The Beatles: Please Please Me – [Record 188]
Please Please Me is the debut album by the English rock band the Beatles. Parlophone rush-released the album on 22 March 1963 in the United Kingdom to capitalise on the success of the singles “Please Please Me” (No. 1 on most lists but only No. 2 on Record Retailer) and “Love Me Do” (No. 17).
Of the album’s 14 songs, eight were written by Lennon–McCartney (originally credited “McCartney–Lennon”), early evidence of what Rolling Stone later called “[their invention of] the idea of the self-contained rock band, writing their own hits and playing their own instruments.” In 2012, Please Please Me was voted 39th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
1. I Saw Her Standing There.
3. Anna (Go to Him).
6. Ask Me Why.
7. Please Please Me.
1. Love Me Do.
2. P.S. I Love You.
3. Baby It’s You.
4. Do You Want to Know a Secret?.
5. A Taste of Honey.
6. There’s a Place.
7. Twist and Shout.
Recording: In order for the album to contain 14 songs (the norm for British 12″ vinyl pop albums at that time was to have seven songs on each side, while American albums usually had only five or six songs per side), 10 more tracks were needed to add to the four sides of their first two singles recorded and released previously. Therefore, at 10:00 am on Monday, 11 February 1963, the Beatles and George Martin began recording essentially their live act in 1963 and finished at 10:45 pm—less than 13 hours later. In three sessions that day (each lasting approximately three hours) they produced an authentic representation of the band’s Cavern Club-era sound, with only a few minor overdubs and edits. Optimistically, only two sessions were originally booked by Martin and the evening session was an afterthought. Mark Lewisohn would later write: “There can scarcely have been 585 more productive minutes in the history of recorded music” Martin overdubbed the piano on “Misery” on 20 February and celesta on “Baby It’s You” five days later.
Martin had initially contemplated recording the album live at the Cavern in front of the group’s home audience and visited the Liverpool club to consider the technicalities on 9 December 1962—or, as more recent scholarship indicates, on 12 December 1962. But when time constraints intervened, he decided to book them at EMI Studios in Abbey Road instead and 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 on the first take, 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 not included on the album. “Hold Me Tight” was recorded again on 12 September 1963 for With the Beatles.
The whole day’s session cost around £400 (£10,000 as of 2015). George Martin said: “There wasn’t a lot of money at Parlophone. I was working to an annual budget of £55,000.” This budget had to cover all of the artists on Martin’s roster. Individually, under a contract with the Musicians’ Union, each Beatle collected a £7 10s (£7.50) session fee for each three-hour session.
Martin considered calling the album Off the Beatle Track before Please Please Me was released on Parlophone PCS 3042. The album was recorded on a two-track BTR reel-to-reel tape deck, 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 quarter-inch tape mix-down in mono. A stereo mix was made at the same time as the mono mix, with one track on the left channel and the other on the right, as well as an added layer of reverb to better blend the two tracks together. This was common practice for mixing stereo albums at the time.
Release: Please Please Me was released as a mono LP album on the Parlophone label in the UK on 22 March 1963, and has remained on UK catalogue continuously since 1963. The stereo version was released on 26 April, over a month after the mono version.
- Vinyl (12″) record (stereo and mono)
- Reel-to-reel (3-3/4-ips) (mono) (paperbox) [deleted late 1960)
- Reel-to-reel (3-3/4-ips (mono)+(stereo)) (plastic boxes) [deleted mid-1970s]
- 8-track tape (stereo) [deleted late 1970s]
- Cassette tape (originally released in stereo, re-issued in mono in 1988) [deleted late 1990s]
- CD (1987 version) (mono) [deleted 2009]
- CD (remastered in 2009) (stereo and limited edition mono)
- Digital Download (remastered in 2009) (stereo)
- Vinyl (re-issue of the 1963 vinyl, but used 2009 CD release) (stereo)
In the United States, most of the songs on Please Please Me were first issued on Vee-Jay Records’ Introducing… The Beatles in 1964, and subsequently on Capitol Records’ The Early Beatles in 1965. Please Please Me was not released in the US until the Beatles’ catalogue was standardised for CD.
In Canada, the majority of the album’s songs were included upon the Canadian-exclusive release Twist and Shout, which featured “From Me to You” and “She Loves You” in place of “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Misery”.
In New Zealand, the album first appeared only in mono on the black Parlophone label. The following year (1964) EMI (NZ) changed from black to a blue Parlophone label and the album was again available only in mono. Due to constant demand, it was finally made available in stereo, first through the World Record Club on their Young World label in both mono and stereo, and finally on the blue Parlophone label.
The album was released on CD on 26 February 1987 in mono, as were their three subsequent albums, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles for Sale. It was not released on vinyl or tape in the US until five months later when it was issued for the first time in the US on LP and cassette on 21 July 1987.
Please Please Me was remastered and re-released on CD in stereo, along with all the other original UK studio albums, on 9 September 2009. The 2009 remasters replaced the 1987 remasters. A remastered mono CD was also available as part of the limited edition The Beatles in Mono box set.
Sleeve notes: As consistent with all early 1960s albums made in the UK, the rear of the album sleeve has sleeve notes. The Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow wrote extensive sleeve notes, which included a brief mention of their early 1960s rivals the Shadows.
Album cover: George Martin was an honorary fellow of the Zoological Society of London, which owns the London Zoo. Martin 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 society 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 in Manchester Square. 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 1962–1966 and 1967–1970. Another unused photograph from the 1963 photo shoot was used for The Beatles (No. 1) (also released in 1963).
Reception: Please Please Me hit the top of the UK album charts in May 1963 and remained there for 30 weeks before being replaced by With the Beatles. This was surprising because the UK album charts at the time tended to be dominated by film soundtracks and easy listening vocalists.
In a 1987 review upon its CD reissue, Rolling Stone magazine’s Steve Pond recommended Please Please Me “for the Beatles’ unfettered joy at making music”. In 2012, Please Please Me was voted 39th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “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: No. 140, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and No. 186, “Please Please Me”. According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, “Decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh,” the covers are “impressive” and the originals “astonishing.”