Please Please Me

Please Please Me single - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11 September, 26 November 1962
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 11 January 1963 (UK), 25 February 1963 (US)

John Lennon: lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
George Harrison: harmony vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
Please Please Me
Anthology 1
On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2

The follow-up to The Beatles' début single Love Me Do, Please Please Me was originally written as a slow, bluesy song in the style of Roy Orbison. Producer George Martin persuaded The Beatles to rearrange the song, which duly became their first number one single.

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We'd had a top 30 entry with Love Me Do and we really thought we were on top of the world. Then came Please Please Me - and wham! We tried to make it as simple as possible. Some of the stuff we've written in the past has been a bit way-out, but we aimed this one straight at the hit parade.
John Lennon, 1963

The song was written by John Lennon at his Aunt Mimi's house in Menlove Avenue, Liverpool.

Please Please Me is my song completely. It was my attempt at writing a Roy Orbison song, would you believe it? I wrote it in the bedroom in my house at Menlove Avenue, which was my auntie's place... I remember the day and the pink coverlet on the bed and I heard Roy Orbison doing Only The Lonely or something. That's where that came from. And also I was always intrigued by the words of 'Please, lend me your little ears to my pleas' - a Bing Crosby song. I was always intrigued by the double use of the word 'please'. So it was a combination of Bing Crosby and Roy Orbison.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon was also influenced by Bing Crosby's 1930s song Please, which opens with the line: " Oh, please, lend your little ear to my pleas". The Beatles' song, however, was much less innocent, containing what has been generally interpreted as a request for fellatio.

Please Please Me was the only song performed by The Beatles during their first national TV appearance, for the ITV show Thank Your Lucky Stars. It was recorded at the Alpha Television Studios in Birmingham on 13 January 1963, and was broadcast six days later.

The single, backed by Ask Me Why, caused many to take notice of The Beatles, and particularly Lennon-McCartney's songwriting talent; it led to Dick James approaching them to found Northern Songs, their publishing company.

Please Please Me was excitedly received by reviewers, radio and the public. By its third week on sale George Martin told Brian Epstein to bring the band in from their tour with Helen Shapiro to record the Please Please Me album, which they did on 11 February 1963.

In the studio

We almost abandoned it as the b-side of Love Me Do. We changed our minds only because we were so tired the night we did Love Me Do. We'd been going over it a few times and when we came to the question of the flipside, we intended using Please Please Me. Our recording manager, George Martin, thought our arrangement was fussy, so we tried to make it simpler. We were getting very tired, though, and we just couldn't seem to get it right. We are conscientious about our work and we don't like to rush things.
John Lennon, 1963

Please Please Me was first brought to The Beatles' 4 September 1962 session, in which they worked on Love Me Do. They played Please Please Me during a studio rehearsal overseen by EMI's Ron Richards, but didn't formally record it.

On my first visit in September we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did Please Please Me. I remember that, because while we were recording it I was playing the bass drum with a maraca in one hand and a tambourine in the other.
Ringo Starr

George Martin disliked the slow tempo and Roy Orbison-style arrangement, so The Beatles worked up a faster version for their next session.

At that stage Please Please Me was a very dreary song. It was like a Roy Orbison number, very slow, bluesy vocals. It was obvious to me that it badly needed pepping up. I told them to bring it in next time and we'd have another go at it.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Although The Beatles attempted to record Please Please Me on 11 September, with Andy White on drums, George Martin saw room for improvement and opted not to release it on The Beatles' debut single. He preferred Mitch Murray's How Do You Do It, which the group had dutifully yet reluctantly recorded in a previous session.

For many years it was believed that EMI had destroyed the 11 September recordings. However, one take from the session was discovered in 1994, and was released on the Anthology 1 collection. Although not the slower Orbison-like arrangement, there are a number of differences from the final version, notably the lack of harmonica.

On 26 November The Beatles recorded a remake of Please Please Me. It was complete in 18 takes, which included Lennon's overdubbed harmonica.

We sang it and George Martin said, 'Can we change the tempo?' We said, 'What's that?' He said, 'Make it a bit faster. Let me try it.' And he did. We thought, 'Oh, that's all right, yes.' Actually, we were a bit embarrassed that he had found a better tempo than we had.
Paul McCartney

Three mixes were made of the song, two in mono and another in stereo. The mono mixes were different on the single and album releases, with extra echo audible on the album.

The stereo mix was an edit of takes 16, 17 and 18, and contains a vocal error in the final verse, causing Lennon to sing "come on" with a slight laugh. The mix also has a slightly different guitar line by Harrison prior to the final verse.

As with other songs on the Please Please Me album, the song was credited to McCartney-Lennon. The names were switched to the more familiar Lennon-McCartney on subsequent releases.

Chart success

At the end of the session George Martin addressed the group over the studio' talkback system. "Congratulations, gentlemen," he told them, "You've just made your first number one."

He was correct, to a degree. At the time of the single's release, 11 January 1963, there was no standard singles chart. In some - Melody Maker, New Musical Express and Disc - Please Please Me did indeed reach number one, after six weeks on sale.

In the Record Retailer chart, also used by New Record Mirror, it only reached number two. The Beatles had to wait until From Me To You to score their first bona fide chart topper.

Please Please Me, again with Ask Me Why on the b-side, was The Beatles' debut single in the US. It was released on 25 February 1963 by the small Vee-Jay label. The first pressing of the single, corrected on subsequent copies, was credited to "The Beattles". Regardless, the single failed to make much impression, selling little over 7,000 copies.

The song was re-released by Vee-Jay on 30 January 1964, in the wake of the success of I Want To Hold Your Hand. From Me To You was on the flipside of the single, which reached number three in the Billboard Hot 100.

39 responses on “Please Please Me

  1. Rob

    i just realized that this song is about masterbation…. totally changed the way i think of this song!!! lol still love it, ill just laugh every time i hear it now! lol

  2. McLerristarr

    According to Ringo’s quote, Ringo’s first session was the Andy White session. Perhaps it’s just a memory slip but George Martin seemed to say the same on Anthology. Since the documentation for the 4 September session was destroyed, maybe it wasn’t the 4th, it was after the 11th, or maybe the 4th and 11th should be the other way around.

    1. Joe Post author

      That’s an interesting point. Perhaps they did a run-through at the 4 September session, then recorded the song on the 11th. That would explain why the Anthology (11 September) version isn’t the slow Roy Orbison arrangement.

    1. Joe Post author

      Because they used different sources – radio play, numbers ordered, actual sales, even sheet music. The earliest UK charts involved a pool of around 20 record shops, although this increased quickly. The BBC initially created an average chart based on all the others, which meant it was prone to having tied positions.

      There wasn’t a standardised chart until February 1969, when the BBC and Record Retailer commissioned a professional polling company to carry out a proper weekly audit from a pool of 500 shops (twice the previous sample).

  3. M. Whitener

    In Geoff Emerick’s book he said he worked both sessions & that they hammered it out after “Love Me Do” & that Ringo went down after they finished the single edition of “Love Me Do” & Andy White left. That’s when the weird usage of Ringo on the bass drum happened. Then they came back with the final edition the next time.

    At any rate, it was the first song with the great, fast paced Lennon/McCartney dual voice & the Lennon call, McCartney/Harrison response is amazing. For as good of a vocal track as it is, McCartney is the star of this track for me, as he really gives a great, fast paced bass sound that drives this track.

      1. Mike

        “McCarthey is never the star of a John Lennon song”…

        Two words: Come together. Paul’s bass riff MAKES this song – PLUS drums, vocals etc., the sum of their talents was obviously what made them the greatest. But the bass is the real thing in that song. He played the keyboard solo as well.

        Paul added so many fantastic features to so many Lennon songs: The keyboard intros to Strawberry fields and Lucy in the sky, most of the music to In my life, the idea with the loops in Tomorrow never knows…

        So he’s kind of the secret star behind many of their most memorable parts – and many people STILL won’t accept the fact that he was more than the cute one, OR they accuse of him bossing everybody around…

        Just stop with the comparing and putting up a “fight” between Paul and John and trying to take away anything from either of them.

    1. ted

      The Single & Album versions (Stereo and mono) have the same Exact drum lines as the ones that Ringo does live. Confirm via any video on youtube. Secondly, the drum line from the anthology is different than the final drum part that Ringo ended up going with – the song was still being worked on at the time. The one from 1/11 is Ringo, as Geoff Emerick said – it was recorded after White left the session. Andy White is absolutely not the drummer on the master recording. If anything he was on the slow version that was erased. And now this guy is trying to take credit 50 years later because he has nothing else going on in is life at 80 year old, or has dementia and forgot that he played on an early take of the song.

  4. A. DeCesare

    Thanks, Jemini! I,ve been waiting for someone else to say this. The Beatles themselves, while listening to the tapes for Anthology 1, heard “Please Please Me” and said, “that’s not Ringo”. Andy White’s drumming on the outtake is exactly the same as the single.
    George Martin obviously liked White’s drumming on PPM better, but didn’t make his decision public. Perhaps he wanted to protect Ringo’s ego. How would it look if the Beatles’ first two singles featured another drummer?!
    This is why we hear John messing up the lyrics. On a remake, they’d have corrected that. Whatever they did on November 26 wasn’t used. It’s also why that recording session has disappeared.

    1. SergioQ

      As for the whole was it, wasn’t it Ringo debate. At least YouTube the live version of the song. Ringo “totally owns” that song over the other 3. Doesn’t matter who’s on the studio version once you see Ringo playing it live.

  5. Joe

    I’m reading mark lewisohns book in front of me right now while listening to every Beatles recording session bootlegs I have on my studio dr dre beats headphones! Andy White’s Abbey Road payment card does NOT have November 26th as a working paid date! However, he dies obviously have September 11th! Which leads me to believe White was on the first few takes of Please Please Me, which we now know he was on in the anthology version of the song because it’s clearly not Ringos drumming and the book itself days that Ringo did not drum AT ALL THAT DAY! It also says TAKES UNKNOWN! We can assume that Please Please Me was obviously already auditioned for George Martin and was the “dreary Roy Orbison” version. However the sound had ALREADY BEEN SPED UP FOR THIS September 11 date because Andy Whites version is FAST not DREARY! and the drumming on this anthology take and the finished single sound strikingly similar! I guarantee that Ringo gave it a shot at the future session on November 26th, BUT George Martin preferred the Andy White version from September 11! Much like he did with White’s version of Love Me Do, since he didn’t have much confidence in Ringo yet, having just only met him and heard a few takes of his! I guess what we should be doing is listening to LIVE RECORDINGS of this song where Ringo plays and compare it to the actual song ! And dont forget that the mono and stereo versions of this song are different too! I would put money on it that the stereo version with John’s word flub and half laugh on the first “Come on!” is the Andy White version and the mono version on the album is the Ringo version from November 26th! The drumming on the stereo word flub version just sounds too much like the abthology Andy White version!

    1. John King

      Regarding the two dates you mentioned. There’s a video on youtube with an Andy White interview where he claims he played drums on a version of Please Please Me the same day they recorded Love Me Do & P.S. I Love You. He doesn’t mention any other recording dates but the one.

  6. gruff

    Does anyone know what the deal is with the weird, seemingly off-time drummming that starts at 1:45, quietly in the right channel of the LP version? I can’t find an explanation of it anywhere.

    1. Abel Baker

      From what I can tell from the information in “Tune In: The Beatles Vol. 1″and listening to the tracks themselves, I believe it’s because the instruments and vocals were recorded simultaneously live onto separate tracks and for some reason edited together from different takes. What sounds like out of time drumming is the bleed of the drums from a different take into the vocal microphones. That means there are two different takes playing on top of each other at that edit point and, without having played to a metronome, they’re slightly out of time with each other. It’s rather jarring and I don’t really understand the reason why the same take from the mono mix wasn’t used for the stereo mix.

    2. Utamia

      For the stereo, they lost most of their tapes, or they were destroyed. So they made due with different takes, and they lost the harmonica take. Since the mono mix had the harmonica, they just faded it in during those parts on the stereo version. Though, they just layed it out over the right channel of the stereo, the tempos of the takes were different and they didnt cut up the mono tape to re-align it.
      The drums were a different take so they sound different but they had faded in the harmonica at that time and not faded it out until after the drums, so your hearing on the left channel, the drum mic instruments channel, and on the right, the reverb from the please please me raw twin track AND the mono mix, since they were too lazy and didn’t fade out the vocal track before fading in the mono mix. At the end of the song, the mono mix was still laying over the stereo mix when they faded in the harmonica, so there was a slight delay, so your hearing on the right, reverb from the instruments on the left channel, vocals from the stereo take, the mono instruments and the mono vocals with a harmonica. to add to this confusion, a really similar sounding lead guitar to the harmonica on the left channel, along with louder vocal reverb on the left channel.

  7. SergioQ

    Regarding the slow Roy Orbison version that was never saved: Not sure if outside links are allowed here, and this is not a video of me. But I always wondered what it would have sounded like. So I found this guy on YouTube. Sounds just as Lennon describes it when writing it.

  8. Jim O'Beirne Jr

    Can anyone explain the George Martin/Dick James (producers) problem? Martin was at the helm (?) in Jan’63 when ‘Please, Please Me’ was cut on the VJ label, at least I think so, but, Dick James took over (?) at some point—I see several VJ 45’s with the Dick James name, but I’m convinced that I need to be looking for the VJ label with George Martin on that label…isn’t that correct??

    1. Peter Mizen

      Dick james was the music publisher of Lennon/McCartney songs . Northern Songs was a spin off of Dick James Music . He was never a producer.

  9. carlos

    I´ve read so much about the Andy White/George Martin/Ringo´s affair that I`m really confused. Is there any difference between the UK ´s single and album versions of “Please please me”? I´ve never owned a copy of the single so please somebody clear it up to me.

  10. Johan cavalli

    Lennon started composing Please Please Me in a slow tempo. If you play it slowly it changes from being a pop song to a kind of anthem song! The beginning with falling notes resembles Mendelssohn´s Wedding March. I don´t think it resembles Roy Orbison´songs at all. When Lennon was a little boy, he loved going to church and listen to the music in the divine services. Afterwards he used to improvise anthems.
    In parts of All You Need Is Love, Lennon has even more of anthem feelings.

  11. Johan cavalli

    The song is music history. It was The Beatles first number one in Britain February 1963. It was composed by Lennon 1961. It was something new. Love Me Do wasn´t a big success at all, sounded like the pop music before The Beatles, or worse.
    Music writers don´t, or didn´t, write so much about Lennon´s musical genius for many many years, because McCartney had composed Yesterday… But: When Lennon was a little boy he loved going to church and listen to the music in the divine services. Afterwards he used to improvise anthem melodies! In later years I have realized that Lennon could have been unconsciously inspired by the melody West minster Quarters the chime is playing in churches. The first four notes are the same as those in the chime.
    Albert Goldman was the first one who made musical analysis of Beatles or Lennon´s songs. He thinks the beginning of Please Please Me is “like sailors shouting back and forth as they haul up a sheet of canvas, the song is an irresistible shout of “ Bon voyage”.
    Then the call and response! And the middle part is typical Lennon: with the octave run!: “…it´s so hard to reason with YOU…”. The song is fantastical. It is not typical pop music, it´s a kind of expressionism, which is typical for the early Beatles music. It has nothing to do with Roy Orbison. McCartney willingly speaks, or spoke, about plagiarism. I have always got the feeling that McCartney and George Martin want to reduce the song´s importance, because Lennon, and not McCartney was the dominant composer in those years, before Yesterday — and that embarrasses the competitive McCartney tremendously — and George Martin wasn´t so influential before Sgt Pepper.
    Music writers usually don´t know that Please Please Me is a Lennon composition, but they all know that McCartney did Yesterday! George Martin knew it is a Lennon song completely, but by some reason he always said that John and Paul wrote it “together”. That irritated Lennon. See the book “Lennon letters”.

  12. IdahoPaul

    They recorded “Please Please Me” with Andy White on Sept. 11, 1962, the same session they did “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.” That version is on Anthology 1. There was talk of putting it on the B side of “Love Me Do,” but Martin decided to keep it for later. It’s all Ringo on the stereo and mono versions recorded in November, and his drumming is fabulous! Things were happening very fast in the second half of 1962. Read Mark Lewisohn’s “Tune In.” It will give you a very clear picture of everything that was going on

  13. Johan cavalli

    This autumn Paul Du Noyer released a book “Conversations with McCartney”. There McCartney again declares that Please Please Me is “a Orbison-esque piece”.
    But the melody has nothing to do with Roy Orbison! As usual McCartney wants to reduce Lennon´s importance. Please Please Me was their first number one hit, and their big break through. But McCartney´s Yesterday from 1964-1965 has more similarities with Lennon´s Do You Want to Know A Secret? from 1962, than Lennon has with Orbison. But nobody mention that. Nobody defended Lennon´s music.
    “Yesterday, all my troubles seem so far away” = “Listen, do you want to know a secret”. The same start and the same up climbing melody.

    1. DarrenS

      You do realize they worked on PPM together, on at least one occasion, in Paul’s house on Forthlin Road in 1962, right? Sitting side by side at the piano, working on it. From this, it would appear that John wrote it and then he and Paul worked on the arrangement together. The Orbison reference is about the original version, which no one’s ever heard, because it was never recorded.

      This ridiculous arguing about who was better or more important between the 2 of them gets old fast. No one with any real intelligence disparages John Lennon’s songwriting abilities, least of all Paul. It’s come to the point with some people that you can’t write a statement like “I love song X by either John or Paul” without someone saying that the best part is the contribution by the other of the 2.

      And Yesterday has virtually nothing in common with DYWTKAS other than they may, at rare moments, follow similar chord patterns (which many songs do). Remember, Paul had that song around for ages, asking anyone and everyone if they recognized the melody. Don’t you think someone would have pointed out your similarity if it was true? Why not argue that the PPM progression from E to the G-A-B is copied by Paul at the start of “The Night Before” with the progression from D to F-G-A. It’s the same silly point, right?

      Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll go back to listening to the MMT album. I am up to Strawberry Fields Forever, which, as we all know, is a masterpiece because of the way Paul plays the harmonium at the beginning. 😉

  14. Johan cavalli

    To DarrenS
    Interesting, but you have many faults. I am keen on this matter. Beatles is music history, and history description went wrong. You are an example of how McCartney´s and George Martin´s PR activity has succeeded.
    –Please Please Me. You are talking about arrangement. I am talking about the c o m p o s i t i o n. What do you think for example Irwing Berlin, from 1930s, would have said if somebody who had arranged his song, called himself a co-composer. Today McCartney admit Please Please Me is a completely Lennon composition, but formerly McCartney would conceal if it is a Lennon composition by saying “we wrote it together”, which could mean everything. The original version was exactly the same melody, but slower.
    –Do You Want to Know A Secret. I am talking about the m e l o d y, despite it´s today is so hot to only talk about the chords. McCartney recorded Yesterday 1965, but composed it probably in the beginning of 1964, according to George Martin. Lennon composed Do You Want to Know A Secret already in 1962, it had some connection with his first marriage. Didn´t you know that? Of course McCartney, George Martin and the establishment don´t say anything about the similarity with Yesterday. But I have heard many people, outside the establishment, reminding it´s resemblance with Yesterday.
    –Strawberry Fields Forever. You can´t be serious?? You say it´s “a masterpiece because of Paul´s playing the harmonium in the beginning”! The point with the song is the music behind “living is easy …” with the melody in one note, but the background music is instead changing. When the song was released a critic said it resembled Wagner, I think the intro to Lohengrin. By the way, McCartney is playing mellotron, not harmonium.
    You are a splendid example of how McCartney and George Martin have succeeded in their PR activity. McCartney will always win PR fights in small, but cunning means. Even though the faults in history description would be corrected, the old faults in literature will never die. The written words have an enormous power.

    1. DarrenS

      “You have many faults”. Sheesh, sounds like my wife. 🙂

      Seriously, let it go man. They wrote a lot of stuff together and a lot of stuff apart. They threw in lines here and there (and Paul gives John credit on a lot of “his” stuff, like Penny Lane, Michelle, Getting Better, Eleanor Rigby, I Saw Her Standing There, to name a few).

      My main point was the constant bickering about this issue starts to take away from the enjoyment of the music. As for nicking little pieces here and there from other songs, everyone ripped little things off from everyone (“Here come old flat top” ring a bell?). That’s composition, man. In fact, go get a copy of the Everly Brothers’ “And She Kissed Me” and see if one of the lines doesn’t leap out at you.

      Look, I get that you are trying to keep John’s genius alive and free from Paul’s greedy fingers. It’s admirable, but unnecessary. It is very apparent that neither would have ascended to their places in history without the other. The fact that you feel Paul is ripping off John’s legacy (with George Martin’s help, apparently) is unbecoming. Yes, John was all you said he was. Paul was pretty good too, no?

      And Yesterday has virtually nothing in common with Do You Want to Know a Secret. I refuse to let you convince me of that. You seem to want to suggest Paul was a second class nothing who rode John’s coattails to fame and then, after he dies, stole all of his genius. That’s ridiculous.

      Oh, and the Strawberry Fields thing was a joke. Read it in the context of my argument. I am not sure if English is your native language, but it was sarcasm.

      As to PPM (staying on topic :)), I love it. It is fun to play, and it rocks (and it wouldn’t have rocked without George Martin)

  15. Graham Paterson

    Written by John Lennon, this song was a huge step forward musically. I love the opening chord, it is so distinctive. Lennon originally sung it in a slower Roy Orbison style. George Martins idea to speed it up works a treat. Ideal as title song for their first album.

  16. Johan cavalli

    To DarrenS
    Yes, I think Lennon was greater as composer.
    I hope you are right when you say it´s unnecessary to keep John´s genius alive,
    OK, let´s enjoy their music.

  17. Some guy

    With George Martin’s passing last week, it is worth remembering his invaluable contribution to “Please Please Me”.

    I don’t think it is exaggerating one bit to call this song a rock masterpiece, and a true collaboration between John Lennon, the other Beatles, and the ‘fifth Beatle’ George Martin.

    If this song had not launched them into the “topper-most of the popper-most”, would hundreds of people like us be on the internet fifty years later talking about some long-forgotten band from Liverpool?

    BTW,I find the discussions above about the drumming very interesting. I’m a longtime fan, but have to admit I can’t tell the difference between Andy White’s sound and Ringo’s. (Pete Best I can usually recognize by his dull, lifeless style which seems to get in the way of Paul’s bass feel.)

    Anyway, RIP George Martin… and Andy White, too!

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