Please Please Me (1962)


1.I Saw Her Standing There
2.Misery
3.Anna
4.Chains
5.Boys
6.Ask Me Why
7.Please Please Me
8.Love Me Do
9.P.S. I Love You
10.Baby It's You
11.Do You Want To Know A Secret
12.A Taste of Honey
13.There's A Place
14.Twist and Shout

 

When one walks into a dark room and flips a light switch, a light comes on. Big deal, you think. However it was a big deal when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb over 120 years ago. One must use the same approach when listening to early Beatles music. It's very tempting for a younger person (anyone under 40) to listen to this release and think: "big deal". For older lovers of music, it's much easier to be able to articulate what all the fuss was all about at the time.

When Rock & Roll was still in its infancy during the early 1960's, the mix of entertainers was completely different. The earlier pioneers of the late 1950's were fading - Elvis was in the army, Little Richard became a Preacher and Buddy Holly had been tragically killed. Enter Hollywood, who realized that they could capitalize on this new fad, and make a lot of money putting pretty faces in movies and on album covers at the same time. They then proceeded to bombard the public with the likes of Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell. Yes, Rock & Roll was getting a bit stale, and true authentic "groups" never played and sang at the same time. When the Beatles appeared in the early 1960's, things changed in a big big way.

Not only did these guys sing, but they also wrote their own music. About half of this freshman effort was penned by members John Lennon and Paul McCartney - something that was virtually unheard of back then. The album, that had been recorded in only one day - runs through a wide variety of material that the band had been hustling in local clubs for the past several years. Everything here is flawless. Of course, depending on the taste of the listener, different parts may shine brighter than others. The first standout is the opening track I Saw Her Standing There which was never a big hit, yet every rock & roll fan knows and loves it. A great way to kick off a legendary career and - yes it was written by the Lennon and McCartney. On the other "end" of the album is the classic Twist and Shout which was not an original number, yet somehow the Beatles made it their own, and it definitely fits into the "legendary" category. This was a bit ironic since apparantly it was added at the last minute when producer George Martin told them that they needed one more song to complete the album.

Speaking of George Martin, a large part of this group's success throughout their entire career is owed to this man. Listening closely to this album, one appreciates the precisian of the songs. Although recording techniques were much simpler, Martin manages to capture a meticulously fine performance from all members. Those who know the group well, know that they were actually rejected a record contract before they went to George Martin (at the EMI label), and as the later demos appeared decades later, it's easy to see why someone may turn down even the Beatles. It was Martin who told this band after they recorded the song Please Please Me that they had "just recorded their first number one hit". He was right, and it's still a great listen many years later.

As would be customary for early Beatle albums, there would be at least one song sang by "junior" members George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Each contribute in a big way on this first album, George with Do You Want To Know A Secret and Ringo with Boys. On some of the other tracks, you could argue that some of the covers the band perform here are a bit schmaltzy, such as Arthur Alexander's Anna and the very oft covered A Taste Of Honey. Again, though, we must remember that this was the norm and they still pull off the songs immaculately without appearing cheesy.

Another glaring difference in the way records were distributed back then was that a single being played on the radio didn't automatically mean that the song would also be on an album. This confuses modern buyers that are perhaps looking through period albums trying to find certain songs that they remember. It didn't help that being a British band also meant that there were totally different albums being released on both sides of the Atlantic. To go even further, sometimes the album name would be the same, but the track selection would be different. Fortunately, all the Beatles songs are available on CD, but some of the "early" singles appeared on compilations Past Masters Vol.1 and Past Masters Vol.2. Like virtually every other Beatles release, this is a must for all fans of rock & roll.

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