UK album release: Please Please Me

9.00am, Friday 22 March 1963 (51 years ago)

The Beatles’ debut album was rush-released on this day to capitalise on the success of their singles Love Me Do and Please Please Me.

The singles had both been recorded in 1962. They were contained on the Please Please Me LP, along with their b-sides. The rest of the album had been recorded during a mammoth session on 11 February 1963, which lasted just under 10 hours.

Producer George Martin originally wanted to call the album Off The Beatle Track, but later dropped the idea.

On this day only the mono version was issued. Its catalogue number was PMC 1201. A stereo version – PCS 3042 – followed on Friday 26 April. Both were released on EMI’s Parlophone subsidiary.

Please Please Me was a huge success. It spent 70 weeks in the UK album charts from 6 April, and was at the top position for 30 weeks from 11 May. The sleeve notes were supplied by The Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow.

Pop picking is a fast ‘n’ furious business these days whether you are on the recording studio side listening out, or on the disc-counter side listening in. As a record reviewer I find myself installed halfway in-between with an ear cocked in either direction. So far as Britain’s record collecting public is concerned, The Beatles broke into earshot in October, 1962. My natural hometown interest in the group prevented me from taking a totally unbiased view of their early success. Eighteen months before their first visit to the EMI studios in London, The Beatles had been voted Merseyside’s favourite outfit and it was inevitable that their first Parlophone record, LOVE ME DO, would go straight to the top of Liverpool’s local hit parade. The group’s chances of national chart entry seemed much more remote. No other team had joined the best-sellers via a debut disk. But the Beatles were history-makers from the start and LOVE ME DO sold enough copies during its first 48 hours in the shops to send it soaring into the national charts. In all the busy years since pop singles first shrank from ten to seven inches I have never seen such a British group leap to the forefront of the scene with such speed and energy. Within the six months which followed the Top Twenty 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 surprising high place via the 1962/63 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 with The Beatles had introduced. Brian Matthew (who has since brought The Beatles to many millions of viewers and listeners in his “Thank Your Lucky Stars”, “Saturday Club” and “Easy Beat” programmes) describes the quartet as visually and musically the most exciting and accomplished group to emerge since The Shadows.

Disc reviewing, like disc producing, teaches one to be wary about making long-term predictions. The hit parade isn’t always dominated by the most worthy performances of the day so it is no good assuming that versatility counts for everything. It was during the recording of a Radio Luxembourg programme in the EMI Friday Spectacular series that I was finally convinced that The Beatles were about to enjoy the type of top-flight national fame which I had always believed that they deserved. The teen-audience didn’t know the evening’s line-up of artists and groups in advance, and before Muriel Young brought on The Beatles she began to read out their Christian names. She got as far as John … Paul … and the rest of her introduction was buried in a mighty barrage of very genuine applause. I cannot think of more than one other group – British or American – which would be so readily identified and welcomed by the announcement of two Christian names. To me, this was the ultimate proof that The Beatles (and not just one or two of their hit records) had arrived at the uncommon peak-popularity point reserved for discdom’s privileged few. Shortly afterwards The Beatles proved their pop power when the by-passed the lower segments of the hit parade to scuttle straight into the nation’s Top Ten with their second single, PLEASE PLEASE ME.

This brisk-selling disk went on to overtake all rivals when it bounced into the coveted Number One slot towards the end of February. Just over four months after the release of their very first record The Beatles had become triumphant chart-toppers!

Producer George Martin has never had any headaches over choice of songs for The Beatles. Their own built-in tunesmith team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney has already tucked away enough self-penned numbers to sustain a steady output of all-original singles from now until 1975! 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. Although so many people suggest (without closer definition) that The Beatles have a trans-Atlantic style, their only real influence has been from the unique brand of Rhythm and Blues folk music which abounds on Merseyside and which The Beatles themselves have helped pioneer since their formation in 1960.

The record comprises eight Lennon-McCartney compositions in addition to six other numbers which have become firm live-performance favourites in The Beatles’ varied repertoire.

The group’s admiration for the work of The Shirelles is demonstrated by the inclusion of BABY IT’S YOU (John taking the lead vocal with George and Paul supplying the harmony, and BOYS (a fast rocker which allows drummer Ringo to make his first recorded appearance as a vocalist). ANNA, ASK ME WHY, and TWIST AND SHOUT also feature stand-out solo performances from John, whilst DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET hands the audio spotlight to George. MISERY may sound as though it is a self-duet created by the multi-recording of a single voice … but the effect is produced by the fine matching of two voices belonging to John and Paul. John and Paul get together on THERE’S A PLACE and I SAW HERE STANDING THERE: George joins them for CHAINS, LOVE ME DO and PLEASE PLEASE ME.

Tony Barrow

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