The Beatles, “Things We Said Today” from A Hard Day’s Night (1964): Deep Beatles

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Concluding Deep Beatles’ look at Hard Day’s Night tracks that did not appear in the film is a gem: “Things We Said Today,” a Paul McCartney-penned song that he still performs live. In 1980, John Lennon cited it as one of his all-time favorite McCartney compositions. Its acoustic guitar-driven sound foreshadows the folk-rock sound of Rubber Soul, an album they would release just a year later.

As McCartney told biographer Barry Miles, he wrote “Things We Said Today” on a yacht in May 1964. Cruising the Virgin Islands with then-girlfriend Jane Asher, as well as Ringo Starr and his wife Maureen, McCartney penned the wistful track in a cabin below deck. Fighting off seasickness, McCartney jotted down the words while trying to ignore the smell of oil and the roar of the yacht’s engine.

His lyrics tell the story of an uncertain relationship, of choosing to remember the good times while facing a vague future. It can be argued that McCartney was referencing his rocky romance with Asher, as their careers and wildly differing lifestyles ultimately drove them apart. They did not officially end their relationship until 1968; interestingly, McCartney wrote this song four years before that event.

In any case, McCartney described the song to Miles as “a future nostalgia: we’ll remember the things we said today, sometime in the future, so the song projects itself into the future and then is nostalgic about the moment we’re living in now.”

The Beatles cut the track at Abbey Road Studios on June 2, 1964; amazingly, it took only three takes to perfect “Things We Said Today.” Take one was a false start; take two was complete; and the final version involved overdubbing McCartney’s second vocal part, Lennon’s piano, and Starr’s tambourine, according to the Beatles Bible. They meant to omit the piano from the final mix, but it was still picked up by other microphones during the recording, as the instruments were not recorded on separate tracks. Therefore the piano can still be heard in the released version. (Listen closely to the bridge for the faint piano section.)

Another interesting aspect of the song is that McCartney harmonizes with only himself; he double-tracked his vocals, mostly singing in unison but occasionally harmonizing. Lennon and George Harrison never sing a note, but they still performed vital roles: Lennon plays that striking rhythm guitar, while Harrison adds lead guitar.

While “Things We Said Today” was not a hit on its own, it did receive welcome exposure. It was released as the B-side to the “Hard Day’s Night” single on June 2, 1964, and it subsequently appeared on the film soundtrack album in the UK. American fans could not buy it until the Something New collection was released on July 20.

The tune benefitted even more from live treatments, as the band performed it twice for BBC radio and briefly included in their August and September 1964 tours of the U.S. and Canada; Harrison provided the harmony vocals on stage.

Lennon’s strident rhythm guitar begins “Things We Said Today,” another example of the Beatles’ ability to draw the listener in from the first note. By rarely straying from a minor key, the song maintains its moody tone. Starr’s drums punctuate each guitar riff as McCartney begins his vocals: “You say you will love me if I have to go, you’ll be thinking of me — somehow I will know.”

Already the listener senses impermanence in the relationship: the couple is visualizing their future breakup. McCartney harmonizes on the next two lines, emphasizing this uncertainty: “Someday when I’m lonely, wishing you weren’t so far away — then I will remember things we said today,” he sings. His lover then assures him that she will love him forever, but he admits that these feelings may not be everlasting.

Lennon and Harrison furiously strum their guitars and Starr slightly increases the tempo at the crucial bridge: “Me, I’m just the lucky kind, love to hear you say that love is love — and though we may be blind, love is here to stay and that’s enough,” McCartney sings, his voice double-tracked in perfect synchronicity.

In other words, he encourages both of them to live in the moment, to revel in these words of love and not think of their relationship’s possible transience (“though we may be blind” being the key phrase). Yet he concludes this section by singing the lyrics “Love me all the time girl; we’ll go on and on.” He suggests that their words may outlast their romance, that language possesses an infinite quality that love may not.

Perhaps McCartney’s lyrics rendered “Things We Said Today” too complex for the generally upbeat tone of the film. He clearly retains great affection for the tune, as he included it in his 1989-1990 world tour (the attached live version is available on the Tripping the Live Fantastic album) and his 1991 MTV Unplugged appearance. In addition, McCartney occasionally performs it during soundchecks.

A Hard Day’s Night stands as not only a landmark film, but as a soundtrack packed with hidden gems as well as enormous hits.The songs appearing in the movie remain memorable, partially due to indelible images such as the Beatles romping in a field or jamming on a train. However, the album-only songs should not be overlooked, and should receive radio airplay and acclaim as much as “Can’t Buy Me Love” or the title track.

Delve into deep Hard Day’s Night tunes, and hear hints of the band’s impending musical evolution — when they moved from the Beatlemania years to Beatles 2.0, starting with Rubber Soul. These under-appreciated songs are experimental in their own way, and portend how the Beatles would soon transform rock and roll.

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Kit O'Toole
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