"Please Please Me" Still Jolts Almost Fifty Years Later!

Recorded live at Abbey Road in fewer than ten hours in February of 1963 at a cost of around £400 and issued on March 22 (my Beatles birthday present), Please Please Me captured all of the raw energy of The Beatles playing live at The Cavern Club, though on stage they didn't put the vocals in one P.A. speaker and the instruments in the other!

Of course the recording was produced that way to allow George Martin to properly balance the instrumentals with the vocals. The stereo LP was produced from the two track master with some reverb thrown in to better integrate the two tracks. "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" were apparently recorded in mono because there are no stereo mixes of those two early tunes. The original pressing electronically processes them for fake stereo while the reissue wisely uses the real mono versions.

The album was a mix of high energy by "McCartney-Lennon" and covers of songs by American artists the boys loved like The Shirelles ("Boys"—the "B" side of their hit "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" and "Baby It's You" written by Burt Bacharach, Mack David [Hal's older brother] and Luther Dixon who produced the Shirelles).

The album also contains the late great Arthur Alexander's "Anna (Go To Him). Both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were fans. Shame on you if you don't have any of his albums in your collection—CD if need be! The Beatles also cover "A Taste of Honey" taken from a play and then movie of the same name and later covered by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The cover of "Twist and Shout" was the last song recorded because George Martin worried that it might destroy Lennon's voice and it closes the album. Listening to it you'd never know John had been singing for nine hours before hitting it out of the park.

But it's the originals that are the most stunning "Misery", "Please Please Me", "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" "There's A Place" (which covers the same theme as Brian Wilson's later "In My Room") and of course "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You".

Some of these fourteen tunes were first heard in America on the Vee-Jay albums. It's important to remember that most Americans never saw this cover for years or even knew of the record's existence, so isolated were we in America and so limited was access to the Internet. Only Al Gore was allowed on.

Seriously, when some Americans became aware of imports this record was a mind-blower even though the term had yet to be invented and even though many of the songs were familiar. How could it be otherwise? This was what The Beatles themselves envisioned as their first album.

This reissue is among the box's most successful. Like the rest of the newly remastered albums it's got more bass than the original. It's also slightly drier. The dryer environment and the EQ balance helps emphasize the rhythm guitar that was kind of buried in the original's wash of reverb. "Do You Want to Know A Secret?" is very wet on both versions but the stick really sticks out and sounds more woody on the original.

The reissue's reverb throughout doesn't translate into as much physical depth as on the original but were you to prefer the reissue to the original, I wouldn't put up much or an argument, though the original cut from a fresh tape has more "life" and is somewhat more immediate sounding and transparent on top. There's a greater thrill in hearing the voices on the original—as if you have your ear next to the microphone— though the reissue is pretty good there too with a slight bit of grain thrown in.

The reissue uses the original black and gold Parlophone album used for a very short time before Parlophone switched to the more familiar yellow, silver and black one with the £ on it.

I once saw a guy at a Beatles Convention in Secaucus, New Jersey walking around with an original. I'd never seen one and he didn't know the EMI pressing codes so I showed him, curious to see if in fact it was an original original and sure enough it was YEX94-1 on side one and YEX95-1 on side two. Both sides were first mother (1) and first stamper (g). It was the real deal! He wasn't selling but I bet it's now worth well more than $1000. My copy is -1 on both sides, mother 1 and stamper 32 (AR) with the yellow, silver, black label, which is early enough for me!

If you're of a certain age, every listen will take you back to the supercharged excitement these exotic lads brought to a then lame pop music scene and if you aren't singing along you should be.

Slammintone's picture

I don't know if by "of a certain age" that I qualify at the age of 47, but the early sounds of the Beatles blew me away as a child.  My mom always loved the Beatles when they were hot in the 1960s and I remember hearing tunes like "You Won't See Me" on the radio back then before I could even speak.  By the time I was 10 I was already a fanatic for anything Beatles related.  I first heard the proper Please Please Me album in the late 1980s when I bought several new MFSL LPs of the Beatles.  My jaw hit the floor at the immediacy and breathtaking, pulsating aliveness of their first album.  My God that album was recorded well.  I also loved MFSLs pressing of that album although I might be in the minority here.   Hearing the latest remasterings in stereo  (so far only on CD unfortunately) reaffirms the Beatles were recorded excellently despite the limitations of the recording equipment of the time. 

Mazzy's picture

Yeah a great album. So much energy.  But umm not the Rightous Brothers.  The Isleys. 

Paul Boudreau's picture

has my vote for one of the best lesser-known Fabs tunes.

jlstrat's picture

I agree with others that this LP is probably one of the Beatles' best. "Ask Me Why" is one of my favorite little known Beatles tunes, mainly because it hasn't been played to death. I thought this was the best sounding LP in the box, although I only had a Japanese stereo version to compare it to, and that was a bit too bright. I just recently picked up a second issue/Ernest J Day cover pressing in mono, though, and, man, does it just roar out of the speakers. That will probably be my first choice listen when I want to hear this LP. I also agree with Mikey about With the Beatles, though I think I like it a hair more than he does and I think the new pressing of that one, Please Please Me, and Hard Days Night are the best of the LPs in the set. N.B., though: I only listened to the box in a marathon sit down with a friend who bought it and wanted me to clean it and see if the LPs were OK.       

wao62's picture

My stereo Parlophone copy dates from around 1967. I can tell from the inner sleeve with advertisements for Revolver & Oldies But Goldies.  They were still using the first mothers stamped YEX 94-1 (2/AL) & YEX 95-1 (1/AA)!  My understanding is that few stereo Beatles albums were manufactured in Britain during the 60's as most only had mono playback.