Guitarist Randy Bachman Demystifies the Opening Chord of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”

You could call it the magical mystery chord. The opening clang of the Beatles’ 1964 hit, “A Hard Day’s Night,” is one of the most famous and distinctive sounds in rock and roll history, and yet for a long time no one could quite figure out what it was.

In this fascinating clip from the CBC radio show, Randy’s Vinyl Tap, the legendary Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive guitarist Randy Bachman unravels the mystery. The segment (which comes to us via singer-songwriter Mick Dalla-Vee) is from a special live performance, “Guitarology 101,” taped in front of an audience at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto back in January, 2010. As journalist Matthew McAndrew wrote, “the two-and-a-half hour event was as much an educational experience as it was a rock’n’roll concert.”

One highlight of the show was Bachman’s telling of his visit the previous year with Giles Martin, son of Beatles’ producer George Martin, at Abbey Road Studios. The younger Martin, who is now the official custodian of all the Beatles’ recordings, told Bachman he could listen to anything he wanted from the massive archive–anything at all.

Bachman chose to hear each track from the opening of “A Hard Day’s Night.” As it turns out, the sound is actually a combination of chords played simultaneously by George Harrison and John Lennon, along with a bass note by Paul McCartney. Bachman breaks it all down in an entertaining way in the audio clip above.

You can read about some of the earlier theories on The Beatles Bible and Wikipedia, and hear a fascinating account of one scholar’s mathematical analysis of the component sounds of the chord from a few years ago at NPR.

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Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in December, 2011. It was time to bring it back.

Related Content:

Take a Virtual Tour of Abbey Road Studios, Courtesy of the New Google Site “Inside Abbey Road”

Here Comes The Sun: The Lost Guitar Solo by George Harrison

Peter Sellers Recites The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” in the Style of Shakespeare’s Richard III

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Comments (3)
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  • Marcio Holanda says:

    This video was originally mine. I downloaded the file from the radio website, edited the speech (still own the entire program here) and YouTube deleted it (and gave me a strike). At the time, it was almost 2 million views.

  • james warren says:

    We always used one finger on the E & B strings on the first fret and then putting the ring finger of the E string on the third fret.

    It always sounded authentic to us and our audience.

  • james warren says:

    We used to press down the B and E strings with the index finger on the first fret. Then the middle finger would cover the G string on the second fret. And finally, add the ring or pinkie finger up to the third fret to push down the E string there.

    It always sounded good to us and the people we played for. We could never duplicate George’s solo bit though. It was just too fast.

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