A Hard Day’s Night- A Study in Fame, Paranoia, and Claustrophobia

Who among us has not heard of the Beatles, or know of their influence in everyday society. Their music fills elevators around the world, there have been thousands of books and movies recorded detailing every event of their personal and professional lives, and who can’t resist singing alone, if only under our breath, when ever we hear these classic songs.

To watch the movie A Hard Day’s Night, starring the Beatles, created at the height of their popularity, your first thought is this is a movie to promote the Beatles and display their music.

They are grown men, running around, having fun in the midst of a hectic lifestyle that very successful performers live. They seemingly don’t have a care in the world, but just need to show up and start playing their music on time, with much enthusiasm, while their manager, George Martin, does all the worrying for them.
While the movie is entertaining, and has some great, full length versions of classic Beatles music, the underlying theme is that of 4 grown men, dealing with the constraints and frustrations of enormous fame and popularity.
They are not allowed to roam free about the city, or on the train they are riding, for fear of being overrun with groupies. Instead they are subject to do what George Martin tells them to do, because after all he is their ‘manager’, as if 4 grown men need someone to manage their personal lives as well as their professional.
Their fame is so overwhelming, it often times disarms people who run into them unknowingly. When John Lennon meets a woman on the train who is taken back because she knows “it’s him”, he repeatedly denies it, and says he just looks like him. They start a conversation about how John is not really the persona of John Lennon the Beatle, but at that point in time he is John Lennon the private person, who wants to get to know the woman he just met, the woman, is insisting that she is right and knows John Lennon when she sees him.
After a few exchanges, John convinces her that he just looks like John the Beatle, she ends up confessing, “You don’t really look like him at all.” Once she concludes that, she is not interested in him anymore.
This is the prominent theme that is presented concerning their fame. Once recognized, people don’t really like them at all. At that time, they were criticized for having long hair, for wearing funny clothes, being brash and generally rebelling against society in general. It is mild to us today, but at that time they were radicals.
This theme is seen again as Ringo is walking down the street. At first he is recognized and runs away from a young, female fan. When he steps out of a costume shop wearing a disguise, he speaks to the same woman who now tells him to “get lost.”
One of the drawbacks of their fame is that because their personal life is examined so closely, and their inner most thoughts and feelings are put to music, arousing the same strong feelings in others, somehow total strangers feel as though they can walk up to them and act like they know everything about each one, right away.
This causes a great sense of unsettled discomfort in the lives of the Beatles. They are desperately trying throughout the whole movie to be understood and accepted for just who they are.
At the time of this movies release, in 1964, there were many big social changes going on around the world. Music before the Beatles, with the exception of Elvis Presley, was primarily either a solo singer, or a 3 piece band playing conservative music, that was well choreographed.
When the Beatles came on stage, all of a sudden there were 4 instruments creating a loud, driving beat, with lyrics that spoke of love and desire, unlike anything that was ever heard before in mainstream America. Their entrance into this country is often times referred to as the ‘Beatles Explosion’.
John Lennon himself stated that they were more popular the Jesus Christ at that time. The statement itself stirred up even more fame, and more attention- be it good or bad- adding fuel to the fire. It seemed as though their every move was documented, imitated, and capitalized on any way possible.

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