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Something to twist and shout about: The Beatles’ Please Please Me hits 50

February 17, 2013

the_beatles_and_george_martin_pose_with_a_silver_disc_of_please_please_me

Silver-lining playback: just a few short months after Please Please Me’s release, The Beatles pose with producer George Martin in celebration of the album hitting 250,000 sales and making it to ‘silver’ status

Now, everyone who’s got something to hide (except for me and my monkey) know that The Beatles got started that fateful day way back in July 1957  when John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at a little fête in Liverpool. If you want to put their start later than that, mind, then there’s an argument for it coming with their brotherly-bonding and dynamic-forming trips to Hamburg between ’60 and ’62, or you may even be able to push it to the moment when Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best as the quartet’s drummer in August ’62 and the fab foursome’s true line-up was at last formed. But no later than that surely. Certainly not as late as ’63.

To this Beatles fan’s mind, though, they really got started at the beginning of that very year, for it was 50 years ago last Monday (February 11 1963) that their first album Please Please Me was recorded and, within weeks, nay days, the whole Beatles phenomenon truly got started. Yes, it was the recording (merely within an amazing 12 hours) and the release to the world at large of this collection of 14 songs that established The Fabs as a fabulous, own-musical-writing entity – as well as marvellous Mop Topped superstars for the early ’60s bobby-soxers and beyond.

So here follows this blog‘s pictorial, musical and, yes, quotable tribute to the golden anniversary of the beginning of Please Please Me – and with it then the ‘beginning’ of The Beatles…

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“There wasn’t a lot of money at Parlophone. I was working to an annual budget of £55,000 and I could spend it however I wished, but I had to produce a certain amount of records a year. So I wanted to get The Beatles’ first album recorded in a day and released very quickly, because once we’d made the first single, my commercial mind told me that I had to have an album out very soon. So I got the boys together and asked them: ‘What have you got? What can we record quickly?’ They replied by telling me: ‘Only the stuff we can do in our act!’ I then chose the stuff that would appeal to the kids of the day, things like ‘Anna’ and ‘Chains’, and lots of rock and roll standards. We recorded ten titles in one day, starting at 10 o’clock in the morning and finishing at about 11 o’clock at night and completed the album” ~ George Martin, All You Need Is Ears, 1979

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paul_mccartney_recording_please_please_mejohn_lennon_with_a_cup_of_tea_possibly_during_the_recording_of_please_please_me

It takes two, baby: Paul gets on with the job (left), while John’s caught out having a tea break (right)

“The first LP we did at 10 o’clock in the morning, just after a night out. We played the stage act right through, and then went home. We sat and talked about it (the recording), recorded the tracks, we went home and they just mixed it. They’d ring us in a couple of weeks, and we would say: ‘Is our record ready yet?’ It was like putting a film in the chemist” ~ Paul McCartney

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“Most of their debut album was recorded in a single session on February 11 1963. It was released on March 22 1963 and reached the top spot in the British charts. In America it was titled ‘Introducing The Beatles’, and released on the little-known Vee Jay label. The US version didn’t include ‘Please Please Me’ or ‘Ask Me Why’ and failed to make the charts” ~ Steve Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 1994

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george_martin_paul_mccartney_george_harrison_and_john_lennon_record_please_please_mepaul_mccartney_john_lennon_and_george_martin_recording_please_please_me

A day in the studio with George: the band converse and collaborate with producer ace George Martin

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“It wasn’t always going to be called ‘Please Please Me’. George Martin thought of naming it ‘Off the Beatle Track’ and Paul even doodled a few cover ideas before the idea was dropped. (George clearly retained a liking for it however, for on 10 July 1964 he released an orchestral LP of Beatles tracks with that title)” ~ The Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn, p.32, 1988

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“In all the busy years since pop singles first shrank from ten to seven inches I have never seen a British group leap to the forefront of the scene with such speed and energy. Within the six months which followed the Top 20 appearance of ‘Love Me Do’, almost every leading deejay and musical journalist in the country began to shout the praises of The Beatles. Readers of the New Musical Express voted the boys into a surprisingly high place via the 1962/3 popularity poll… on the strength of just one record release. Pictures of the group spread themselves across the front pages of three national music papers. People inside and outside the record industry expressed tremendous interest in the new vocal and instrumental sounds which The Beatles had introduced” ~ from Please Please Me’s sleeve notes written by The Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow

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paul_mccartney_and_john_lennon_recording_please_please_megeorge_martin_ringo_starr_and_john_lennon_listen_to_material_during_the_recording_of_please_please_me

Guitar men; studio brethren: Paul and John together (l); Ringo and John listen with George Martin (r) 

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“Between them, The Beatles adopt a do-it-yourself approach from the very beginning. They write their own lyrics, design and eventually build their own instrumental backdrops and work out their own vocal arrangements. Their music is wild, pungent, hard-hitting, uninhibited… and personal. The do-it-yourself angle ensures complete originality at all stages of the process” ~ from Please Please Me’s sleeve notes written by The Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow

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“I was a fellow of London Zoo and, rather stupidly, thought that it would be great to have The Beatles photographed outside the insect house. But the zoo people were very stuffy indeed: ‘We don’t allow these kind of photographs on our premises, quite out of keeping with the good taste of the Zoological Society of London,’ so the idea fell down. I bet they regret it now…” ~ George Martin, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

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the_beatles_outside_abbey_road_studios_c._1963alternative_photo_by_angus_mcbean_for_please_please_me_album_artwork

Let it be McBean: two of Angus McBean’s iconic images captured for the album’s artwork – John holding Paul, Ringo and George outside EMI/ Abbey Road Studios (l) and an alternate version of the classic album cover shot of the band looking down the staircase of EMI’s London HQ in Manchester Square (r)

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“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” ~ George Martin on the shooting of Please Please Me’s album artwork

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More:

BBC4’s ‘Please Please Me: Remaking A Classic’ on the iPlayer (available in the UK and Northern Ireland for the next few days)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon permalink
    February 19, 2013 7:25 pm

    Well I learnt something new today, I always thought the iconic staircase photo was taken in the residential flats at the north end of Abbey Road. No doubt a titbit of info passed on by some misinformed individual, as I am now guessing the Beatles association with Abbey Road would be a much later occurrence.

    • February 19, 2013 11:16 pm

      Yep, many sources attest it was the Manchester Square HQ of EMI that the iconic cover shot was taken. Of course, a ‘return’ shot taken years later was used for the cover of the early ’70s compilation ‘Blue’ album too.

      Thanks for your comment, Simon… 🙂

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