[Review] The Beatles: Please Please Me (1963)

Elvis Presley and The Everly Brothers wrapped into the ultimate boy band.

Kronomyth 1.0: Everly Presley.

I’m nervous about writing a review of this album, since The Beatles’ fans are a well-informed and unforgiving lot. So let’s not bicker and argue about who played what, and have pity on my pathetically inadequate discography. If you agree that The Beatles are the greatest musical group of all time, and I’ve never heard a cogent argument to the contrary, then Please Please Me must be the greatest debut album of all time. Certainly, it has every ingredient for greatness: timeless hits, brilliant original material, top-notch production, and impeccable taste in covers.

Elvis Presley had rock & roll charisma and energy. The Everly Brothers had harmonies that made your knees buckle. The Beatles had all that plus boundless creativity and four unique personalities in John, Paul, George and Ringo. By the album’s fifth track, Boys, all four of the boys had taken their turn at the microphone: Paul McCartney on the rock & roll raver, I Saw Her Standing There; John Lennon on the downbeat Misery and Anna (Go to Him); George Harrison’s cameo on Chains; and Ringo Starr on a rocking cover of The Shirelles’ “Boys.” You just didn’t see or hear anything like that before The Beatles: four musicians who could sing, play their instruments well and write original songs. It was, if not a perfect democracy, at least a benevolent oligarchy.

Although The Beatles would move away from cover songs with time, they were connoisseurs of the contemporary R&B scene, plucking gems like Arthur Alexander’s “Anna,” The Isley Brothers’ Twist and Shout, Lenny Welch’s A Taste of Honey, and The Shirelles’ Baby It’s You. In some cases (e.g., “Twist and Shout”), their versions were daring revisions that dwarfed the originals. You could argue that The Beatles were stealing songs from black artists, but since some of those songs were written by white songwriters, you’d sort of end up in an endless circle of finger-pointing, and I’m sure you have better things to do with your fingers.

As a peace offering to fans of The Rolling Stones, I’ll concede that Please Please Me has perhaps one too many sha-la-la’s, de-doo-de-doo’s and whoa-whoa’s to make all but the most buttoned-down man comfortable. None of those things, however, substantially detract from the fact that Please Please Me raised the bar for rock and roll like nothing before it. From the perspective of musical history, it often feels like time can be divided into B.B. (Before the Beatles) and A.B (After the Beatles), with this album marking ground zero. Then again, I was born in the 60s, so maybe that’s just my impression.

Original elpee version

A1. I Saw Her Standing There
A2. Misery
A3. Anna (Go to Him) (Arthur Alexander)
A4. Chains (Gerry Goffin/Carole King)
A5. Boys (Luther Dixon/Wes Farrell)
A6. Ask Me Why
A7. Please Please Me
B1. Love Me Do
B2. P.S. I Love You
B3. Baby It’s You (Mack David/Barney Williams/Burt Bacharach)
B4. Do You Want to Know a Secret
B5. A Taste of Honey (Bobby Scott/Ric Marlow)
B6. There’s a Place
B7. Twist and Shout (Bert Russell/Phil Medley)

Songs written by Paul McCartney/John Lennon unless noted.

The Players

George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals), John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, vocals), Ringo Starr (drums, vocals). Produced by George Martin.

The Plastic

Released on mono and stereo elpee on March 22, 1963 in the UK (Parlophone, PMC 1202/PCS 3042). Reached #1 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on mono elpee in 1965 in the UK (Parlophone, PMC 1202).
  2. Re-issued on mono elpee in the US (Capitol, CLJ-46435).
  3. Released on elpee in Yugoslavia (Jugoton, LSPAR 70805).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in the UK (Parlophone, PCS 3042).
  5. Re-released on remastered elpee in 1983 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-1-101).
  6. Re-released on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2012 in Germany (EMI, PCS 3042).

1 thought on “[Review] The Beatles: Please Please Me (1963)

  1. February 26, 1987 saw worldwide CD releases of Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles for Sale. All four were in mono, which caused considerable furor among Beatles fans and audiophiles. Seemingly endless analysis appeared on the pros and cons of the mono mixes and the quality of the digital transfers. A frequently-heard accusation held that these four were hurriedly and poorly prepared in order to meet the deadline on the EMI timetable for what was to be the 20th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s. EMI claimed that stereo masters were prepared but said that when George Martin was called in to review them, he found their sound quality so bad that he remastered them in mono in time for the release date. (Thankfully, we have better Beatles CD’s available today.)

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