In America, we didn’t know the high quality of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and Help! albums. The soundtrack albums in the U.S. only had 8 and 7 Beatle songs respectively, compared with 13 and 14 songs each in England. Instead, the American albums had instrumental “filler” from the movies.
If you listen to the British versions, you realize the quality of these albums is a lot closer to Rubber Soul than we would have originally thought. A Hard Day’s Night (July 10th, 1964) was the first Beatles album to feature all original songs…all written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
The first seven songs (side one of the record) are all from the movie, and the quality is extremely high. There are two #1 hits, “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night”…two of The Beatle’s best ballads, “And I Love Her” and “If I Fell”…two more good rockers, “I Should Have Known Better” and “Tell Me Why”…plus a song written for George, “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You”. No filler at all.
A defense for Capitol Records is that United Artists had a contract for the A Hard Day’s Night movie soundtrack, but that doesn’t explain why Capitol did the same thing with Help! in August of 1965.
I bought the American versions of these albums as they came out, as well as all the other Beatles albums, so I’ve heard these songs thousands of times. When I listened to the British version of Help! recently, it struck me how many really good songs are on that album.
On side one, John Lennon provided four quality songs… two #1 hits, “Help” and “Ticket To Ride”, plus the Dylan-like “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and “You’re Going To Lose That Girl”. Paul’s songs are the melodic “The Night Before” and “Another Girl”…and George contributed “I Need You”. That’s a strong side.
None of the songs on side two were on the American version. Capitol again scattered the songs across other albums. That includes a third #1 hit, the most-recorded song of all time, “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney, and another fan favorite of his “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, which opened the American version of Rubber Soul. The opening of side two of that album also used a song from Help!, “It’s Only Love”. The George Harrison song “You Like Me Too Much”, and Lennon & McCartney’s “Tell Me What You See” finish off the 12 songs written by The Beatles.
Ringo’s version of “Act Naturally” by Buck Owens, and John’s take on the old-fashioned rocker, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, finalize the album’s songs. If Capitol had simply left off those two non-originals (making it 12 songs like most American albums), they would have had a Beatles album approaching the quality of Rubber Soul. Help! would also be thought of more highly by American fans. It’s the first Beatles album with three #1 hits. Let It Be also has three. They could have had more big hits on their albums, but many of their #1 singles were not included on their regular albums.
The Beatles spent 1964 and 1965 touring the world, writing songs whenever they could, and recording four albums…A Hard Days Night, Beatles For Sale, Help!, and Rubber Soul. Oh, and they starred in two movies. Those years were hectic for John, Paul, George & Ringo.
Odd fact: On the original vinyl stereo album of A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles songs were all in mono. Only the instrumental tracks were stereo. I took my album back to the store and just bought the cheaper mono version.
The Beatles had three other “Movie Albums”. The Yellow Submarine animated film has a newer Songtrack that is far better than the original soundtrack. The Magical Mystery Tour TV special has a really good album, because Capitol added some previously released hit singles. The Let It Be film was released in a new form, a 3-part documentary on Disney + in November, 2021, and it’s titled The Beatles: Get Back. There’s a remixed Let It Be box set, and the music in the new documentary was also remixed.
The films The Beatles made were always because of, and secondary to, their music. United Artists admitted they were less interested in the movie A Hard Day’s Night than in getting the soundtrack. Of course they had no way of knowing the movie would become a classic.
And, for nearly two decades, Americans had no way of knowing how good A Hard Day’s Night and Help! were, because we’d formed our opinions by only hearing half of the albums.
Extra: To find out which albums all the Beatles’ singles landed on, you can click this link: https://ontherecords.net/2017/11/the-beatles-singles-left-off-albums/