|1. I Saw Her Standing There (2009|
|2. Misery (2009|
|3. Anna (Go To Him) (2009|
|4. Chains (2009|
|5. Boys (2009|
|6. Ask Me Why (2009|
|7. Please Please Me (2009|
|8. Love Me Do (2009|
|9. P.S. I Love You (2009|
|10. Baby It's You (2009|
|11. Do You Want To Know A Secret (2009|
|12. A Taste Of Honey (2009|
|13. There's A Place (2009|
|14. Twist And Shout (2009|
Producer George Martin was, in Paul McCartney’s words, unsure of the band’s musical abilities when he invited them to Abbey Road to record songs they’d spent months perfecting live. In that environment they regularly shined, but studio experiences were still comparatively alien. What Martin recognised was a focus, a desire for more than their present lot. He listened beyond the music of the moment, hearing a future that these four young men would shape for themselves. The self-contained pop group was born, and quicker than either band or producer envisioned.
The recording of Please Please Me was fast, the band committing ten of these tracks to tape in just a single day – “a straightforward performance of their stage repertoire,” was how Martin summarised the sessions. Previously released single tracks and b sides completed the set. Featuring more originals than not, Please Please Me saw the McCartney-Lennon songwriting partnership blossom – from the title track to Love Me Do, There’s a Place to I Saw Her Standing There, the collaboration was incredibly productive, and would continue to bear fruit until the group’s Let It Be swan song of 1970.
The immediacy that these songs carry remains irresistible, and Please Please Me’s lengthy reign at the top of the UK albums chart proved the perfect response to Decca’s rebuttal that guitar groups were “on the way out” when the label turned down the opportunity to sign the band. Lennon’s vocal on the climactic Twist and Shout is perhaps the most wonderfully loose, ragged-edged element of the entire record, and the essentially ‘as live’ recording showcases a group with their feet still very much in the clubs and theatres, performance just preceding actual arrangement. Their way with composition is relatively simple; effective, but black and white nonetheless, playing exclusively to recognised strengths.
What followed made The Beatles the inspirational band they’re regarded as today. But the grandest oak begins as the tiniest acorn, and Please Please Me is just that: perfectly formed for what it is, and ready to split when promise is realised. --Mike Diver
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I don't listen to Beatles music for a cerebral or spiritual experience, nor to be able to impress anyone with the fact that I can pinpoint when and where they recorded that track - George was recovering from an in-growing toenail, Ringo had just bought a new set of drumsticks. I listen to the Beatles for the emotions I've nurtured over forty years of more. So can I convince you that my passion for a particular album or track will parallel yours? Of course not!
For me, the excitement generated by the Beatles is something I grew up with. I was thirteen when they had their first hit. The first records I ever bought were by the Beatles. I joined the Fan Club. I covered my walls in photos. I was threatened with expulsion from school because of the length of my hair. I even managed, as a teenager in a small Scottish town, to obtain copies of 'Merseybeat' - the Liverpool music paper. It says something about the dynamism of the 60's that Liverpool could have its own music paper (this was way before desktop publishing, the Internet, etc.).
"Please Please Me" was released in March, 1963, and was the Beatles first album ("With the Beatles" would follow). Inspired by the title song reaching number one in the charts, the LP was famously based on their current stage act - compare and contrast these studio recordings with the live version available on the unofficial, "Live at the Star Club" offerings.
These were the days when bands played live: they grew up on the circuit, playing pubs, clubs, and dives, hoping to establish enough of a fan base to secure a recording contract ... and a chance to record someone else's song, maybe cover an already successful US hit.
But the Beatles broke out of this restrictive process. "Please Please Me" combines cover versions of standards with numbers written by Lennon and McCartney, and marks their growing confidence as songwriters.
That was the dynamic attraction of the Beatles. Their music was - remains - raw and exciting. There was something liberating about it. Here were ordinary lads from Liverpool who could write their own stuff, not depend on professional songwriters to grind out hits for them. There was an immediacy about their words. This was the decade when the first working class kids were making their way to university. It was an age of sensed meritocracy and upward mobility. The Beatles were flying the banner for the triumph of talent over elitism, for the victory of regional accents over the sterile BBC English we were normally fed. And the Beatles had seized the baton from the USA and were now setting the cultural initiative for the rest of the world to follow.
And I knew all this at school. My mother sent me to an all boys school. I'd noticed girls. There were a couple I passed every morning who I really noticed. But I'd never talked to one! And here were the Beatles. You could imagine dancing with some mini skirted lassie in the sweaty din of the Cavern Club. These were songs of love and lust, of energy and passion, of time and place.
That's the significance of Beatles music. For a generation, it changed their world. For the future of pop, it set new standards and directions. And for the individual, it established patterns of memories and emotions which are still alive to this day.
The music of the Beatles inscribes a unique history for every fan. Songs which you associate with someone or somewhere special, songs you associate with laughter, pain, love, despair, loss or triumph, songs which provide the punctuation marks to your own life's narrative. Few other artists have come close to this.
"Please Please Me" established a yardstick for the quality of recording: here are songs which have a beat, which are well sung and provide dynamic bass lines, but they are also songs with passion and depth, songs which elevate your spirits and make you feel positive. Still melodically simple, but embodying a universal sentiment, the songs on "Please Please Me" lack artifice or pretence that they are by anyone else but the Beatles. This is assertive music, music with personality. And it's timeless.
Like all the early Beatles albums, this one contains several covers – six in this case. The three best are Baby it's you (Shirelles), Twist and shout (Isley brothers) and A taste of honey. Twist and shout became a UK top ten hit for Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, the group that Decca signed in preference to the Beatles.
The album's title track became the first major Beatles hit. The chart that is now generally regarded as the standard UK chart (and published in the Guinness book of British hit singles) registers a peak position of 2, but back in the early sixties there were three other charts and all of those gave a peak position of 1. No chart was regarded then as being more reliable than the others, so most connoisseurs regard Please please me as the first Beatles chart-topper.
Three of the other seven originals stand out. I saw her standing there opens the album and was presumably considered for singles release. Do you want to know a secret was covered by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas and provided them with their first major pop hit. Love me do was the debut single for the Beatles, making the UK top twenty at the time, though it would make the top five when re-released in the eighties.
This is not the best place to begin a Beatles collection but it is a great album in its own way and is required listening for all true Beatles fans.
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