The making of A Hard Day’s Night: “The fans had got hacksaws…”

The story behind The Beatles' landmark film debut

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To mark the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, we’re reposting some of our archival pieces about Lennon’s life and work, both as a Beatle and as a solo artist

Below you can read our piece on the making of A Hard Day’s Night which originally appeared in the September 2014 edition of Uncut

The feature includes original interviews with director Richard Lester, associate producer Denis O’Dell and executive producer David Picker as well as cast members Pattie Boyd, Phil Collins and Lionel Blair: with a few words from The Beatles themselves…

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Looking back on his first meeting with The Beatles, film director Richard Lester remembers the unexpected topic of conversation that brought them together. “The boys found out that I was this pathetic jazz piano player,” he explains. “That gave them something to lord over me because I was the past and they were the future. John Lennon in particular hated jazz, and he told me that.”

When Lester met The Beatles in late 1963, the intention was to make a cheap, black-and-white jukebox movie to capitalise on the band’s extraordinary success. For his film, Lester assembled a remarkable cross section of talent – including Wilfred Brambell, Victor Spinetti, Pattie Boyd and Lionel Blair – who all witnessed first hand Beatlemania in full tilt. “It was becoming increasingly intense for the boys,” says Boyd, who met her future husband George Harrison on the film’s shoot.

Meanwhile Blair, an old friend of the band, recalls the logistical problems accompanying the shoot: “They couldn’t walk round the streets or anything. There were screaming girls everywhere.” But despite such obstacles, A Hard Day’s Night rose about the ruck of rock’n’roll exploitation movies: its sprightly blend of absurdist humour, French New Wave aesthetics and unshakable optimism enlivened the dreary cultural landscape of post-war Britain.

The soundtrack album, too, proved equally successful: the first album to feature all original Beatles compositions, it gave the band two No 1 singles on both sides of the Atlantic. Reflecting on what it was that made A Hard Day’s Night so remarkable, Richard Lester considers, “It was four people against the world and winning.”

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