Album + Soundtrack
And I Love Her / If I Fell
The Beatles (2009 stereo remasters)
The Beatles Box Set
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005 edition)
Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 2012 edition (number: 307)
There may be more inventive Beatles records - Sgt. Pepper's, for example - and there may be lusher ones - Abbey Road, for one. But no one Beatles album better encapsulated the essence of the band than this one.
A Hard Day's Night not only captures The Beatles at the peak of Beatlemania - the most exciting time in pop music up to that moment, and arguably ever since; when continents fell and music was changed forever - but also sees them perfecting the art of pop. You may have Beatles songs that you prefer, or songs that mean more to you, but nowhere were the group more consistently brilliant than on this soundtrack.
Where the film emphasised just how popular and bizarre their fame was, the accompanying album showed us just why this had happened. The title-track - with surely the most surreal name ever for a number one song - dazzles in a way The Byrds, The Monkees, The La's and a hundred other janglers never could, while And I Love Her proved that the band could write melodies better than anyone else. Even the song they let George sing, I'm Happy Just to Dance With You, is fizzier than actual bubbles, while Lennon's vocal (and rhythm solo) on You Can't Do That saw him trounce The Rolling Stones for sheer snottiness.
This was the first and only Beatles album to be entirely composed of Lennon/McCartney songs, and that unheard-of-in-1964 cockiness shines through. Even the wistful songs - Things We Said Today and I'll Be Back - were more confident than sad. This is, next to the White Album (a very different kettle of fabs), my favourite Beatles album, and has been ever since I heard it. The exuberance of the 1960s, the genius of The Beatles, and the total unstoppable confidence of the best band in the world realising that they were the best band in the world, are all contained here. Essential.