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Published: 2006/03/23
by Randy Ray

The Beatles A Hard Days Night

And this is really where it all began, wasnt it? Other than rock n rolls true televised origins with Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1957, this bit of Fab Four celluloid is considered THE demarcation point between the way teens were and the way theyd become. No, there arent images of mad sexual and druggy debauchery in the 1964 Dick Lester classic film a common underground scene that would litter the landscape from Haight Street to Swingin London and beyond, later on in the Sixties. However, the seeds of youthful restlessness, creativity and, yes, undercurrents of devilish discontent were certainly planted in fertile cinematic ground in this surreal film. Right place, right time? Or were they the right band at the right time like Dylan was the right writer in the right revolutionary era? Yes, yes and, again, James Joycean yes.
The new two-DVD edition of A Hard Days Night features the Liverpool group in perfect stereophonic sound on gloriously beautiful black and white film an economic creative choice in 1964 by the production team but now one cant imagine the timeless vibe bathed in wretched color. Somehow, it wouldnt seem right. The film works because the story written by fellow Liverpudlian playwright, Alun Owen is solid, witty and energetic, the band plays classic tunes and Lester supervises the hysteria with needlepoint precision.
The soundtrack is epic and grand and sublime and as beautiful as sonic youth has ever been; the films editing is expertly superb as the Four Lads bounce from hotel room to concert appearance to cars to city streets with hordes of screaming fans filled with orgasmic wanderlust inhibited by a suffocating stranglehold by a straight society that they could not understand but were starting to question. Thats a fucking really long sentence but I wanted to emphasize the idea that the Beatles were one long, continuous script (from 1962 to 1970, anyway). The period seems so compact and explosive that there doesnt appear to be any segue indicatorsjust one, really long hard days night that began in innocence pre-JFK assassination and ended with the Stones at their tragic Altamont gig in December 1969. The End of the Innocence? Perhaps, but I would argue that the emotional demise wasnt such a bad thing, after allbut, then again, John Milton was always far more up my dark and deserted back alley than John Lennon, anyway.
The film began from a Lennon quote and a Ringo Starr quip and was filled in between with the four individual portraits that combined to arguably form the greatest blend of popular music talent in history Lennon, Starr, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and the MVP, producer George Martin the critical piece in any Beatle recording discussion.
The film was based on their life living in small boxes, as prisoners of their own success, said Lester. The concept came from Johns reply to a question I asked him about a trip theyd made to Sweden.
How did you like it? Lester asked.
It was a room and a car and a car and a room and a room and a car, replied Lennon.
Later on in the apocalyptic decade, Led Zeppelin would arrive with perhaps rock musics strongest alchemical mixture of spontaneous combustion but their sound would signal a permanent rupture with straight society whereas the Beatles appeared content to accept a tenuous link with the elder, uptight generations. This philosophical mindset would change by the late 60s but the Beatles would never successfully terminate their relationship with all generations from ages 2 to 82. The same statement could never be applied to the more dark subversive tones of the Mighty Blimp from the Land of Albion.
And that was always the hook for me. I grew up listening to extremely hip recordings that my mom and sisters turned me onto in our lively front room. I used to slap on the famous Red and Blue Beatle Greatest Hit albums quite a bit the former contained the classics from 1962-1966, whereas the latter covered the golden experimental years until their demise in 1970. We also listened to a lot of heady classical and jazz recordings but the Beatles were my moms one concession towards the rock n roll field that I really connected with until my sisters and the cool FM radio stations pushed me further up the field into the land of heavy music audio recordings that packed dense sounds with revolutionary thought patterns that did not offer a reconciliation with a straight, conservative culture. Current historians sometimes point to the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead as the bands that hypnotized youth into rejecting conformity but the real gurus of cultural demonic change were Elvis, Dylan and Zeppelin in their insidious methods of subconscious corruption. The Stones were always just a Chicago blues band hooked on hype and Beatle one-upmanship and the Dead were the biggest band on the live circuit but a wasted opportunity in the studio. Consequently, the Unholy Trinity of Presley, Zimmerman and Page paved the alternate, weird version of rock history. However, A Hard Days Night will always stand as a masterstroke testament to that last moment when youth and the older generation would attempt to find a precarious balance.

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