How The Beatles' London looks today: 60 years of A Hard Day's Night

Friday, July 05, 2024

It’s impossible to underestimate the influence of Richard Lester’s Beatles collaboration A Hard Day’s Night, released 60 years ago on 6 July 1964. Its imagery of the Fab Four rapidly entered the lexicon of popular culture, its antic approach to pop music on screen going on to influence everything from fashion, attitudes and culture to music videos and MTV. With an initial background in advertising, Lester’s third feature proved he was an astute and vibrant filmmaker, all but defining the fun, energetic surrealism of 1960s British culture in one fell swoop.

Scripted by Alun Owen, A Hard Day’s Night follows a day in the life of the lads at the height of Beatlemania. John, Paul, George and Ringo, playing themselves, are joined by Paul’s conniving but very clean grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell) as they make their way to a live television concert in London. Unable to be restrained from misadventures by their manager Norm (Norman Rossington) and their roadie Shake (John Junkin), the Fab Four find themselves in the upper echelons of the capital: a world filled with ad agencies, high-end casinos and wine soirées with the music press. With Ringo going AWOL only hours before the show, however, will the group reunite in time for their live broadcast concert?

As the film was intended as promotional material for its music as much as a feature (one which United Artists funded so they could exploit the loophole of being able to distribute the soundtrack), Lester approached the project with his creative verve firing on all cylinders. Rather than simply being a string of music videos, A Hard Day’s Night is a beautiful and atmospheric portrait of London just as it started to swing. From lavish venues to industrial landscapes, all filmed on location, Lester’s film is one of the great London portraits of the decade.



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