Friday, March 7, 2008

Beatles 3: A Hard Day’s Night and Something New

United Artists had agreed to distribute the Beatles’ first film so they could get the soundtrack LP rights, not thinking that this phenomenon would last the year. Their version of A Hard Day’s Night was a mix between Beatles songs (from side one of the British LP) plus four laughable George Martin orchestrations that offended jazz purists and Beatlemaniacs alike. The lush “And I Love Her” lends itself to Muzak, and the wacky waltz interpretation of the title track is just plain weird. Still, “This Boy” is still referred to on occasion as “Ringo’s Theme” due to its use in the film and on this album.

While they didn’t gain the rights to the Hard Day’s Night soundtrack proper until the early ‘80s, Capitol was still able to exploit the individual songs all they wanted in 1964. This resulted in three singles containing six songs released within two weeks, simultaneous with the not-quite-accurately-titled Something New. This hodgepodge trumpets the inclusion of five songs from the smash hit movie, and also includes the other half of the Long Tall Sally EP, four songs from side two of the British Hard Day’s Night LP and the German version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.
It’s a lopsided collection all right; the two covers—“Slow Down” and “Matchbox”—jar with the originals and the German novelty is just plain weird. The liner notes border on the inane, and a cover shot from the Ed Sullivan show and a growing list of “more Beatles LPs for your collection” tap all the weak spots. (Oddly enough, the two cover songs were released as a single the following month, in a continual attempt to glut the charts. Somehow, Ringo’s attack on “Matchbox” hit #17, and “Slow Down”, complete with flubbed vocals by John, made it to #25.)
The British LP beats both hands down. Of the two American options, Something New gets the nod as being more listenable but—especially considering the absence of the title track and that fantastic opening chord—it doesn’t quite make it as a souvenir from the film, which is mandatory viewing. (While Something New did surface on CD in 2004’s Capitol Albums, Vol. 1 box, the soundtrack didn’t get digitized until its 50th anniversary as part of the “U.S. Albums” releases, alongside Something New.)

The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night (1964)—3
UK CD equivalent: A Hard Day’s Night (Beatle tracks only)
The Beatles Something New (1964)—4
UK CD equivalent: A Hard Day’s Night/Past Masters

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