Thursday, June 12, 2014

39. Please Please Me (1963) The Beatles




After several years of trying, John, George, Paul and Ringo were let into a recording studio in 1963 to record a full length LP. It was something they'd dreamed about for years and when they finally had the chance they not only had access to a great recording studio but were also lucky enough to have an understanding genius as producer and mentor. The pain of the failed Decca audition and the many rejection letters was finally erased as they spent a day in the studio running through selected highlights from their repertoire. A few weeks later the album was quickly rushed out to the British public who lapped it up and demanded more. The rest of the world followed suit except for the US who took a lot longer to realise they had something worth enjoying on their hands.

Rolling Stone magazine rates this album as the greatest of their original "Beatlemania period," which I'm not sure I'd agree with, but it's hard to argue that it's still a joyous musical moment and 50 years after it was released it still holds up.

Track by Track...

I Saw Her Standing There

Standing is just perfect. From its raucous opening to "Well my heart went boom" and everything else in between. It's just joyous and it sounds great on a crap old radio or a shiny new system or headphones or even in your own voice in the shower.

Misery

Not the dynamic duo's finest songwriting hour and nobody's favourite Beatles song. It probably doesn't help that the Beatles don't actually sound miserable. You could change the opening line to "The World is treating me grand, Happiness" and they wouldn't sing it any differently. They sound like a band who are just delighted to be in a recording studio.

(Anna) Go to Him

One of the criticisms levelled at the early Beatles was that they took the music of black artists and made it white and acceptable for white audiences. Anna was the first time anyone heard this trick pulled off and you can kind of see why some people were annoyed. It does sound awfully white. I've got no doubt John listened to enough Black music to understand it but he sounds very white while he does it. There must have been people with the original Alexander Armstrong version in their record collection wondering why they needed to hear the song being performed by white kids. As the first cover on a Beatles album it's not an especially auspicious start. Anna is one of the songs that makes Please Please Me one of their lesser early albums and not one of the great ones.

Chains

George Harrison takes the lead vocals in their second cover. The Beatles didn't just record cover versions of songs by blues and soul singers, they took the unusual step of recording music by girl groups. They took songs originally written for female groups and made them rock and roll hits. It was a rich vein of songwriting that not many of their contemporaries were tapping into and made a welcome addition to their repertoire. Their ability to harmonize perfectly suited a lot of girl pop ballads.

Boys.

Another girl group hit only this time with lyrics that were slightly harder to make gender neutral. Not that anyone really cared at the time. Ringo takes his turn at vocals and does a great job of nailing this Shiralees track. Ringo had a limited range and wasn't the world's best vocalist but the band and Martin knew how to get the most out of it. His track on every Beatles album is always a treat but never enough to make you wish he had more.

Ask Me Why

One of those great little Beatles tracks which shows off their ability to harmonise, rock and just add a touch of joyous to any room they're playing in. It's a neat little gem tucked away on their first album and totally overlooked by anyone who doesn't actually listen to Beatles albums in their entirety. It's reason enough to give this album a listen if you've only heard the Fab Four on the radio or on compilations.

Please Please Me.

This is the track that everyone points to whenever anyone asks how much of a contribution George Martin made to the Beatles legacy. Apparently PPM was originally a slow, croony ballad written in a Roy Orbison style. George told the band to speed it up and their first number one hit was born. George really was the perfect fit for The Beatles. All hail George.

Love Me Do.

The Beatles first single and definitely their most boring. Love Me Do is a slow dirgy plod that sounded a bit like a breath of fresh air when it was first released by quickly became turgid compared to what followed.

PS I Love You

An early McCartney ballad and a very pretty one. It's proof that Paul could write a genuinely effective love song that didn't descend into mawkish. In his later years he would mawk a lot more easily but early on he was capable of being comparatively mawk free.

Baby It's You

One of those early Beatles songs which was more Brian Epstein's idea than the Beatles. Brian didn't really know how to market the Beatles at first because they were breaking new territory. He was keen for them to try and straddle both worlds and do rock and adult numbers from musicals. Baby It's You is a Bacharach number and while I'm sure there are people who like the original it's nobody's favourite Beatles song.

Do You Want to Know a Secret

At this stage in their career everyone was applauding George just for trying. Well done George you wrote a song! Good for you. It would be a few years before he was churning out great material but when he did it was definitely worth hearing.

A Taste of Honey

Another song that Brian wanted them to record. Apparently John hated this song so much he used to change the words to "A Waste of Money" when he sang it live. He certainly sings it without any kind of conviction on the record.

There's a Place

Anyone who disregards the Beatles as bubblebum pop obsessed with hand-holding and dances needs to sit down and listen to this track. It's mature song writing about a mature subject matter and is a genuinely grown up song. They didn't need to wait to get long hair and a psychadelic wardrobe to start being introspective. It was all there on their first album.

Twist and Shout 

I've heard dozens of versions of this song and nobody had managed to do it this well. Twist and Shout is simply fantastic and some of the best flat-out rock and roll anyone recorded in 1963. People forget that while the Beatles might have been novices when it came to a recording studio, they were seasoned pros when it came to playing the music they loved. They'd been doing it for years and despite a drummer change, were a tight unit when George Martin came to finally record them.


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This is monkee music. Don't listen to it. The Beatles were only good after 1965 with HELP! and RUBBER SOUL. After that they had talent."

-Quiet! Silly person.

So does this please you? Let me know below.


3 comments:

  1. "Dont bother me" was George Harrison's first song.
    "do you want to know a secret" was by Lennon.

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  2. Great start to a huge career. Many,many highlights plus a few they would rather forget . Just love Standing, Twist, There''s a place, Just around the corner was She Loves You, i Wanna Hold Your Hand etc. Dont miss the 50th anniversary Oz visit ABC show on I view on now.

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  3. I think this album in particular is ranked too high, and I think that although it is a good album and should be on the list somewhere, it should be way lower than 39. It's too inconsistent to be considered a classic album worthy of this ranking imo

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