, and this would come with Lester once more at the helm for Help! Which, fittingly enough, is where our yellow submarine ups periscope next time.....

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