When pressed to name my top five Beatles albums, the list is fairly standard, minus the absence of the overrated Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. At the top is the White Album, perhaps for sheer volume more than pound-for-pound quality. The next three, in order, are Abbey Road, Revolver, and Rubber Soul. These four constitute perhaps the band’s most experimental, risk-taking works, so naturally rounding out the top five is A Hard Day’s Night, in all its “if Beatlemania ain’t broke, don’t fix it” glory.
For their third album, the Beatles were in no mood to rewrite the rulebook that had led to such incredible international success. But in between the release of predecessor With the Beatles and recording its follow-up, something happened: they severely improved as songwriters. Not only did they avoid including any cover songs on A Hard Day’s Night, but the original songs are significantly better. Most of them still fall very much into the sugary pop love songs that established the band and wouldn’t have felt out of place on their first two albums. But there was a newfound urgency and potency to these tracks, coupled with equally strong growth as performers.
Even Ringo’s nose got bigger during this era.
“Any Time at All” hooked me from the first time I heard it, with that powerful single drum beat that leaps out like a gunshot, with John and Paul alternating the lead on the chorus. (That’s probably because, much like in “A Hard Day’s Night,” John couldn’t hit the high notes.) I have to say, listening to “Any Time at All,” it is all about the chorus. The soft verses with their pedestrian, high schooler writing to his unrequited crush sentiments are pretty underwhelming, but at least John bothered to write lyrics there, unlike the middle eight, which just features some uninspired piano.
But the chorus? It’s punchy, passionate, and in your face. Beatlemania at its finest.