Barely a year had passed since The Beatles conquered America, but the fatigue had already begun to set in. Despite touring almost non-stop since the release of Please Please Me in early 1963, the band managed to crank out Beatles for Sale in time for Christmas ’64.* That album, their fourth in 21 months, is widely considered The Beatles’ weakest. Unlike their previous album, the all-originals A Hard Day’s Night, nearly half of the tracks on Beatles for Sale are cover versions. The band’s exhaustion pervades the record, from the decidedly unchipper cover art to the downbeat themes in many of the new songs (“I’m a Loser,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” “No Reply”). Even “Eight Days a Week,” generally perceived as one of the brighter spots, is one of those Beatles songs that tends to be beloved mostly by casual listeners. Hardcore fans often dismiss it as Beatles by rote: a memorable title, close harmonies, a tweaked chord progression, George Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker. John Lennon later dismissed it as “never a good song”: “We struggled to record it and struggled to make it into a song. … But it was lousy anyway.”**
As with all things Beatles, lousiness is relative. Those elements that make “Eight Days a Week” standard Beatles also serve as reminders of what made the band so distinctive and exciting. The joy in the song is infectious, even if the performances drag ever so slightly from over-rehearsal, and Lennon’s wordless melisma at the 1:30 mark ranks as one of the most thrilling vocals of his career. “Eight Days a Week” also continues the experimentation of “I Feel Fine” by being one of the first pop singles to open with a fade-in. While The Beatles’ previous records arrived fully formed from their stage show, “Eight Days a Week” was the first to be written and arranged largely in studio. This practice would soon become customary, steering the direction of the group’s most sonically innovative output. In fact, these changes would come more quickly than anyone could have anticipated. “Eight Days a Week” may sound like The Beatles treading water, but it’s really a victory lap. Never again would the group sound so chirpy and carefree, so unburdened by the weight of art. 8
*Beatles for Sale wasn’t released in the U.S. Instead, eight of its tracks appeared on Beatles ’65 (also released to the Christmas market), with the balance turning up on Beatles VI six months later.
**From David Sheff’s September 1980 interview with Lennon and Yoko Ono for Playboy; quoted in Beatlesongs by William J. Dowdling.
Hit #1 on March 13, 1965; total of 2 weeks at #1
130 of 1006 #1′s reviewed; 12.92% through the Hot 100