"A Hard Day's Night" Among the Best of the Box, But Why?

It's June of 1964. Beatlemania is sweeping America. You've just graduated high school and are getting ready for college. You're trying to grow up, you're listening to jazz, but you've been pulled into this teen craze by the music. Not since Elvis, the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison has your world been so rocked.

You bought the Vee-Jay album Introducing The Beatles and Meet The Beatles and The Beatles Second Album on Capitol and while you don't understand how and why two labels were simultaneously issuing Beatles albums, you didn't care. Starting with the first Beatles song you heard on the radio of Bruce Greenberg's dad's Buick Electra on the way to high school in the winter of 1964, the explosion of great tunes by these guys had produced a five month long adrenaline jolt that had you on fire—and that's in addition to the adolescent hormones kicking in!

That first jolt wasn't from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" either. Luckily, because that one was kind of kiddie-corny. No, it was "She Loves You" and it exploded without warning from the car speaker and knocked you back in your seat and had you saying "there it is again!" The "it" being the excitement and power that rock first brought you as a little kid in the 50's when you saw Elvis and Buddy Holly on The Ed Sullivan Show. When that became Fabian and Frankie Avalon you were gone! Gone? Gone to Sam Goody's to buy some jazz albums, man. But here it was again!

So as soon as the soundtrack to the new Beatle movie reached the stores in June of 1964, you were there for your fourth Beatles album in but a few months. The first three had sounded pretty good but this one sucked! Not only was it in fake stereo and not so stated on the jacket, but the sound was basically unlistenable. Worse, along with the crappy sound, you only got eight songs and the rest were these incredibly corny instrumentals. The one for "I Should Have Known Better" was like the worst 50s rock'n'roll song, with horns added—like The Ventures as played by a Catskill Mountain hotel band. Feh!

The songs were so great you could almost forgive them, but a crappy sounding record and just eight tunes? That was unforgivable. So these guys had run short on tunes and sold out in three months? It took rock'n'roll five years to go from Elvis to Fabian. These four clowns did it in five months. That's what I was thinking.

That summer before college I returned for the tenth year to Camp Arcady on Lake George. The other kids in my group went back as waiters but me? I couldn't lift the heavy tray. I was too small, too weak and too uncoordinated. So I got a job in the camp office. My job was to play the military records over the P.A. system that woke up the camp (reveille) in the morning, call them to meals, taps, all that stuff, and to make announcements.

I also got to be the projectionist on movie night. Now this camp was once an adult country club and was then owned by the family that owned most of the movie theaters then on 42nd street in Times Square—and there were a lot of them! They also owned The Sagamore Hotel that's still there in Bolton Landing.

So we got to eat the same great food served at the hotel. We had a pastry chef that baked us fresh rolls and deserts you could get fat from. Don't ask! What a place! But we also had first run movies every week! And we had two 35MM carbon arc lamp projectors, a big screen and an Altec Lansing Voice of the Theater speaker system.

"A Hard Day's Night" had its UK debut on July 6th, 1964. Later that summer we got to see "A Hard Day's Night" at Camp Arcady before it was released in the theaters and I got to show it! There were two screenings: an early one for the younger campers and a later one for the adults.

At the early show the screaming was so intense you could hardly make out the dialogue. I was warned by the camp director that if kids started throwing jelly beans at the screen I had to stop the show and tell them to stop and sure enough that's what happened. So I stopped the projector and did my best Ed Sullivan imitation on the theater P.A. "Now you kids promised... so if you want to keep watching... The Beatles!..you just stop throwing those jelly beans"! And they did and the screening went on from there without a hitch.

I had brought my reel to reel tape recorder to camp to play music (who didn't?) so I lugged it a flight up into the projection booth and patched it into the sound system. I recorded the whole movie on tape. You have to remember that back then you just didn't have the kind of access to "stuff" you do now, so once you saw something like that movie or anything on television, it was then gone, seemingly forever. So to be able to capture it, even if just the sound, was major!

I learned the first ten minutes of dialogue, which is what you do when you have no life and video games had yet to be invented. And of course the movie was obviously incredible and far more sophisticated than the crappy UA album had led me to believe, so my faith in The Beatles had been restored.

After getting home from camp and before heading off to college, I headed to E.J. Korvette's to shop for records and there was Something New yet another Beatles album containing the same songs on the "Hard Day's Night" soundtrack plus a bunch of others. Of course I had to buy it and I was glad I did because here were the same songs on the UA soundtrack but in real stereo and sounding better than any of the previous Beatles tunes. I didn't know it at the time, but these were the first tunes The Beatles had recorded on a four track tape recorder.

Now imagine being a Beatles fan and having access later to a record store that carried imports and spying for the first time the real A Hard Day's Night Album on Parlophone featuring twenty photos of your heroes instead of four and then turning over the jacket to find actual liner notes written as if the album was aimed at actual adults who could even read and then seeing that it had thirteen songs! And then imagine taking that exotic "foreign" record home, putting it on the turntable and holy shit! This is the best sounding Beatles album ever!

Imagine that.

So here we are forty eight years later with the latest reissue of A Hard Day's Night. Back in 1964 all United Artists cared about was the money to be made from releasing an album of Beatles songs. The movie was originally intended as a cheap exploitation carrier for the money to be made from record sales. In fact, United Artists fully expected to lose money on the film but make up the money in record sales.

As the liner notes by Tony Barrow explain, the boys had written almost a dozen tunes for the movie, while at the same time visiting America and performing in Paris. Only seven of them made it into the movie. "I'll Cry Instead" was cut at the last minute—too late to pull it from the UA soundtrack album, which contains eight songs plus the putrid instrumentals.

So on the original UK release, we get those seven movie songs on side one and of course they are among Lennon-McCartney's most energetic and romantic, brimming with youthful energy and creative melodic constructs. It's a perfect side of Beatles.

Side two includes, in addition to the oddly exuberant, tambourine drenched track pulled from the movie, where the lyrics are in total conflict with the tune, two of Lennon-McCartney's most memorable minor key heavyweights: "Things We Said Today" and the haunting "I'll Be Back." The other tunes are great ravers but they don't have the emotional impact of those two songs, which point the way to the more thoughtful compositions to come on Rubber Soul.

This reissue is among if not the most successful in the box and that's because the EQ choices were dialed in subtly and carefully compared to the original and because for some reason the top end is cleaner and more precise than on most if not all of the others and I may be on to why that is.

Please look at your copy of this one if you bought the box and see what's written in the lead-out groove area. Unlike every other title in the box, which have hand scribed numbers, this one has elegantly stamped ones, including on side one a long series of digits (0094638241317A and 18716.1 (3)...).

That leads me to conclude that for some reason the plating for A Hard Day's Night was done elsewhere than Rainbo. Plating is critical to the final sound, which is why I was so happy to hear (erroneously as it turns out) that RTI plated these records. Anyone who has compared Pink Label Island and domestic America releases of albums like Tea For the Tillerman both of which use the identical mastering by Lee Hulko at Sterling Sound, knows that plating has an enormous sonic effect.

This album sounds better than the rest in the box, particularly in terms of high frequency transient clarity and extension. It's more precise sounding than the others. It exhibits superior depth and overall, though somewhat differently EQ'd than the original, is at least as good and for some ears and in some systems will sound better than the original. I wish the whole box sounded this good!

Of course this was a great sounding original too. Take "And I Love Her" for example. George's acoustic solo on a classical guitar is stunning musically and sonically. The bongo texture is beautiful and George on claves dead center in the mix exhibits image three-dimensionality and is placed forward in the soundstage so you feel you can reach out and touch it.

This track should have been seriously diminished on this reissue given what some of the other records sound like, but it comes through beautifully, with all of these qualities essentially intact. Whatever the reason, plating or something else, this album really shines.

Easy to recommend for both music and sound.

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Comments
Rayman's picture
Well, I bought AHDN, Past Masters and Peppers today.

I really only wanted the first 2 anyway so guess I lucked on the SQ being so good.

Had to try Pepper since its so different from the original.

 

ebuzz's picture
Ahhh, EJ Korvettes! 

Ahhh, EJ Korvettes! 

John G's picture
I'll bite on this one as

I'll bite on this one as well.  I have what I have figured out to be a stereo 8th pressing, from Oct 1980-82 that I'm not too wild about.  It will be interesting to compare the two.  I also like the idea of getting a RTI pressing.

marmaduke's picture
Piece by Piece

Well we will add this title to the short list of EU pressed LPs that MF gave a thumbs up to that I just ordered from Amazon UK.  This is my second order of individual titles.

I will save the set mania for the Mono box.

Interesting observation, if you buy in pounds sterling rather than convert to dollars (by in this case Amazon), the cost per LP appears to be cheaper by a couple of pounds.

Also with anticipated delivery by 8:00 PM 12/17 these discs are scheduled to arrive more quickly than most shipments except for the closest of vendors to the DC area.

It is a small world afterall Walt!

 

rl1856's picture
Good to know

Is it possible that several pressing plants were used, with US sold copies pressed in the US and EU copies pressed in Europe ?  This would reduce shipping costs and would explain pressing variations that have been noted.

Also- how does AHDN and the rest of the new reissues series compare to EMI "two box" and BC13 pressings ?

Keep up the Good Work !

Dpoggenburg's picture
Another GREAT review

My copy of AHDN also has the long numbered stamp on side 1, plus the shorter series of numbers, with side two showing only the shorter series. Different, compared to other titles in the box, and of course those titles showing a different scheme than the EU pressings I purchased from Amazon UK.

Thanks for another great review!

davejburke's picture
Beatles Reissues

I have all of the original albums. I also bought the MOFI box set of the albums as well as the 2009 cd's. How do you think this new set compares with the MOFI set? I have been quite happy with this set so far.

Jody's picture
18716.1 (3)...

This is an RTI plating/stamper matrix.

Alex's picture
  Thanks Michael for sharing

 

Thanks Michael for sharing that wonderful summer camp experience with us. It must have been something to witness first-hand the pandemonium as it was taking place!

I too had the UA album, which I actually sold about two months ago. Indeed, the sound was really bad and it actually sounded mono-ish despite the word ''stereo'' on the cover.

Yes, my new AHDN also has the numbers printed on the lead-out. Mine was bought seperately though...

thomoz's picture
echo on vocals only on vintage vinyl (none on new vinyl)

I think the older masterings - with compression and eq that brings out the vocals more - may be responsible for the differences you are hearing, as much as the signal chains themselves were/are coloring the sound.  Sometimes, as much as I enjoy the vintage sound and mastering choices, I can tell that we are not hearing "the truth" of what is on those master tapes. All of the vintage vinyl sounds more forward than the new Beatles pressings.  I thought that I would miss the older sound, that is until I compared the new White Album to my favorite pressing, a German "Deutches Schallplatten" copy from the late 70's. That much loved German copy now sounds to me "flat as a pancake" and very "forward" in it's presentation.

 

The more I listen to Sean Magees new cuts, the more I like them.  I have not heard AHDN on the new vinyl yet but hope to soon, I was worried that the muffled top end and narrowed stereo of the 2009 cd masters would be present on the 2012 vinyl but after reading MF's wholly positive review I am wondering it they actually went back a digital step earlier than the 2009 mastering and got the vinyl cut correctly!

JC1957's picture
Love the enhanced bass

But my copy (warped by Rainbo) comes off a bit boomy. the stamper numbers are NOT handwritten. Luckily though it plays OK.

Jim Tavegia's picture
Great album

I had purchased 7 of the CD remasters and just bought 3 more this week to give me 10 in the set.  The sound of this music remastered is remakable and it would have been a real tragedy if this lp was messed up. 

I will probably pick up this boxed set in 2013 if it is pressed again at someplace like QRP or order the UK version. A special thanks to Michael and to others here who have given invaluable comments about this special project. I would think that regardless of some disc issues that those of you who did buy the set are enjoying what you have greatly, as you should. 

Paul Boudreau's picture
Another

cool story, thanks.  I've got to say that I envy your memory for detail!

"Plating is critical to the final sound, which is why I was so happy to hear (erroneously as it turns out) that RTI plated these records."

It continues to amaze me that LPs work at all, much less have the possibility of sounding great, given all the arcane processes involved in their production.

Michael Fremer's picture
Amazing

I agree. That a wiggling piece of stone can produce such a profusion of colors textures and images doesn't make any sense at all....yet? There it is!

mbeatless's picture
The original American UA A Hard Days Night LP pressing

Hi Michael, thanks for your informative review. I haven't yet bought any of the new Beatles LP's. Right now I'm listening to an original mono pressing of A Hard Day's Night on United Artists. In defense of this LP, it is I believe the only place to get And I Love Her with a single tracked vocal (mostly) by Paul. (I think also the original mono press of Something New has it too, I'll have to check). I bought the 2009 mono box set and the version on A Hard Days Night has a double tracked vocal on that song.

I also rather like the instrumentals, as hearing the Beatles music in a different context I find interesting. The best unquestionably is the original UK release. I think I will try to pick this LP up, as it is such a great album, along with Beatles for Sale.

Paul Boudreau's picture
"Wiggling Piece of Stone"

That's a slogan looking for a purpose: T-shirts?  Lunch boxes? Bumper stickers?

raytheprinter's picture
Wiggling Piece of Stone

 

 

Michael,

I had a good chuckle after reading that,,,,twice! I woke up a few minutes ago! I share that feeling ,,,as I have listened in amazement  so many times.I still shake my head in wonder, when I consider that what Im hearing is a result of  a"Wiggling Piece of Stone"

RRR's picture
Vocal Echo

Own a Blue box copy, japanese red vinyl OP first issue, UK first issue. While the new EU reissue does sound nice, on the other copies, there's some echo around the vocals, or ambiance, space, air, whatever it's called. They all have it, but not the reissue.

What I wonder is, was that added to all these originals, or taken out of the new reissue, or is it simply one of those things digital does?

Michael Fremer's picture
What digital does?

That's what I think. That's what digital does or doesn't do. The reissues are definitely drier.

markharvey's picture
Matrix

.

markharvey's picture
Matrix

The EU AHDN does not have a stamped matrix - it is hand written. The whole box is handwritten. Interesting regarding possible RTI numbers. Perhaps they did only one as a test and it was used by Rainbo?

Michael Fremer's picture
RTI Test?

That's what I hope to find out....

MusicNut612's picture
Noticed that also

Yeah I would have to agree this one doesn't seem to have been pressed at Rainbo. I noticed the odd runout etchings also. Almost seems to be Euro like with the stamping tool? This press is pretty much dead silent unlike the others also. Shame they all couldn't of been pressed like this. I got my copy loose and not from a boxset.

groovingarrett's picture
I bet that's an RTI plating...

The number sequence you reference, 18716.1(3), matches up with the sequences on every RTI pressing I own. Only difference is I've never seen a stamped RTI matrix, only hand-etched. 

ricks0me's picture
MF... You are hardcore ...

..... an audiophile even back then .... LOL

Ben Adams's picture
Great writeup.

OK, I'm sold.  It's nice to see an unqualified rave from someone for at least one of the LPs from this set!

Michael Fremer's picture
Sold!

Let me know your reaction once you listen...