Very, very nearly 50 years ago The Beatles released their debut album on Parlophone. The album was released almost a decade before I was born and due to this (for me) Beatles songs have always “just been there”. They are to me so familiar (the songs) even though I am not a fan of the band in any deep way – that their songs are like nursery rhymes – you cannot recall hearing a lot of their more popular songs for the actual first time?
When I worked in an independent record store the owner would tell me, in fable like ways, about the day Revolver was released – and there being huge queues waiting. Those stories always sounded great, even if I was just a tad cynical reflecting on how much money The Beatles albums must have made him over the years.
I have not, before today, consciously listened to this album. I will, over time go through all of The Beatles albums in chronological order and offer my take – sounds like a worthy project. I will do a little bit of research, but largely, I’m doing this blind (not literally).
Please Please Me was released in early 1963, a period when Easy Listening and Film Scores / Musicals dominated the album charts. Reading up about the album, The Beatles and George Martin largely recorded the album in 24 hours. It is the sound of a live band in a studio. In the space of just over half-an-hour (running-time) 14 songs, 6 of which are cover versions, would shape the future of popular music as we know it.
I Saw Here Standing There (Lennon / McCartney) had just been a Number 1 single and forced Parlophone’s hand in rush-releasing the album. Listening to it today, it does sound very clear, sharp and well produced. At the risk of sounding like Norman Bates, I cannot listen to The Beatles without instantly remembering my Mother playing their records. This is my main issue with the band – the music, I feel is for an older generation – daft really, I wouldn’t say that about Shostakovich.
Misery (Lennon / McCartney) is less familiar. I may have actually never heard it before. Lively yet quite slow, not as catchy as the album opener but continuing the sound.
Anna (Go To Him) (Alexander) does sound dated whereas the two album openers have a fresh charm. Slow and a bit wishy-washy but by no means terrible.
Chains (Goffin / King) sung mainly by George Harrison also sounds dated and very early – mid 60’s. It’s a bit laboured but not offensively so.
Boys (Dixon / Farrell) and Ringo is let loose on the mic. It really doesn’t matter who is singing on this album, the overall sound is solidified largely to what is unmistakably a great music producer.
Ask Me Why (Lennon / McCartney) delivers more of that 60’s doo-woppy vocal. Sharp, mid-paced and again a song I’ve never heard until today.
Please Please Me (Lennon / McCartney) and, obviously a familar song for probably everyone. Very catchy and almost quaint.
Love Me Do (Lennon / McCartney) sounds, today, to me, like the best song on the album. The harmonica, the harmony and the overall sound make the track stand the test of time better than most.
P.S. I Love You (Lennon / McCartney) sounds slightly like an album filler. In fairness it is “an older” Beatles song. Slow, over lovey, but not garbage.
Baby It’s You (David, Williams, Bacharach) is more filler. Sorry Beatles fans, I’m not panning the album but this does not sound like the groundbreaking group The Beatles clearly were.
Do You Want To Know A Secret (Lennon / McCartney) shows the songs penned by John and Paul are head and shoulders above the songs penned for them. I’m of an age where this song will always make me recall Stars On 45. A very strong song.
A Taste Of Honey (Scott / Marlow) and we’re back to that Easy Listening sound. I’m getting the feeling that had the album not been rush-released, and it all been Lennon / McCartney, then The Beatles would have a much more credible debut album.
There’s A Place (Lennon / McCartney) is another song I have probably never heard before today. It is a weaker Lennon / McCartney number but in 1963 would have probably sounded 20 times more electrifying.
Twist And Shout (Medley / Russell) is the best non- Lennon / McCartney song on Please Please Me. Verve and charge in the vocals lift it even if it starts me humming La Bamba.
Please Please Me does sound dated but, as this reflection ponders, it must have been a revelation way back in 1963. For it to spend 30 straight weeks at Number 1 mirrors how it must have been lapped-up almost 50 full years ago…