Much like the first steps Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took on the moon in 1969, or the moment in 1962 when Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home, the release of the Beatles’ cinema debut A Hard Day’s Night in 1964 is one of those events so seminal that anybody who lived through it remembers what they were doing when they saw it. Directed by Richard Lester, the film took the form of a black-and-white slapstick comedy based on 36 hours in the life of the fabulous four. Over and above being a simple movie, however, it marked a monumental cultural shift; overnight John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star transformed from just popstars into a global phenomenon.
This autumn, a weighty new volume from art book-publisher Phaidon offers an unparalleled and satisfyingly comprehensive glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of the film. Comprising informal photographs, press clippings, fan letters, gig tickets and film posters from the private archive of Walter Shenson – many of which have never been seen before – it freezes this crucial moment in music history and preserves it for our own enjoyment – allowing aficionadoes both past and present to re-examine the anarchic extravaganza by way of the ephemera it created. Ostensibly even more exciting, the book includes extended comment from Mark Lewishohn, an expert on the foursome, who dissects both A Hard Day's Night groundbreaking impact and its evolution – "from the casting and the filing to the film's world premiere," Phaidon explains – not to mention one particularly titillating anecdote in which they really were chased by fans out of London's Paddington Station. We can only hope that our own contemporary culture will one day be as fondly remembered.
The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night is out today, published by Phaidon.