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John Lennon used the phrase “a hard days night” in a short story that came out before The Beatles’ song with a similar name. The short story hasn’t aged well.
Ringo Starr‘s contributions to The Beatles get understated, but there’s one way they might be overstated. Ringo is credited with coming up with the title of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” John Lennon gave Ringo a lot of credit, while still acknowledging he used the name first. Specifically, John used it in a nonsense story that hasn’t aged particularly well.
John Lennon said he wrote The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ around its title
In a 1980 interview from the book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, John discussed the origins of the name A Hard Day’s Night. “[Director] Dick Lester suggested the title Hard Day’s Night from something Ringo’d said,” he said. “I had used it in In His Own Write, but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo. You know, one of those malapropisms. A Ringoism, where he said it not to be funny, just said it.” John published In His Own Write, a book of avant-garde stories, in March 1964. For comparison, the film A Hard Day’s Night and the song and album of the same name came in July 1964.
“So Dick Lester said we are going to use that title, and the next morning I brought in the song,” John recalled. “‘Cause there was a little competition between Paul and I as to who got the ‘A’ side, who got the hit singles.”
John Lennon’s odd short story hasn’t aged well
In His Own Write features the phrase “a hard days night” as part of a short story titled “Sad Michael.” “There was no reason for Michael to be sad that morning, (the little wretch); everyone liked him, (the scab),” the story begins. “He’d had a hard days night that day, for Michael was a Cocky Watchtower. His wife Bernie, who was well controlled, had wrabbed his norman lunch but he was still sad. It was strange for a man whom have everything and a wife to boot.”
The book features countless intentional misspellings. “Sad Michael” isn’t the easiest story to interpret, but here goes. In it, Michael is deaf, blind, and mute. A policeman comes to him and asks how his wife is doing. Michael tells the policeman to shut up. Michael’s reply shocks the policeman, as Michael supposedly could not speak or see or hear. Further, Michael gets upset because his braille books are apparently obsolete. This sort of humor was considered fine in 1964, but it comes across as ableist today.
What Paul McCartney said about The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’
“Sad Michael” would be totally forgotten today if it didn’t feature the phrase “a hard day’s night.” John doesn’t make it clear whether Ringo was aware of the story.
In his 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul also recounts the title’s origin. He doesn’t connect it to In His Own Write or John at all. In Paul’s recollection, Ringo said “Phew, it’s been a hard day’s night” after a concert. Paul compared the remark to the writings of Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll.
Regardless of who coined the name of “A Hard Day’s Night,” the song makes fans feel alright.