By Bruce Spizer
The year 1999 was the 35th anniversary of the Beatles first motion picture, A Hard Day’s Night. Although the film was a huge money maker that received rave reviews from movie critics and fans alike, the film was initially viewed as a loss leader by United Artists. The idea was to produce a low budget flick with the Beatles strictly to obtain the soundtrack. Bud Ornstein, European head of production for UA, explained it this way to film producer Walter Shenson, “Our record division wants to get the soundtrack album to distribute in the States and what we lose on the film we’ll get back on the disc.”
At the time the London music department of United Artists conceived the soundtrack plan in October of 1963, the Beatles were extremely popular in Britain but still unknown in the United States. Their first three U.S. singles, Please Please Me (VJ 498), From Me To You (VJ 522) and She Loves You (Swan 4152), had flopped. Capitol had refused to issue the group’s records and had yet to sign a licensing agreement with EMI to release the Beatles recordings in the United States. As EMI’s contract with the Beatles did not specifically cover film soundtracks, UA was able to negotiate directly with Brian Epstein for the American rights to both the film and its soundtrack album.
The company also obtained a split publishing interest in the songs used in the film for its subsidiary, Unart Music Corp. (The name Unart is both a pun and an abbreviation for United Artists.) An essential element of the United Artists strategy was to begin production on the film in early 1964 so that the motion picture would be in theaters by July. The company wanted a quick release because it was concerned that the Beatles popularity would decline by summer’s end. Thus, the Beatles were scheduled to begin work on the film and the songs for its soundtrack shortly after their return from their first visit to America.
On February 25, 1964, George Harrison’s 21st birthday, the group began recording songs for the film at EMI’s Studio Two at Abbey Road. The first order of business was the band’s next single. After adding vocal and guitar overdubs to Can’t Buy Me Love, which had been recorded on January 29 in Paris, the Beatles started and finished the single’s B side, You Can’t Do That. During the next few days, the Beatles completed I Should Have Known Better, And I Love Her, Tell Me Why, If I Fell and I’m Happy Just To Dance With You. These five songs, along with Can’t Buy Me Love, would be featured in the motion picture.
After most of the filming had been completed, Walter Shenson decided the movie should open with a song bearing the film’s title, A Hard Day’s Night. John and Paul were asked to come up with an up-tempo tune in the Twist And Shout mold to serve as the title song. The next morning, John and Paul, armed with their guitars and the lyrics they had printed on the inside cover of a matchbook, previewed the song A Hard Day’s Night for Shenson in their dressing room on the set of the movie. After a day of filming the police chase scenes in Notting Hill Gate, London, the Beatles entered Abbey Road studios on April 16, 1964, to record the film’s title track.
As the song would open both the film and the soundtrack album, a distinctive beginning was essential. The song opens with the jarring strum of a strident sounding chord (G7 with an added ninth and suspended fourth) on George’s twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. After an effective pause, John launches into the song with his lead vocal and the rest of the band falls into place. Paul sings backing vocals and the lead vocal on the bridge. The group performed nine takes (five complete) before a suitable backing track was obtained. Vocals, acoustic guitar, bongos, George Martin’s piano solo and the ending guitar notes were then added to the four track master. The finished product successfully fulfilled three purposes: hit single, lead track to the soundtrack album and the opening and closing song for the film.
The final song recorded for the movie was I’ll Cry Instead, which was taped in two sections on June 1. The sections were mixed for mono and edited together three days later. Tapes of mono mixes of all of the songs intended for the film were assembled and copied on June 9 and forwarded to United Artists and Capitol.
Unbeknownst to both record companies, director Richard Lester decided to pull I’ll Cry Instead from the film on his belief that the song was relatively weak. It had been slated to provide the background music for the energetic outdoor field sequence. Instead, Lester decided to back the scene with a proven winner, Can’t Buy Me Love, which appears twice in the film. As United Artists was not aware of this decision when it prepared the soundtrack LP, the song appears on the album, although it is mistitled “I Cry Instead” on both the back cover and label of most pressings of the album.
In addition to I’ll Cry Instead and the seven vocal songs appearing in the film, the soundtrack LP contains four instrumentals performed by George Martin and his orchestra. These songs, A Hard Day’s Night, I Should Have Known Better, And I Love Her and Ringo’s Theme (This Boy), were later released by United Artists on singles. Some of the albums released during the latter part of 1964 have round orange stickers with “Ringo’s Theme & And I Love Her” in brown print affixed to the front cover shrink wrap.
Although the film was not scheduled for release in America until August 12, 1964, United Artists rushed out its Original Motion Picture Soundtrack album (mono UAL 3366; stereo UAS 6366) on June 26, 1964. The decision to issue the album ahead of the film’s release proved to be a wise one. On July 1, the company announced that the LP had sold and delivered one million copies in just four days. Billboard, in a story titled “Beatles’ LP: 4 Days That Shake Industry,” reported the news in its July 11 issue, stating that the album had become one of the fastest selling LPs in the history of the record business. The following week, the album entered the Billboard Top LP’s chart. One week later, on July 25, the album spent its first of fourteen straight weeks at the top of the charts. In all, the soundtrack LP was on the charts for 51 weeks. Cash Box and Record World also reported the album at number one.
A United Artists “Release Notice – Label Copy – Liner Information” sheet dated June 15, 1964, indicates that the original back liners to the album stated “All songs published by Maclen Music, Inc. and Unart Music Corp. (BMI) except ‘This Boy’ which is published by Maclen Music, Inc. (BMI).” Thus, the first pressings of the album were issued with covers listing This Boy as the only song published solely by Maclen. Corrected label copy was prepared on June 29, which stated “All songs published by Maclen Music, Inc. and Unart Music Corp. (BMI) except ‘This Boy’ and ‘I Cry Instead’ which are published by Maclen Music, Inc. (BMI).” This change was made when United Artists learned it did not have a publishing interest in “I Cry Instead” because the song was dropped from the film. As the album sold over one million units in its first four days of release, it is certain that well over one million covers were prepared with the original back liners. There are mono and stereo covers that list This Boy as Maclen. There are also mono and stereo covers that list This Boy and I Cry Instead as Maclen.
Though beyond the scope of this article, it is interesting to note that there are variations among the back liners to covers manufactured in the late sixties and seventies. Some of the covers correctly list This Boy and I Cry Instead as Maclen, while others have the original and incorrect This Boy only as Maclen liners. There are also covers with no publishing information. The strangest cover variation erroneously reverses information, stating “Screenplay by UNITED ARTISTS” and “Released thru ALUN OWEN.”
United Artists did not own its own pressing facilities. Albums for East Coast distribution were pressed primarily by Columbia Records, either in Bridgeport, Connecticut or Pittman, New Jersey. These pressings can be identified by a thin circular band located 1 1/2″ from the center spindle hole. The song titles and running times are not left and right margin justified, but rather are positioned to conform to the circular band. Many of the West Coast albums were pressed in California by H.V. Waddell Co. in Burbank and Monarch Records in Los Angeles. The Waddell LPs have an indented circular groove 1 1/4″ from the center hole. The type-setting is similar to the Columbia discs in that the song titles and running times are positioned to conform to the circular band. The albums manufactured by Monarch have an indented circular groove 1 5/8″ from the center hole. The song titles are centered and there is no running time information. They also have hand etched job numbers (preceded by a delta symbol) and machine stamped MR circle logos in the trail off areas. As detailed in the author’s The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay, Columbia, Waddell and Monarch also manufactured Beatles albums for Vee-Jay.
United Artists also hired RCA to manufacture copies of the album. Although RCA and Waddell discs both have an indented circular groove 1 1/4″ from the center hole, they are clearly distinguishable. On the RCA discs, the song titles and running times are left margin justified. In addition, the RCA labels have an identification number (RR4M-0474 on mono side one and RR4M- 0475 on mono side two) printed below the album number to the right of the center hole. The identification numbers are also machine stamped in the trail off areas.
The albums were pressed with black label backdrops featuring the United Artists logo above the spindle hole. The word “UNITED” is in gold and “ARTISTS” is in white. The upper perimeter contains a series of overlapping circles and solid colored circles in, from left to right, blue, gold, black, white and red. The lower perimeter has the phrase “United Artists Records, Inc. New York 19.N.Y. Made in U.S.A.” in white upper case letters. The pressing plants hired by United Artists used different printers for their labels, thus leading to the typesetting variations discussed above.
Most of the soundtrack albums pressed in 1964 have labels that mistakenly identify I’ll Cry Instead as “I Cry Instead.” There are mono and stereo records with I Cry Instead on the label. After the error was discovered, UA sent corrected label copy information to the pressing plants, thus leading to mono and stereo records with I’ll Cry Instead labels. These later issue discs are rarer than the first issue albums with the incorrect song title.
United Artists also pressed a limited number of mono promotional soundtrack albums. These records have black print on white labels. The phrase “NOT FOR SALE” appears below the record number to the right of the center hole. There are Columbia and Waddell variations. It is believed that less than 500 copies of the promotional soundtrack album were pressed. Some of the promo albums came in covers with a black promo stamp.
RADIO SPOTS AND OPEN-END INTERVIEWS
In addition to the soundtrack album, United Artists prepared a series of records to promote the film. These records are extremely rare for two reasons. First, they were pressed in very limited numbers and distributed only to selected radio stations and movie theaters. Second, because the records were solely intended to promote the motion picture, most disc jockeys and theater managers did not save these unique records after the film had run its course.
The first of these records issued by United Artists was a Special Transatlantic Open-End Telephone Conversation disc (SP-2298). The one-sided record has a red label with black print. The record number SP-2298 and “BEATLES” are hand etched in the trail off area. The non-playing side has a blank white label and smooth vinyl. The disc is unusual in that its diameter is ten inches, which was the standard size for 78 RPM records. The record plays at 33 1/3 RPM and runs for five minutes. Open-end interview records enabled a disc jockey to give the impression that he was personally conducting an exclusive interview with the group. The illusion was created by combining a script of statements and questions to ask the group with a record containing gaps of silence to insert the disc jockey’s reading of the script along with the pre-recorded responses of the boys. Record companies prepared these records hoping that radio personalities would be anxious to air a “personal” interview with the Beatles to impress listeners. Prior to the distribution of the United Artist discs, Capitol Records issued two open-end interview records with the Beatles to radio stations.
The UA ten inch disc was sent to radio stations and distributors with a five page script. To date, only two copies of this record have surfaced. The mailing envelope for the disc in the author’s collection indicates that it was mailed by United Artists’ New Orleans office at 210 South Liberty Street to Southern Amusement Company in Lake Charles, Louisiana on July 10, 1964. The customized postmark contains a box with the message, “JAMES BOND IS BACK! FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.” The phrase “BEATLES INTERVIEW” is stamped in black ink in the lower right corner of the mailer.
The Transatlantic open-end interview was later reproduced on a limited edition picture disc (Cicadelic/BIOdisc 001) that was packaged with Joe Lindsey’s Picture Discs of the World Price Guide. The open-end interview was re-created from a tape of WFUN’s broadcast copy of the interview by replacing the disc jockey’s questions with gaps of silence.
United Artists also issued a more conventional seven inch Open End Interview With The Beatles record (UAEP 10029). The disc has a small play hole and white labels with black print, including the United Artists Records logo at twelve o’clock. The record number and “33 1/3” are hand etched in the trail off areas. The disc was also packaged with a script for disc jockeys to ask questions of the boys.
Movie theaters were sent a special 45 RPM disc containing a Theatre Lobby Spot (SP-2357). The record opens with the announcement, “Listen to the big news about the Beatles.” This is followed by a WNEW Radio News report from July 7, 1964, regarding the July 6 British opening of the film A Hard Day’s Night. London correspondent Don McKay reports on rave reviews by critics, quoting one as calling the Beatles “a young version of the Marx Brothers.”
The report is followed by the title song and a plug for the purchase of advance tickets to the gala premier of the film. Theater patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment of a sold out show. As an additional inducement, they are told that “a souvenir tag will be presented to each ticket buyer.”
The circular 3 3/4″ circumference tags were printed on thin white cardboard and feature a collage of the Beatles taken from the classic Dezo Hoffmann photograph that appeared on the picture sleeve to Capitol’s I Want To Hold Your Hand single. The perimeter print is in red upper case letters. The upper perimeter contains the phrase “I’ve got my Beatles Movie Ticket” and the lower perimeter asks the question, “Have you?” The theater lobby spot record has an orange label with black print on its play side. The other side of the disc is stunning and unique. It has a blank white label pressed over vinyl containing a raised-relief textured pattern.
Although the orange label on the play side states, “(record plays continuously and automatically),” the author’s turntable was unable to perform the miracle of automatic, continuous play. United Artists prepared a deluxe package for radio stations containing a Special Beatles Half Hour Open End Interview With Music (SP-2359/2360). The disc has a red label with black print and was packaged with a twelve page script. The open-end interview is mixed with songs from and commercials promoting the movie.
Stations were also sent an album of Radio Spot Announcements (SP-2362/2363) promoting the film. The record has a red label with black print. Side 1 contains eight 60 second spots, four of which feature the Beatles. Side 2 has three 30 second spots, three 20 second spots and one 10 second spot. The record number and “HARD DAYS NIGHT” are hand etched in the trail off areas.
RECORD CLUB AND ODDITY
Collectors should also be aware of the soundtrack albums issued by the Capitol Record Club from 1966 through 1968. These albums were pressed by Capitol with the same United Artists label backdrops as the original UA release. The labels include the phrase “Mfd. by Capitol Records.” The covers were also manufactured by Capitol and have wrap around back cover slicks, rather than the front cover wrap around slicks on the UA issued album jackets. There are both mono and stereo pressings of the Capitol Record Club soundtrack LPs. Additional information regarding the Capitol Record Club can be found in the author’s article appearing in the January/February 1999 issue of Beatlology.
The rarest variation of the soundtrack LP is a stereo disc pressed in pink vinyl. There is only one confirmed copy of this record, which was pressed by H.V. Waddell Co. In all likelihood, it is an unauthorized pressing made by a factory employee in 1964 or 1965.
THE GEORGE MARTIN 45s
Although United Artists was not allowed to issue Beatles songs from the soundtrack LP in the singles format, the label did release the four George Martin instrumentals on 45s. The first single pulled from the album was And I Love Her b/w Ringo’s Theme (This Boy) (UA 745). And I Love Her bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at number 105 in August of 1964. The flip side, an instrumental version of This Boy titled Ringo’s Theme, fared better, reaching number 53 during its eight week stay on the charts. United Artists prepared an attractive picture sleeve for the record. The front of the sleeve is similar to the front cover of the soundtrack LP. It has the same four pictures of the boys and a red background area at the top with text and graphics in black and white. The back of the sleeve features nine of the fifteen black and white photos from the back cover of the album. As the record was not a big seller, the picture sleeve is much less common than the picture sleeves to the huge selling Capitol 45s.
The stock copies of the single were pressed with black label backdrops with the United Artists Records logo in white at twelve o’clock. Label copy was overprinted in silver. Promotional copies of the record have white labels with black print. Most of the records were pressed in styrene by Columbia. There are also styrene pressings that appear to have been manufactured by Monarch. These discs have hand etched project numbers (preceded by a delta symbol) in the trail off areas. There are at least two typesetting variations of the labels.
The second George Martin single paired A Hard Day’s Night with I Should Have Known Better (UA 750). Both songs bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 in early October of 1964. I Should Have Known Better peaked at number 111 during its two-week run. A Hard Day’s Night spent one week at number 122. Some copies of single were issued in an attractive picture sleeve. The front of the sleeve features a black and white picture of the group with a blue background rectangular box at the top. The text, graphics and layout of blue upper portion of the sleeve is similar to that of the red upper portion of the first UA single. The back of the sleeve has a black and white photograph of the group standing with George Martin. The picture sleeve is one of the rarer Beatles sleeves. As it is highly susceptible to ring wear, near mint copies are extremely difficult to locate. There are stock copies and promotional copies of the single. These styrene discs have at least two typesetting variations.
The Compo Company Ltd. of Lachine, Quebec entered into a licensing agreement with United Artists to issue the soundtrack album in Canada. The lower left corner of the front cover to the album states “Lithographed in Canada.” The back cover contains a small black rectangle with the phrase “Manufactured and distributed in Canada by The Compo Company Ltd., Lachine, Que.” The labels are similar to the American UA labels except that all print is silver and the perimeter print refers to Compo’s licensing of the record from United Artists.
Mono Canadian albums were manufactured with either black, red or blue labels. The author was only able to confirm black labels for the stereo version of the disc. Compo also licensed UA 745 for Canadian distribution. The single has silver print on a red label. Unlike the U.S. release, the Canadian single designates Ringo’s Theme (This Boy) as the A side. Although the label has the word “Instrumental” printed to the right of the center hole, George Martin’s name does not appear on the label. The single improperly and misleadingly identifies “THE BEATLES” as the recording artist. Although Compo probably issued UA 750 (A Hard Day’s Night by George Martin), the author was unable to confirm its existence.
Thirty-five years after their initial release, the United Artists Beatles records remain an interesting part of Beatles collecting. Although the soundtrack album constantly shows up at flea markets and garage sales, the trick is finding a copy in near mint condition. This is an album that people enjoyed playing over and over again, so be prepared to pay a premium for top condition. Collectors should also be on the look out for the rarer pressings that have I’ll Cry Instead on the label and the hard-to-find white label promotional LP.
All of the special radio and theater records are extremely rare. The George Martin singles did not sell particularly well and are becoming highly collectible. The picture sleeves, which feature photos of the Beatles, are two of the rarer Beatles sleeves. Beatle historians have known for years that United Artists underestimated the value of the first Beatles motion picture. Beatles collectors are now learning that everyone underestimated the value of the United Artists records associated with A Hard Day’s Night. Who knows what these records will be worth in another thirty-five years.