Monday, February 7, 2011

The Beatles-Please Please Me

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/6/10.

When rock n' roll emerged in the mid-1950s, it was a new sound that was sweeping all over the world. For a while, it seems like this new music would go on forever until the late 1950s/early 1960s. The death of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens in a plane crash along with Elvis Presley's draft to the U.S. army among other incidents put rock n' roll on hold. In the U.S., the music industry tried to fill the void with clean-cut teen idols like Fabian and Frankie Avalon while two things were happening that would impact American music dramatically. A folk movement was emerging that would spawn stars as Peter, Paul, & Mary, Joan Baez, and later on, Bob Dylan. In New York City, the Brill Building sound of songwriters and producers were emerging as it would provide some new life to pop music.

In Britain, pop music was also going through dramatic changes. Following the brief folk-style craze known as Skiffle, the days of guitar-groups seem to be not in tune with what was going. It had become more about vocalists with a clean look while in Liverpool, a new craze was emerging in new fusion of pop, rock, R&B, skiffle, and doo wop that was known as Merseybeat. Leading this new craze would be a band that wouldn't just change the face of music altogether. They would end up changing the world in such a way that their influence remains insatiable for many years to come. These four men are known as John, Paul, George, and Ringo would be known to many as the Beatles.

Formed in 1957 through a skiffle group known as the Quarrymen, John Lennon was a member of the group playing the show where attending that show was a young guitarist named Paul McCartney. Lennon and McCartney decided to form their own group with another young guitarist named George Harrison as they would call themselves through many names. In 1960, Lennon's art-school friend Stuart Sutcliffe joined the band on bass despite his inexperience in playing the instrument. In the summer of that year, the band along with a new drummer in Pete Best went to Hamburg by the suggestion of their manager Allan Williams where the band gained experience despite some setbacks.

In 1961, Sutcliffe left the band to pursue a career as an artist in Hamburg as McCartney took over on bass where the band met with Tony Sheridan and recorded with the singer on several songs. In early 1962 with band gaining a reputation as a live act in Hamburg and their native Liverpool, they attracted the attention of a local record store owner named Brian Epstein. Impressed, Epstein decided to be their manager as the tried to get the band signed to various labels but were rejected, most notably Decca who told Epstein "guitar group are on the way out, Mr. Epstein". The band was finally signed to a label in Parlophone, a subsidiary of EMI Records, by a renowned producer named George Martin.

Martin, known for producing comedy albums for Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, had never recorded rock or pop music. Though he wasn't impressed by the band's sound, he did find promise in the vocals of Lennon and McCartney. After hearing them live, Martin along with engineer Norman Smith took more a chance to hear the band in the studio. The one problem Martin had was that drummer Pete Best wasn't good enough to play the sessions as Brian Epstein realized that the band needed a new drummer. Epstein informed Best that he was out as he would be replaced by Richard Starkey who was known more to the Liverpool music community as Ringo Starr. Starr, had played with the Beatles on occasion whenever Best was ill though Martin wasn't sure about the replacement.

A session drummer ended up playing on the band's first two recorded songs in the single Love Me Do and its B-side P.S. I Love You with Starr on additional percussions. The song went top 20 on October of 1962 reaching number 17 though it was considered a fluke. Realizing that the Beatles are on to something, Martin and the band scrambled for what they could come up with next where a song called Please Please Me became the breakthrough for both the band and its producer. The song reached to number two in the U.K. in January of 1963 as the band along with Martin rushed to record what would ultimately become their debut album. The album that would not just launch the Beatles career into stardom but also would help change the face of popular music altogether entitled Please Please Me.

Produced by George Martin with mixing and engineering work by Norman Smith. Please Please Me is an album in which the Beatles would take rock n' roll to a newer, fresher sound with its upbeat, Merseybeat style along with R&B textures and doo-wop style vocals. With eight original songs written by the duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney plus six cover tunes of rock/pop standards. The album would show the Beatles paving the way for what would become a remarkable career as it begins with what is truly one of the best debut albums ever made.

Opening the album with a "1-2-3-4" intro is the upbeat rocker I Saw Her Standing There with its chugging guitar riffs, bouncy rhythms, and Paul McCartney's cool, wailing vocal style. Featuring lyrics about a girl and the days of having fun, the song is an excellent romp with amazing harmony vocals from John Lennon and George Harrison, the latter of which plays a blazing, ringing guitar solo with Ringo's swift, pulsating beats and McCartney's sumptuous bass lines. The mid-tempo ballad Misery with George Martin on piano as it begins with the rich vocal harmonies of Lennon and McCartney as Lennon sings lead with McCartney on backing harmony vocals. With its smooth, mid-tempo rhythm from Ringo's smooth, bouncy drum fill and a breaking piano solo from Martin. The song is a lush yet melancholic song with its somber lyrics as it is supported by Martin's crisp production.

Next is a cover of Arthur Alexander's Anna (Go To Him) with a slow, thumping rhythm provided by Ringo's break-hitting drum fill and Paul's smooth bass lines. With its washy guitars and Lennon's rough yet soulful vocals with heartbreaking lyrics with a gorgeous vocal harmony that is dream-like. The production of the song is amazing in its mixture of soul and Merseybeat rhythms as it shows the Beatles can reinvent any kind of song. Chains, a Gerry Goffin-Carole King composition, is an upbeat song led by Lennon's swooning harmonica and jangly guitar washes with smooth, bopping rhythms as Harrison sings lead with Lennon and McCartney joining him on vocals. Harrison's rough yet light-tenor vocals is different from Lennon and McCartney as he provides the right notes for the song's innocent-laden lyrics.

The Luther Dixon-Wes Farrell composition Boys sung by Ringo is an upbeat yet rollicking track with break-hitting beats provided by Ringo as his low yet country-style vocals fits right in with the song's bouncy rhythm. Even as it features chugging yet driving guitar riffs and McCartney's fast-bumping bass lines as it features some innocent, playful lyrics that has an allusion to homosexuality. Ask Me Why is a R&B-style ballad with slow, tapping drum fills by Starr with McCartney's slow bass line. Featuring some lush guitar work and amazing vocal harmonies, Lennon sings lead with his rough yet ethereal tenor vocal as it features some somber lyrics of love as McCartney joins Lennon on backing vocals.

The album's title track is an upbeat track led by Lennon's ringing harmonica solo and Ringo's hard-hitting yet subtle drum fill with McCartney's driving bass line. Along with Lennon and Harrison's washy, jangly guitar riffs and playful lyrics, the song is a magnificent track with Lennon singing lead with such swift vocal delivery along with McCartney and Harrison on backing vocals which includes amazing, wall-to-wall production by George Martin. The band's first single Love Me Do which is led by Lennon's smooth, bluesy harmonica solo with a soft, washy guitar track by Harrison, McCartney's thumping bass line, and a slow, bouncy drum track by session drummer Andy White with Starr on tambourine. The song's lyrics of desperate love with a thumping melody with Lennon and McCartney singing the song entirely except for a vocal break by McCartney as he's followed by Lennon in what is a remarkable debut single.

The single's B-side is the mid-tempo love-ballad P.S. I Love You which also features White on drums while Ringo is on maracas. Featuring a tick-tock tapping beat from White and slow, cha-cha rhythms with somber lyrics. The song's lush, driving guitar riffs and McCartney's low yet melodic bass line and his soothing lead vocals are a highlight in this innocent love song. Next is a cover of the Shirelles song Baby It's You written by Burt Bacharach, Mack David, and Barney Williams. With it a slow, steady drum fill by Ringo Starr with soft, driving guitars and bumping bass lines, Lennon's somber vocals take charge in this calm yet direct love song which features George Martin on a tingling celesta track for the song's instrumental break with Harrison's twangy guitar solo.

Do You Want To Know A Secret is a mid-tempo ballad sung by Harrison as it features a bouncy melody led by driving guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison as Starr and McCartney provide a smooth, thumping rhythm. Harrison's calm vocals with Lennon and McCartney's lush backing vocals is a highlight along with a bass-thumping drum fill by Starr in the song's chorus. The ballad A Taste Of Honey by Bobby Scott & Ric Marlow is a haunting pop standard with melancholic lyrics sung by McCartney. Featuring Lennon and Harrison on backing vocals and washy guitar riffs along with Starr's soft yet thumping drum accompaniment. The highlight of the song is Martin's production in capturing the richness of the vocal harmonies and ringing guitar tracks.

There's A Place is an upbeat track led by Lennon's swooning harmonica as he and McCartney sing the song with Harrison joining on backing vocals. Featuring thumping melodies and rhythm from Starr's smooth, pulsating drum fill and washy, jangly guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison. The song's innocent lyrics of love as it features Lennon singing lead for a bit while the guitar work has a bit of a rough sound with McCartney's bouncy bass line. The album closer is a cover of the Phil Medley-Bert Russell composition Twist & Shout which had been performed by the Top Notes and later, the Isley Brothers. The Beatles' version filled with chugging guitars, Lennon's rough yet ragged vocals, and Starr's hard-hitting yet steady drum fills is a classic on its own. Led by its enthusiastic performance, rough guitars, and a bouncy yet menacing rhythm, it is a fitting closer to the album that gets the party going and everyone to twist as if they're in the famous scene in John Hughes' 1986 classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Released on March 22, 1963 in Britain, the album became an immediate hit spurred by the non-LP single From Me To You which came out a month later and became the band's first number one hit single. Less than two months after its release, Please Please Me landed at number one in the U.K. album charts where it would stay until late November where it would be knocked out by its follow-up With the Beatles. The release of non-LP singles would help maintain the success of Please Please Me as their popularity was growing in which a new wave of British rock and pop was starting to emerge from acts like Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Dave Clark Five, and the Rolling Stones.

The 2009 remastered edition which replaces the notoriously-panned 1987 CD remasters really shows some major differences. Both presented in mono and stereo in different box sets while the stereo version is also sold individually. The remastered version is truly miles above on what was failed back in 1987 when the CDs were emerging. Not only are Ringo Starr's drumming is heard much clearer and with more power in some tracks. Paul McCartney's bass is heard much better in several spots along with some various backing instruments that hadn't been heard in a clear form in its previous reissue. The 2009 remastered version of Please Please Me not only improves the album but makes it sound fresh and viable back like it did back in its original 1963 release.

Please Please Me is an amazing debut album from the Beatles. Thanks in part to the superlative production work of George Martin, the album is an exciting record to listen to as nearly 50 years since its release. It's a record that still sounds viable and as imaginative in today's world of pop. Hearing this album in comparison to some of today's music will make listeners realize that a lot of ideas do come from this album. Clearly, there would be no Nirvana if it wasn't for a song like Please Please Me in terms of its performance. It's an album that, though may not be in high regards to the band's later albums, is still a debut album that really kind of shows artists on how it's done to make a debut album. In the end, Please Please Me is a tremendous debut album from the Beatles that sets the standards of what a great pop debut album is.

The Beatles:  With the Beatles - A Hard Day's Night - Beatles for Sale - Help! - Rubber Soul - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be - (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - Past Masters - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)

 (C) thevoid99 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment