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The Story of the Beatles’ Debut Album, ‘Please Please Me’

Capitol Records
Capitol Records

How confident were the Beatles in what they had and how they played it when they entered EMI Studios in February 1963 to record their now debut album, Please Please Me?

So much so that they recorded almost all of the songs for it in one marathon session that didn’t even last 12 hours. Years of performing in countless dark, cavernous bars for drunken patrons who couldn’t care less about the music they were hearing sharpened the band; Please Please Me proved that the music that everyone was ignoring was uniformly great.

The blueprint that the band would practically follow with few alterations over the next several years is pretty much in place here: the studio, the producer (George Martin), the fantastic originals (“I Saw Her Standing There”), the great covers (“Twist and Shout”), the bone throw to Ringo Starr (“Boys”). From the start, the Beatles sounded like they were on to something grand.

While the mix of R&B and pop songs, show tunes and originals on Please Please Me is a bit uneven at times, the album falls together as a cohesive whole. There’s not a whole lot of filler on the LP, and the group sounds totally committed to the songs, even the ones that don’t quite work. Most of the covers – including the underrated Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go to Him),” the gender twist of “Boys” — are inspired; the John LennonPaul McCartney songs (“Please Please Me,” “Love Me Do,” “There’s a Place”) are first steps toward legend.

Please Please Me, which was released in the U.K. on March 22, 1963, didn’t come out in the U.S. until 1987, when the Beatles’ original albums were first issued on CD. But most of its songs found their way on U.S. versions of the albums, including the band’s 1964 debut Meet the Beatles! Please Please Me reached No. 1 on the U.K. album chart, kicking off more than a half-decade of Beatlemania and a whirlwind schedule of 12 albums in seven years. The greatness starts here.

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