I know I’ve harped on this theme before, but it bears repeating: this album, the band’s third, came out a mere 16(!) months after their debut. And it’s not just the volume, what makes that so amazing is the progression the band has made. Arguably, this is the first album where the band really starts to look like the icon we recognize today as The Beatles.
The vestiges of the band’s teenybop era (and I don’t really mean that as a perjorative) are starting to fall away by now (again, 16 months!). They have a couple of filler tracks that clunk a bit, “If I Fell” and “And I Love Her”, but the former is actually a pretty good tune whose biggest sin is its lyrics (which I’ll return to in a moment) and the second even has its moments as Paul still struggles when reaching out of his songwriting comfort zone.
Now, about these lyrics. Uff-da. Here’s a sampling from the two worst lyrical songs. First “If I Fell”:
If I give my heart to you
I must be sure from the very start
That you would love me more than her
Basically the entire song is about how he wants New Girl to promise she’ll be better than Current Girl before he goes and dumps Current to be with New. There’s nothing salvageable in that sentiment. Nor is there in this from “You Can’t Do That,” which speaks for itself:
Well, it’s the second time I’ve caught you talking to him
Do I have to tell you one more time, I think it’s a sin
Because I’ve told you before, oh
You can’t do that
Cos I’m the one who won your love
But if they’d seen
You talking that way they’d laugh in my face
Let the record show these are both John songs. But to be fair, he’s clearly the star of this album, which, for almost its entirety is pure pop Beatles joy, where song after song you’re bopping along to perfectly crafted tunes that you’ll be singing for the rest of the day. “A Hard Day’s Night,” the song, is easily the best thing they’ve done up until this point and, to my mind, foreshadows the second half of their career, probably landing in my Top Five Beatles songs of all time. “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” is a candidate for the best Beatles song nobody knows. It’s full of guitar-driven strut, swagger, and confidence that belie its aw-shucks, dimpled lyrics. By the time we get down to “When I Get Home,” the swagger’s found its way into the lyrics in its promise of satisfaction. (The confidence goes overboard for the next track, “You Can’t Do That,” but it’s a great tune.)
The album closes up nicely with the relatively sedate “I’ll Be Back,” and here I think you see Paul’s best contributions at this point were what he added to the John songs. Or maybe John’s biggest contribution is what he did to the Paul songs. It’s all works together so well that who cares, just enjoy the damn music.
– “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You,” “Any Time At All,” “When I Get Home”
– “I Should Have Known Better,” “If I Fell,” “And I Love Her,” “Tell Me Why,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I’ll Cry Instead,” “Things We Said Today,” “You Can’t Do That,” “I’ll Be Back”
Filed Between: With The Beatles and Help!
Song Notes: After the jump…