album notes

The Beatles: Please Please Me
May 20, 2007, 3:07 am
Filed under: The Beatles


Please Please Me
The Beatles
Released: 1963

I Saw Her Standing There: 8.9
Misery: 6.2
Anna: 4.5
Chains: 5.2
Boys: 5.7
Ask Me Why: 4.8
Please Please Me: 8.7
Love Me Do: 4.4
PS I Love You: 5.3
Baby It’s You: 5.5
Do You Want to Know a Secret: 5.7
A Taste of Honey: 4.1
There’s a Place: 7.8
Twist and Shout: 7.9
Overall rating: 6.05

Recorded in one day, Please Please Me is the beginning of many things. It’s the beginning of the Beatles’ rich studio catalog; it’s the beginning of The Beatles proper ascension into ultra-stardom; it’s the beginning of decades of influence, decades that will likely continue on and on.

Recorded in one day, Please Please Me is the band’s worst effort of their 12 proper studio albums. Of course, that’s not to say it’s a bad effort. Not at all. For the entirety, you feel as if the band is right there, smack in front of you, playing a rough cut show of rock, pop and ballad. And best, you feel as if you’re seated solo, nobody around you, inches from John Lennon and Paul McCartney as they “woooo!” along. This is a very important factor. It’s a homemade album, boisterous, quick and with the times.

Only a few songs really stand out among the bunch. The opener “I Saw Her Standing There” is the opener to end all openers, complete with McCartney’s famous count in and fanatical falsetto. Plus, the boy has sandpaper in his voice; it’s a cool song. Cool as it gets. “Please Please Me” is Lennon’s side-two answer, a pop song lifted tremendously by Lennon’s delicious repetitions of “come on.” Already, the songwriting was ahead of the times, and that’s even more evident in “There’s a Place.” Possibly inspiring the Beach Boys’ “In My Room,” it hints at the more buoyant tragedy of “Help!” It’s a mediocre tune in itself, but the songwriting takes it to a new level.

The lightweight pop of “Love Me Do” is one of the more unpopular Beatles hits, and justly so. It’s completely by-the-numbers and has some of the most banal songwriting ever by a Beatle. “PS I Love You” I’d take over it in a heartbeat, using more of McCartney’s vocal talents and using a quicker tempo (it has a slight Latin feel). Both these songs, however, are weak efforts.

“Misery” is an understated gem, the kind of snide rocker that’s more respected after you hear something like “Dig a Pony.” “Ask Me Why” is another songwriting sufferer, but it matches up with girl-group pop of its time. Strategically, it’s a stroke of genius how the Beatles padded the first side with covers. They laid out their major influences from the get-go, giving modest efforts that spill respect. Once they finish with these songs, they come back with their own interpretations. The side-two covers: “Baby It’s You,” “A Taste of Honey” and “Twist and Shout” are pedestrian, sans the latter, which is the definitive album closer.

That sums up this album nicely: A great opener, a great closer and everything else is foreshadowing. The covers, “There’s a Place” and “Misery” lay groundwork for original creations that trump anything of its time. A few clunkers, sure, but they’re mostly necessities. That it sounds as if the band is having fun with it, and is right in your face the whole time, makes Please Please Me special.