After a certain left-handed bass player delivered a triumphant Abbey Road medley at the 2012 Grammy Awards, the words ‘Who is Paul McCartney?’ were plastered across Twitter. Seemingly, the new generation are oblivious to the supposedly greatest band in the history of popular music.
It’s easy to scoff and decry that ‘kids only listen to modern crap’, but the band’s surviving members have not helped the situation. They refused to let their music be sold on iTunes until very recently, and they rarely give permission to use their songs in film and television shows. And besides, pop music has, in some ways, moved on. Even the most numbskulled Belieber would be too sophisticated to fall for a coy conceit like ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. Like guitar music itself – once at the height of popular music, now a relic – The Beatles have ceased to remain vital to the mainstream.
It in these pitiable circumstances that A Hard Day’s Night celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, with a re-release in cinemas and on DVD. And, while it is certain to be ignored by Generation Z, the rest of us can enjoy a masterpiece of cinema.
A Hard Day’s Night is a behind-the-scenes look at The Beatles preparing for a television appearance. But this barely does justice to what remains one of the greatest exercises in sustained joy ever to be put to film. It’s full of scripted gags, sticking it to The Man, and the constant presence of fans achieving nirvana at the sight of their heroes. The film has a kinetic energy like no other, with the camera constantly running to catch up with the band as they rattle around being the world’s biggest band.
And then, of course, there are the songs. The album which accompanied the film, bolstered by hits like ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and the title track, was the first Beatles’ LP to consist entirely of Lennon/McCartney compositions. It was their greatest achievement in the studio to date.