At the time of Please Please Me’s release, Parlophone was in the process of changing its label design. Early pressings of the vinyl disc’s label featured gold writing on a black background. This version is now highly sought after, and, due to low public demand in 1963, the stereo version is particularly valued by collectors.
The labels on the very first pressing carried a publishing credit alongside each of the McCartney-Lennon originals, which said “Dick James Mus. Co.” – apart from ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘PS I Love You’, which were published by Ardmore & Beechwood Ltd.
A second pressing also featured the gold-on-black lettering, but the publishing credit had changed to “Northern Songs Ltd.” These releases are equally as valuable, and it is believed that fewer than 1,000 copies of the mono and stereo versions were made.
From the third pressing Parlophone switched to the standard yellow-on-black block letter variation that was used by the company until 1969.
In the US the album was released on 10 January 1964 by the Vee-Jay label, under the title Introducing The Beatles. It lacked the songs ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Ask Me Why’, but the tracklisting was otherwise identical.
Although it would eventually sell millions of copies, Please Please Me wasn’t an instant hit. It took six months for sales to top 250,000, although it did top the New Musical Express, Melody Maker, Record Retailer, and Disc Weekly album charts.
Please Please Me entered the charts on 6 April 1963, remaining on the rundown for a total of 70 weeks. It reached number one on 11 May, where it stayed for 30 weeks.
The sleeve notes for Please Please Me, as with The Beatles’ subsequent two UK albums, were written by the group’s 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 in 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 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 into 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 disc. 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 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 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. 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 how 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 they 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 disc 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 maintain 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 the Merseyside and which The Beatles themselves have helped pioneer since their formation in 1960.
This record comprises eight Lennon-McCartney compositions in addition to six other numbers which have become firm love-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. There is only one ‘trick duet’ and that is on A TASTE OF HONEY featuring a dual-voiced Paul. John and Paul get together on THERE’S A PLACE and I SAW HER STANDING THERE: George joins them for CHAINS, LOVE ME DO and PLEASE PLEASE ME.