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Please Please Me

Please Please Me is the first album recorded by The Beatles, rush-released on March 22, 1963 in the United Kingdom to capitalise on the success of singles "Please Please Me" (#2) and "Love Me Do" (#17). Of the album's fourteen songs, eight were written by Lennon/McCartney, early evidence of what Rolling Stone later called "[their invention of] the self-contained rock band, writing their own hits and playing their own instruments." In 2003, the magazine ranked the album number 39 on its list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It was ranked first among The Beatles' early albums, and sixth of all of The Beatles' albums, with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, Rubber Soul, The Beatles (The White Album) and Abbey Road ranked higher.

Rolling Stone also placed two songs from the album on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: #139, "I Saw Her Standing There", and #184, "Please Please Me". According to Allmusic, "Decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh," the covers are "impressive" and the originals "astonishing."

In the U.S., most of the songs on Please Please Me were first issued on Vee-Jay Records' Introducing The Beatles in 1964, and then subsequently on Capitol Records' The Early Beatles in 1965. The unexpurgated Please Please Me was not released in the U.S. until the Beatles catalog was standardized for CD. The album was released on CD in America on February 26, 1987. It was not released on vinyl or tape in America until five months later, when it was issued domestically for the first time in the US on LP and cassette on July 21, 1987.

Recording and release

In order for the album to contain fourteen songs (the norm for British twelve inch vinyl pop albums in 1963 was to have seven songs on each side, while American albums usually had only five or six songs per side) ten more tracks were needed to add to the four sides of their first two singles recorded and released previously. Therefore, at 10.00 a.m. on Monday, 11 February, at Abbey Road Studios, the Beatles and George Martin started recording what was essentially their live act in 1963, and finished 585 minutes later (9 hours and 45 minutes). In three sessions that day (each lasting approximately three hours) they produced an authentic representation of the band's Cavern Club-era sound, as there were very few overdubs and edits. George Martin initially contemplated recording the Please Please Me LP live at the Cavern in front of their own audience and visited the Liverpool club to experience the Beatles phenomenon for himself. But when time constraints intervened he decided to book them into Abbey Road Studios instead, and simply record them virtually live. Martin said, "It was a straightforward performance of their stage repertoire - a broadcast, more or less."

The day ended with a cover of "Twist and Shout", which had to be recorded last because John Lennon had a particularly bad cold and Martin feared the throat-shredding vocal would ruin Lennon's voice for the day. This performance, captured first take, and generally regarded as a classic, prompted Martin to say: "I don't know how they do it. We've been recording all day but the longer we go on the better they get."

The song "Hold Me Tight" was recorded during these sessions, but was "surplus to requirements" and was not included on the album. "Hold Me Tight" was recorded again on September 12, 1963 for With the Beatles.

The whole day's session cost around £400. George Martin said: "There wasn't a lot of money at Parlophone. I was working to an annual budget of £55,000." This, however, had to cover all of the artists on Martin's roster.

Individually, under a contract with the Musicians' Union, each Beatle was entitled to collect seven pounds and ten shillings (£7.50) session fee, for each three hour session, which they duly did. Martin considered calling the album Off the Beatle Track before Please Please Me was released on Parlophone PCS 3042.

Please Please Me was recorded on a two-track tape recording machine, with most of the instrumentation on one track and the vocals on the other, allowing for a better balance between the two on the final half-inch tape mix-down in mono. A stereo mix was made later, with one track on the left channel and the other on the right, and a layer of reverb was added to better blend the two tracks together. This was common practice for playback on stereo consoles, but has a dramatic effect when listening with headphones.

Please Please Me was officially released on CD on February 26, 1987, along with three other The Beatles' albums (With the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night, and Beatles for Sale), all in mono only.

Album cover and label

George Martin, a Fellow of London Zoo, thought that it might be good publicity for the zoo to have The Beatles pose outside the insect house for the cover photography of the album. However, the Zoological Society of London turned down Martin's offer, and instead, Angus McBean was asked to take the distinctive colour photograph of the group looking down over the stairwell inside EMI's London headquarters. Martin was to write later: “We rang up the legendary theatre photographer Angus McBean, and bingo, he came round and did it there and then. It was done in an almighty rush, like the music. Thereafter, though, the Beatles' own creativity came bursting to the fore". In 1969, The Beatles asked McBean to recreate this shot. Although the 1969 photograph was originally intended for the then-planned Get Back album, it was not used when that project saw eventual release in 1970 as Let It Be. Instead, the 1969 photograph, along with an unused photograph from the 1963 photo shoot, was used in 1973 for The Beatles retrospective albums The Beatles 1962 - 1966 and The Beatles 1967 - 1970.

The first pressings of the LP are the only The Beatles LPs that have the gold and black Parlophone label (gold writing on a black background). The mono version is highly sought after by collectors and the stereo version is even more so. The next Please Please Me LP label had a yellow and black Parlophone LP label (black with yellow writing). Later labels are usually black with silver writing and with either one or two EMI boxed logos.

Track listing

Personnel

According to Mark Lewisohn:

Chart positions

Singles

Billboard charts (North America)
Year Song Chart Rank
1964 "Do You Want to Know a Secret" Pop Singles 2
1964 "I Saw Her Standing There" Pop Singles 14
1964 "Love Me Do" Pop Singles 1
1964 "P.S. I Love You" Pop Singles 10
1964 "Please Please Me" Pop Singles 3
1964 "There's a Place" Pop Singles 74
1964 "Twist and Shout" Pop Singles 2
1986 "Twist and Shout" The Billboard Hot 100 23

Album

Highest chart position
Chart Rank
Disc Weekly 1
Melody Maker 1
NME 1
Record Retailer 1

It stayed on top for 30 weeks (from 11th May 1963). Weeks in chart: 74 (seventy weeks from 6th April 1963, and four weeks from 7th March 1987)

Further reading

  • Lewisohn, Mark The Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Years (1962-1970). New York: Harmony Books.
  • MacDonald, Ian Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • Martin, George; Pearson, William With a Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Boston: Little, Brown.

References

External links

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