Ever since it was released in 1964, musicians have struggled to reproduce the sound of the opening chord in The Beatles‘ hit single A Hard Day’s Night.
But now, a British mathematician is claiming to have got closer than anyone else by using some sophisticated software.
The Age reports that University of Leeds staff member Dr Kevin Houston split up the sound on a recording of the track into its various component frequencies. After analysing the results on his computer screen, a pattern was revealed showing which notes were most prominent.
The results suggest a simpler solution compared with one proposed four years ago by Canadian scientist Professor Jason Brown, who believes missing guitar notes were replaced by Beatles producer George Martin playing a piano.
Dr Houston does not dispute that the piano is there, but challenges its importance. He believes lead guitarist George Harrison was playing a straightforward F add9 on his 12-string electric Rickenbacker guitar, rather than the unusual fingering indicated by Prof Brown.
Houston’s theory also suggested that Harrison had his thumb curled round the neck of the guitar, pressing down the bottom E string at the first fret. The thumb-curling is a common technique among self-taught pop and rock guitarists.
In addition, Dr Houston established in his findings that John Lennon was playing the same chord on an acoustic guitar.
On the stereo track of A Hard Day’s Night, Harrison and Lennon are heard on different speakers.
“The opening chord to A Hard Day’s Night is a mystery,” said Dr Houston, who was speaking at the British Science Festival.
“It turns out that nobody really knows what it is. People who do know are a bit cagey about it. George Martin probably knows quite well, but I think he’s quite happy not to tell people.
“I wouldn’t like to say that we’ve definitely got it right, but I think we’ve put the record straighter. It makes mathematical and musical sense.”