A Hard Day's Night came at a crucial period in Beatles history. Prior to the film, the enthusiasm of Beatlemania injected the band (and their music) with excitement.
Conversely, after the film, Beatlemania outgrew itself and consequently often felt out of control and occasionally dangerous.
Perfectly balanced between the two extremes is A Hard Day's Night.
The historical significance of A Hard Day's Night, then, is that it captures the Beatles at a pivotal point in their development - a point of unprecedented worldwide fame, but just before that fame turned sour.
In the film A Hard Day's Night, at the very beginning, is a scene in which John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are being chased by a mob of screaming girls. Paul McCartney, however, avoided the problem by wearing fake facial hair, thereby disguising his identity and saving himself the trouble of dealing with the hysteria. The tactic was not created for the film - Paul actually used the trick on a regular basis. It had a liberating effect, allowing him to walk around in public without the debilitating insanity of Beatlemania. For those few hours, it was as if he was someone other than Paul McCartney.
Indeed, the disguise worked so well that the bassist wondered if the same stunt could be employed by the whole band. Just as it did with Paul, assuming different identities could free the band to try different things by allowing the group to get outside of themselves. Quoting Paul: "With our alter egos we could do a bit of B. B. King, a bit of Stockhausen, a bit of Albert Ayler, a bit of Ravi Shankar, a bit of Pet Sounds, a bit of the Doors; it didn't matter, there was no pigeon-holing like there had been before" (Miles, page 306). After a crazy year in 1966 - in which they stopped touring due in large part to the delirium of live performances - the band found the notion quite appealing, and decided that for their next album they would not be the Beatles.
Miles, Barry. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, 1997.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.