When you consider the incredible body of recorded work The Beatles would release over the next seven years of their productive career, Please Please Me is probably one of the group’s weakest overall records. However, this 1963 debut studio album is a gem in that it captures the band at the point of their transition from roots rock novices to the original artists who would soon change the face of music forever. In that sense, this collection of 14 songs is nearly equally split between Lennon-McCartney originals and rockabilly/doo-wop covers as well as the memorable classics and the forgettable fillers.
Six years prior to this debut album, The Beatles were formed (as the “Quarrymen”) in March 1957 in Liverpool, England by high school guitarists/vocalists John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A year later, McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to join the band as lead guitarist. The group performed for several years “whenever they could find a drummer”, with bassist Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Pete Best becoming a more permanent rhythm section in 1960. It was Sutcliffe who suggested the name “Beatals” as a tribute to the late Buddy Holly and the Crickets, with later group name evolutions being the “Silver Beetles”, the “Silver Beatles”, and finally “The Beatles” in August 1960. When Sutcliffe left the band in 1961, McCartney moved to bass.
After a few short unfruitful recording contracts, the group was signed by producer George Martin to EMI’s Parlophone label. In June 1962, Martin and The Beatles had their first recording session at Abbey Road studios, where Martin complained about Best’s poor drumming and suggested they use a session drummer. A few months later, Best was replaced with drummer Ringo Starr and the new four-piece lineup began recording the band’s first singles through the latter half of 1962. With the instant UK success of the singles “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”, Martin and Parlophone quickly booked recording sessions so that the band could release a full album.
The band returned to Abbey Road and recorded much of their current stage repertoire live in the studio over a marathon session in February 1963 with very few overdubs added later. After considering the title “Off the Beatle Track”, the album was named after one of its lead singles and released as a mono LP on March 22, 1963, the stereo version released a month later in April 1963. The iconic album cover was taken on the stairwell inside EMI’s London headquarters.
|Please Please Me by The Beatles|
|Released: March 22, 1963
Produced by: George Martin
|Track Listing||Primary Musicians|
|I Saw Her Standing There
Anna (Go to Him)
Ask Me Why
Please Please Me
Love Me Do
P.S. I Love You
Baby It’s You
Do You Want to Know a Secret
A Taste of Honey
There’s a Place
Twist and Shout
Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Drums, Percussion, Vocals
The count-off to McCartney’s “I Saw Her Standing There” is an apt send-off to commence the Beatles’ album career. Originally arranged as an acoustic song written at the Liverpool home of fellow musician Rory Storm in 1962, McCartney’s lyrics were apparently inspired by his then-girlfriend, who was seventeen at the time. The song was later released in the United States as the B-side to the single “I Want to Hold Your Hand” but became popular enough on its own to peak in the US Top 20 in early 1964. “Misery” was a song originally written for pop singer Helen Shapiro but the Beatles decided to record it themselves with Lennon on lead vocals. The album then goes into a series of cover songs, starting with Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go to Him)”, followed by “Chains”, which was composed by Gerry Goffin and Carole Kingand features Harrison on lead vocals. Upon recording their debut album, the group decided that each member would have at least one song with lead vocals on the album, a practice which would pretty much hold throughout the group’s recording career. Ringo Starr’s one and only vocals comes on the cover of the Shirelles’ “Boys”.
Lennon’s “Ask Me Why” was originally recorded during the very first sessions in June 1962 with Pete Best on drums but re-recorded for Please Please Me with Ringo Starr on drums. This was not the case for the hit “Love Me Do” which, along with the track “PS I Love You”, was recorded with session player Andy White on drums during Starr’s earliest days with the band. Both of these tracks were written by McCartney with “Love Me Do” dating back to 1958–1959 when he was just 16 years old and becoming the Beatles’ first hit in 1962. “Please Please Me” was deliberately written to follow-up that original hit with Lennon’s first draft of the song being a slow blues ballad inspired by Roy Orbison. At Martin’s encouragement, the song was given an upbeat rock arrangement and consequently became the Beatles’ first number one hit.
The second side contains two more originals and three more cover songs. “Do You Want to Know a Secret” was written by Lennon but sung by Harrison and became a Top 10 hit in the US when it was released as a single a year later. “There’s a Place” was influenced by a song from West Side Story, but adapted as an original by Lennon and McCartnry. The side’s covers include “Baby It’s You”, a hit by the Shirelles, and “A Taste of Honey”, a track originally written as an instrumental and recorded by Herb Albert among others but adapted with lyrics on this version. The album’s most indelible cover is the closer “Twist and Shout”, which was recorded at the end of a marathon 10-song, 13-hour session on February 11, 1963. John Lennon had a very bad cold, so Martin saved this one for last and the throat-shredding vocal performance would make rock history as it completed this debut album with its most exciting moment.
Please Please Me topped the charts in the UK and reached the Top 5 in the German Album charts. The album was not originally released in this form in much of the rest of the world, including the the United States where most of the songs from this album were split among a 1964 album called Introducing… The Beatles and a 1965 album called The Early Beatles. It would not be until 1987, when the Beatles’ catalog was standardized for CD that Please Please Me was officially released in the US.