Paul Simon is waving as we depart Graceland. Our next destination is less glamorous but no less iconic. On a par with Steven Gerrard Floor Wax, it is safe to say The Beatles have done their bit for putting Liverpool on the map. It is impossible to walk more than 20 feet within the city without running into a shop, boutique or kiosk dispensing assorted Beatles tat that no person could ever possibly need. Even now, with two passed away, one a serial sugar Daddy and the other almost more synonymous with being the voice of Thomas The Tank Engine, a band that were together for less than ten years have stood the test of time. The Beatles appear ten times in the Top 500 (not bad going considering they only released twelve albums in total) but we are going to begin with their debut album Please Please Me, which sits at number 39.
Prior to the album's release, the band had had two single releases – both of which appear on Please Please Me. Love Me Do, a song written by McCartney as a schoolboy, reached number 17 in the UK charts and title track Please Please Me reached number 2. After this early success, a decision was taken by the record company that an album needed to be released as quickly as possible to capitalise. Producer George Martin (proving that not all of that name must labour so excruciatingly over their work) approached the band and it was decided that the only other material that could be recorded were the songs performed by the band during their regular live shows at the Cavern Club. Thus, The Beatles were brought in to Abbey Road to record and, in one day, Please Please Me was born.
I think The Beatles are a band of dichotomies. Are you more Lennon or McCartney? Do you prefer their early work or their later, more experimental tracks? I personally lean more towards McCartney though I feel George Harrison doesn't get the credit he deserves. Soundwise, Please Please Me is exactly how I like my Beatles to be. Short, simple tracks with pop at their heart. There is nothing deep and meaningful happening here. The concepts are adolescent, which is unsurprising bearing in mind they were in their very early twenties at the time. I Saw Her Standing There could be summed up in modern syntax thus – There was a fit girl, I thought she was fitter than all the other girls so I decided to grind up only on her. Joking aside, these are teenage themes immaculately realised.
The only real disappointment of the album is that there isn't more original material. Of the fourteen tracks, six are covers of previously released material. They aren't bad per se, they just feel a little phoned in – tracks that no doubt would have thrilled a live audience at the time but sit on the album as uncomfortable bedfellows next to the more accomplished original tracks. The only exception to this is the magnificent rendition of Twist And Shout which oozes classy enthusiasm like an open wound. It will also never be disassociated from Ferris Bueller's Day Off in my mind, even if I live for 400 years.
On the whole, the album's importance will always be judged more on its historical significance as opposed to the quality of its content. There are five Beatles albums that place above it in the Top 500 and that does not surprise me too much. Please Please Me is to The Beatles what The Phantom Menace is to Star Wars. I would never, except for just now, put it in those terms though. There is too much to like about the album. The Beatles were heralding in a new era of polymathic bands – pretty faces, yes, but pretty faces who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments. They may have only been together for ten years but it was ten years that shifted the entire musical landscape.
Please Please Me went on to reach number 1 in the UK album chart on 5th May 1963. It would stay there until 1st December 1963 when it was replaced by their second studio album, With The Beatles, which held the top spot for a further 21 weeks. The album represented the birth of a dynasty, the like of which I doubt we will ever see again.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“Do you want to know a secret?//Do you promise not to tell?”
Do You Want To Know A Secret?
Liverpool lads make
Spare thoughts for Pete Best
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