Please Please Me (1963)


Title: It’s the name of the Beatles’ second EMI single, which had been released a couple of months earlier. ‘Please Please Me with Love Me Do and 12 other songs,’ announces the LP cover – should we be using this as its proper title?!

Cover: A gleeful photo of the band taken on a staircase at EMI’s London HQ. Christ, they look young. I suppose they were: Ringo, the eldest, was just 22. Years later, they wittily recreated the same pose in the same location – now with long hair and beards – for a photo intended (but not used) as the cover of their final LP.

Best song: The opening track, I Saw Her Standing There, written by Lennon and (mostly) McCartney. My heart goes boom every time I hear it. It’s a very powerful rocker: fun, vibrant and dynamic. It begins with a count-in to get you in the dance-hall mood (Paul’s “One, two, three, four…”) and has a suggestive lyric added by John (“She was just 17/You know what I mean.”).

Honourable mentions:

* The title track, with its harmonica phrases, strident guitar runs and detailed drumming, is tremendous. It was mainly written by Lennon. You can hear Beatlemania being born as Paul and George do their backing vocals.

* I also have a soft spot for Paul’s sombre, moody PS I Love You, which had also already been released (as the B-side to debut single Love Me Do).

* Twist and Shout is a sensational cover version, bettering the Isley Brothers’ original by boosting the energy and sense of danger. For most of us this recording is probably our best chance of understanding just how good the Beatles were on stage. It was recorded live in one take at the end of the session – Lennon’s throat was cut to ribbons by singing all day with a cold, and his vocal is thrillingly raw. The song brings the album to an almost orgasmic climax (listen carefully for a yelp of delight as the tracks fades out) and was later used in one of the most joyful scenes in any movie:

Worst song: Ringo hollering out the vocals on a cover of dreary Shirelles song Boys.

Notable outside contributions: The drumming on this version of Love Me Do was by session man Andy White, much to Ringo’s chagrin, because producer George Martin wasn’t convinced by Starr’s abilities. (Ringo drummed on the take that had earlier been released as a single.)

Review: The bulk of the album – 10 of 14 tracks – famously had to be recorded in one day (11 February 1963), so we get a handful of instant classics mixed in with some polished if unspectacular songs from the band’s live set. Remarkably for the era, Lennon and McCartney wrote over half the album (there are also six cover versions), but George and Ringo have to make do with three poor songs between them to sing. When it’s good it’s magnificent, but most of it is throwaway fluff.

Seven chains of love out of 10.

Thanks to Gareth Davies for suggesting this idea.

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