130) The Beatles – “Eight Days a Week”

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


Filed under 08, 1965

3 responses to “130) The Beatles – “Eight Days a Week”

  1. Yay, A new article! You probably know this, but all Beatles albums pre-Rubber Soul were repackaged for the United States, and it’s likely because of these reassembled versions that Beatles for Sale is their most obscure album.

    The AV Club did a great article on the song “Yesterday” and its more recent successors, but Beatles for Sale had definitely already opened up the band for introspection.

    Not to pry, but these entries are moving slower than the real chart; are you in the market for contributors? I could send you some unpublished editions of my series “Background Music” if you’re interested.


  2. I’ve had a rather busy summer, but I’m hoping to stick to a semi-regular schedule (one a week or so) for the immediate future. Of course, that’s what I said last time …

  3. WStevens

    @ samhuddy – Actually, the repackaging for the U.S. market continued all the way through Revolver. Sgt. Pepper was the first Beatle album that the record company didn’t chop to pieces before release. That’s why the original cover to “Yesterday and Today (the butcher cover) was made – it was to protest Capitol Records “butchering” the Beatles’ work, which greatly annoyed them – especially Lennon. He said that the band put as much thought & attention into the sequencing of the songs on the albums as they did into the songs themselves and they resented the hell out of having it all released willy-nilly. On the U,.S. version of Revolver, the only John songs on it were She Said (She Said) and Tomorrow Never Knows. I was so glad when their UK material was FINALLY packaged for the U.S. market as intended – when CD’s were finally released in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

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