Why Paul McCartney Sang the Middle Part of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ Instead of John Lennon
If you need to find a Beatles song with a great creation story, look no further than “A Hard Day’s Night.” As the tale goes, John Lennon heard the title, told director Richard Lester he’d write the song, and returned the next morning with an almost-completed composition.
Not only would “A Hard Day’s Night” represent another No. 1 hit for the Fab Four; it also would jumpstart the film of the same name in the heat of Beatlemania. So John’s achievement looms even larger looking back at the band’s rise in 1964. And he wasn’t shy about acknowledging it.
“If you notice, in the early days the majority of singles — in the movies and everything — were mine,” he told Playboy’s David Sheff in All We Are Saying. “I did practically every single with my voice except for ‘Love Me Do.’ Either my song, or my voice, or both.”
However, John realized “A Hard Day’s Night” was another big exception — and it came on a song everyone agrees he wrote without much help from Paul McCartney. On that hit track, Paul sang (and made the crowd swoon) on the “middle eight” section.
John Lennon sang ‘A Hard Day’s Night’s’ verses while Paul McCartney took the middle 8
When John and Paul looked back at their Beatles days, they usually agreed on which one wrote the bulk of any particular song. And there was no argument about “A Hard Day’s Night.”
“John said, ‘I’ll write it.’ And he did, he came back the next day with it,” Paul recalled in Many Years From Now. Paul couldn’t be certain John had all the words written, and he thought there was a chance he helped here and there. “I might have been in on that middle eight,” he said.
Typically, John and Paul would sing the lyrics they wrote for a song, and Paul’s recollection of possibly being “in on the middle eight [bars]” gets a boost from the fact he sang that section on record.
However, John remembered “A Hard Day’s Night” being an exception for another reason. It came down to the different vocal ranges of the two Beatles singers.
John said Paul took the middle because he could sing the high notes
While working out the various sections of “A Hard Day’s Night” in the studio, John and Paul put together a middle part that served as a solid contrast to the verses and chorus. The thing was, John wasn’t able to sing it.
“The only reason [Paul] sang on ‘Hard Day’s Night’ was because I couldn’t reach the notes,” John said in All We Are Saying. “[Singing] ‘When I’m home, everything seems to be right. When I’m home…’ — which is what we’d do sometimes. One of us couldn’t reach a note … he’d get the other to do [it].”
When you watch The Beatles play this track live, you can see John and Paul’s competitive natures come alive. Each time he gets the middle part, Paul really milks the “…feeling you holding me tight — tight, yeah!” (Girls’ shrieks invariably follow this moment in the song.)
Paul’s achievement with “Can’t Buy Me Love” really lit a fire under John during the recording of the Hard Day’s Night album. But even when John came back with the blockbuster title track, Paul still found a way to get his moment in the spotlight.