12 Bands Who Tried (and Failed) to Imitate A Hard Day's Night
Editor's note: Since Oct. 6, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' debut single "Love Me Do") we've been on a half-century celebration cycle in which we are scheduled to relive every Beatles innovation, every release of the Beatles' landmark career in real time, right until the inevitable 50th anniversary of their breakup in 2020. But what other long-forgotten anniversaries are being overshadowed by the Fab Four (Again?) To answer that question, we present another installment in this series: "The 50th Anniversary of Something Else."
When the Beatles' first feature length film premiered at London's Pavilion Theater on
July 6, 1964, it changed forevermore the way pop music was presented on the big screen.
Well, not really. Loads of terrible rock exploitation films followed A Hard Day's Night -- witness anything starring Herman's Hermits and Freddie and the Dreamers for the immediate fallout, and let's try to forget Spice World and One Direction -- This is Us.
But it did cause a paradigm shift that won the Beatles a lot of respect from their harshest critics -- parents. Who could argue that Lennon & McCartney weren't the greatest songwriters since Schubert when you have the likes of responsible adults like Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee covering "Can't Buy Me Love" and "A Hard Day's Night" respectively? Andrew Sarris of Village Voice would go on to call it the "Citizen Kane of jukebox movies." Even stodgy old Time Magazine called the film "One of the smoothest, freshest, funniest films ever made for purposes of exploitation."
And let us not forget that the goal was exploitation. United Artists, the conniving buggers, found a loophole in the Beatles' EMI contract that would give United Artist Records the rights to a US soundtrack if the Fabs signed on to make a United Artist movie. Before Hard Day's Night, no film ever recouped its costs before opening night due to advance sales of its soundtrack album.
Across town from the lights of Piccadilly Circus, director Frank Gilpin was exploiting what he hoped would be the next wave of Beatles in two 30-minute British shorts: Swinging UK and UK Swings Again. A Hard Day''s Night featured The Fab Four, huh? Well Gilpin had The Wackers! And the Four Pennies!! Some of these bands, like the Animals and The Hollies, would go on to have long careers, at least longer than The Wackers and The Four Pennies. Others, like The Swinging Blue Jeans, would have one hit before vanishing. But all these bands were cheerful and did what they were told, and in 1964 that was more important when you're trying to capture lightning in a bottle like Frank Galpin was.
So roll out the giant cake and let's celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Something else -- the screen debuts of 12 British bands, in descending order of significance.
1. The Animals
One of the first bands to have a number one in Britain and the U.S. in 1964 and not have members named John, Paul, George, or Ringo was the Animals, with "House of the Rising Sun." A cheerless song like that wouldn't do on this smiling cinematic jamboree so they performed another song they learned off Bob Dylan's debut album, "Baby Let Me Take You Home," perhaps the Animals' most chipper hit until singer Eric Burdon discovered acid in 1966. The Animals would make another big screen appearance in the "Swingingest Blast Ever Filmed!" The Animals would appear in MGM's Get Yourself a College Girl co-starring alongside Mary Ann Mobley and Chad Everett. But without the security of a ladder nearby.
2. The Hollies
They had more hits than anyone else in the UK with the exception of the Beatles, and they had more teeth, as evidenced by these clips of them singing "Baby That's All" and "Here I Go Again." Amazingly, this deep into 1964 and the front line of the Hollies, Alan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks had defiantly refused to comb their hair downward, like a band of Pete Bests. What else is the explanation? Were they still holding day jobs? Could no one push them in the pool? Drummer Bobby Elliot was already losing his hair and he managed to sculpt one with the few strands the Lord let him hang onto.