Please Please Me
was the title of The Beatles
first international hit single, ("Love Me Do" was successful mainly in Liverpool
, their home town), and also the title of their first album. The album was released on March 2
in the United Kingdom
, due only to the constant efforts of producer George Martin
. To date, the Beatles had released only two singles ("Love Me Do"/"P.S. I Love You" - October 5
; "Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why" - January 11
) with only moderate success. At the time, groups rarely released an LP unless the album was supported by a massive hit or popular film. Martin pushed for the album to be released, and many of the tracks came to be hits in the UK and/or the United States
(some not until it was re-released two years later). American audiences saw only one Beatles single ("Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why" - February 25
) before Please Please Me
was released (under the title Introducing the Beatles
on Vee-Jay Records
). "Please Please Me" and "Ask Me Why" were not included on the original American release of the album.
The most remarkable thing about this album was that is was recorded in just fifteen hours on February 11, 1963 (but see "Love Me Do", below). Some of the tracks on the album were not actually composed by the group, but were covers of rock standards of the time and, with the exception of "Twist And Shout", have proved fairly unmemorable and only interesting for the insight they give into the band's own tastes in music at the time.
Please Please Me was recorded on a two-track recorder at Abbey Road, originally in mono and then stereo. The stereo version has never been released except on vinyl.
Most of the songs were recorded with the following credits (exceptions are noted):
- John: Rhythm guitar and lead vocals
- Paul: Bass guitar
- George: Lead guitar
- Ringo: Drums
"Baby It's You"
"A Taste of Honey"
- originally performed by The Shirelles, written by Dixon/Farrel
- Ringo Starr - lead vocals (As became the standard, Ringo performed the lead vocals on exactly one track on the album.) Paul, John and George did the background vocals.
- As Ringo's first recorded vocals, this song remains one of the standards for his vocal performances. Ringo had his own following throughout Beatlemania, and this was one of his fans' most favorite songs of his, and was known colloquially as "Ringo's Theme".
"Twist and Shout"
- originally performed Lenny Welch, a popular standard that was also recorded by Martin Denny, the Victor Feldman Quartet, Tony Bennett, Herb Alpert among others
- written by Hal David, Burt Bacharach and ??? Williams, originally from a film by the same name (see A Taste of Honey)
- Paul McCartney - lead vocals
- John Lennon and George Harrison - backup vocals
- This song was so popular at the time that Beatles had been forced to perform it in Germany, due to audience demand. The group didn't actually like the song very much.
- originally performed by The Isley Brothers, recorded on June 2, 1962, released May 7, 1962
- By the time Lennon got to this song in the recording marathon for Please Please Me, his throat was in much pain, hence the pained and tortured delivery that makes the Beatles version of this popular cover both distinctive and definitive. Lennon claimed: "I couldn't sing the damn thing, I was just screaming."
- Memorably used in the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it was subsequently rereleased as a single in 1986.
- Paul McCartney and George Harrison - backup vocals
"I Saw Her Standing There"
- John Lennon - harmony
- Paul McCartney - lead vocals
- Written by Paul McCartney
- Originally titled "Seventeen"
- Originally written on a Liverpool Institute exercise book
- Lennon changed "never been a beauty queen" to "you know what I mean".
- Distinct for it's "One-two-three-FAA!" opening (done to make it seem live), "I Saw Her Standing There" is one of the most enduring songs off the album. It is about the singer, attending a dance and seeing a girl who is "beautiful beyond compare". The chorus has an unusual chord progression for rock and roll songs. The song is known for being one of the better examples of Ringo's drum fills, as well as including a Chuck Berry-influenced guitar solo by George Harrison. The bassline was taken from Berry's "I'm Talking to You".
- released as a B-side to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (December 26, 1963; Capitol Records), a seven-week American #1 hit on January 18, 1964
- a live version was successful released as a duet between Elton John and John Lennon in the mid 1970s
"Ask Me Why"
- Written by John Lennon backstage at the King's Hall, Glebe Street, Stoke-on-Trent on January 26, 1963
- "Misery"'s emotional tone and pace speeds up, intensifies and slows down repeatedly, making this song one of the more innovative ones on the album, as far as defining the Beatles' future sound. It is a depressing subject, concerning two brokenhearted boys, distraught over the loss of their lovers. The song was originally offered to British singer Helen Shapiro, however her management refused it. The opening line, "The world is treating me bad, misery" was originally "You've been treating me bad, misery" until Lennon and McCartney changed in order to give the song a greater international appeal.
"Love Me Do"
- "Ask Me Why" is a nice slow song, though it's distinctively early 1960s, and has not aged terribly well. The song was written by John Lennon. The song owes a strong debt to Smokey Robinson, one of Lennon's favorite singers.
- B-side to first American single, "Please Please Me", released February 25, 1963 on Vee-Jay Records
- George Harrison, Paul McCartney- harmony
"P.S. I Love You"
- The band's first number one single, "Love Me Do" is a heartfelt pop song with John Lennon's harmonica work. The lyrics were written by Paul McCartney. The single version was not the same as that released on Please Please Me; the single was recorded September 14, 1962 in fifteen takes, but George Martin was not entirely satisfied. One week later, Andy White, a session drummer, was invited (by Martin) to replaced Ringo (who had only just replaced Pete Best as drummer) on the track. Ringo played the tambourine while White played on a take of the song. The single included Ringo on drums, but for hazy reasons, Martin used White's on the album. He claimed it was because the master tape had been sent overseas to an EMI subsidiary company. After 1963, all single re-releases of "Love Me Do" were White's.
- British single released October 5, 1962 (Parlophone R4949)
- American single released April 27, 1964 (Tollie 9008), not released until after the band became a massive American success
- Peaked at #17 on the British charts
- 1 on American charts (May 30, 1964), Top 100 for 14 weeks
- John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison - harmony
- Sandie Shaw released a cover of this song in the late 1960s.
- David Bowie performed the song live several times around 1973, during the height of his Ziggy Stardust fame.
"Do You Want to Know a Secret"
- "P.S. I Love You" seems outdated to most modern ears, but is a heartfelt love song, distinctively written by Paul McCartney. He composed the tune to his then-girlfriend, Dot Rhone in 1961, while living in Hamburg, Germany. He wrote the song after Dot (along with John's future wife, Cynthia) visited the boys, and was meant to assure her that he would be coming back to her in Liverpool soon. Upon his return, however, McCartney broke up with Dot.
- Ringo Starr - maracas
- Andy White - drums
- John Lennon and Paul McCartney - lead vocals
- George Harrison - harmony
"There's a Place"
- George Harrison - lead vocals
- John Lennon and Paul McCartney - backup vocals
- This song was written by Lennon to his then-pregnant girlfriend, Cynthia. The titular "secret" was that he loved her, and wanted to marry her. The song was inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (the Disney movie), which includes Snow White singing "Wanna know a secret? Promise not to tell? We are standing by a wishing well" to a group of doves. George Harrison, the singer, claimed the song was partially inspired by "I Really Love You (The Stereo; 1961), a doo wop hit. Lennon let Harrison sing it because "it only had three notes and he wasn't the best singer in the world"; Harrison strains to hit the high notes. "Do You Want to Know a Secret" was innovative for its time in that the opening phrase was not repeated elsewhere in the song. The song's remarkable shifts in tone, from gloom at the beginning to minor-chord plucking uncertainty.
- Originally released by Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, a #2 hit in the UK
"Please Please Me"
- "There's a Place" could be a reprise of "Love Me Do", but instead, takes on its own identity, almost echoing Brian Wilson's "In My Room". Both songs are about the singer's inability to cope with the real world, and his retreat into a special place to be alone and isolated.
- John Lennon - harmonica
- Paul McCartney - harmony
- A cover version was released by The Flamin' Groovies.
It is amazing to listen to this record and then Abbey Road back to back. The former being the Beatles first album and the latter their last, you can see how the band's sound changed incredibly in just eight years. The Beatles were hard workers, especially when recording this album. Listen to Lennon's vocal in "Twist And Shout" and imagine how he could pull it out after a whole day of singing songs. The song was a single take, the most famous in history, and epitomized the Beatles unreal approach to music.
- John Lennon - harmonica
- George Harrison, Paul McCartney - harmony
- "Please Please Me" is the epitome of the Beatles early sound, Merseybeat. It is usually considered sexual in tone, as Lennon (the songwriter) implores a girl to sleep with him, and some interpreters believe the song is meant to refer specifically to oral sex ("Last night I said these words to my girl/You know you never even try girl/Come on, come on, come on come on/Please please me, o yeah, like I please you"). The song was inspired by Lennon's love for Roy Orbison, though the title comes from a Bing Crosby song ("Please", 1932, written by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, a massive hit), which begins "Oh please, lend your little ear to my pleas"; Lennon fondly remembered his mother singing the song as a child, and used the repetition of the sounds "pleas" in his own composition. Lennon had originally intended for the song to be much slower than it ended up being, but it was sped up at Martin's insistence.
- Producer George Martin predicted (through the studio intercom) the album would reach #1 as soon as this song was recorded.
- First American single, released February 25, 1963 on Vee-Jay Records, with "Ask Me Why" as the B-side
- Cover version released in French by Petula Clark in 1963
- Cover version released by The Score soon after Clark's version
The Beatles synthesized multiple genres of music from the 1950s and early 1960s. Girl groups (The Shirelles, The Angels, The Crystals, as well as other early rock and roll (Little Richard), soul (Roy Orbison), surf rock (The Beach Boys and R&B (Smokey Robinson) artists. In particular, "Misery" and "There's a Place" are influenced by the best of the girl groups, incorporated a dance-able beat with beautiful harmonies and downbeat subject matter. Little Richard's influence can be heard in songs like "I Saw Her Standing There", with McCartney's gospelii-inflected bridge climax. In "Please Please Me", Harrison's guitar riff, which seems to be a response to the lyrics, sound strongly influenced by The Everly Brothers, ascending, climactic style. The same song was an explicit ode to Lennon's hero, Roy Orbison. Songs like "Love Me Do" reflected an influence from American blues, while jazz chords can be heard in "P.S. I Love You", which also shows a vocal debt to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, particularly in McCartney's sudden shifts in register, from low to high, a distinctively Presleyian style. "Do You Want to Know a Secret" has identifiably doo wop vocals, influenced, according to George Harrison, by The Stereo's 1961 hit "I Really Love You".
Stylistically, Please Please Me was massively influential, bringing one the of the most influential groups into international consciousness. The Beatles' intepretation of rock and roll came to dominate the world's popular music scene starting soon after the release of this album, and has thus come to influence most genres of music that came afterwards. The most direct descendant is the harmony-driven pop of groups like The Beach Boys (All Summer Long - 1964) and The Zombies (Odessey and Oracle - 1968), and power pop, beginning the early 1970s (Big Star; Radio City - 1974). In addition, the British Invasion was led by the Beatles, and all of the groups involved sounded at least somewhat like the Beatles, ranging from the folk-pop of The Kinks (The Kink Kontroversy - 1965) to the harder rock of The Rolling Stones (The Rolling Stones Now - 1965) and The Who (The Who Sings My Generation - 1965). The Beatles' casual, danceable sound helped provide the basis for what would eventually become heavy metal, pub bands like The Yardbirds (Five Live Yardbirds - 1964) and The Small Faces (The Small Faces - 1966). In addition, the Beatles would go on to help lead the hippies in the late 1960s, and thus came to influence the music of that time, folk-pop like The Band (The Band - 1969) and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Déjà Vu - 1970), as well as the acid rock of the Jimi Hendrix Experience (Are You Experienced - 1967) and Cream (Disraeli Gears - 1967).
- "I Saw Her Standing There" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "Misery" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "Anna (Go to Him)" (Arthur Alexander)
- "Chains" (Goffin/King)
- "Boys" (Dixon/Farrell)
- "Ask Me Why" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "Please Please Me" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "Love Me Do" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "P.S. I Love You" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "Baby It's You" (David/Williams/Bacharach)
- "Do You Want to Know a Secret" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "A Taste of Honey" (Scott/Marlow)
- "There's a Place" (McCartney/Lennon)
- "Twist and Shout" (Medley/Russel)
- George Harrison - Guitar, Vocals
- John Lennon - Guitar, Harmonica, Guitar (Rhythm), Vocals
- Paul McCartney - Guitar (Bass), Vocals
- Ringo Starr - Drums, Maraccas, Tambourine, Vocals
- George Martin - Piano, Producer
- Tony Barrow - Liner Notes
- Angus McBean - Photography
- Andy White - Drums
Billboard Music Charts
1964 Do You Want To Know A Secret Pop Singles No. 2
1964 Love Me Do Pop Singles No. 1
1964 P.S. I Love You Pop Singles No. 10
1964 Please Please Me Pop Singles No. 3
1964 There's A Place Pop Singles No. 74
1986 Twist And Shout The Billboard Hot 100 No. 23