A generally accepted and undisputed statement regarding popular music is that the Beatles were the best thing to ever happen to it. It's not hard to see why someone would say this, and it's quite understandable, even logical for the pantheons of rock and/or pop to make such an observation when presented with songs like Happiness Is A Warm Gun
and Hey Jude
. Even in their earlier days, to which the designation of Beatlemania
has been attached, the bands' knack for harmony and composition were unparalleled. Certainly, the audacious vocal harmonies in I Want To Hold Your Hand
were enough to cause teenage girls around the world to shriek and swoon en masse. Understandably, more emphasis and vitality is placed upon the shoulders of their more formidable, psychedelic and post-acid years, and who's to argue? The joyous and vibrant pop found on Help!
simply can't stack up to the brilliance of the zesty White Album
. Fair as this is, it often results in the neglect of many well-crafted, delightful songs by the very same band that proclaim its desire to "turn you on" by 1967; some three years after their arrival (in America, missy) with the likes of She Loves You
. Nowhere is the negligence in more vibrant focus than on the group's 1963 debut, Please Please Me
, where the song formula is as straightforward as the band would get.
Please Please Me
, aside from being a moderately ground-breaking pop album, is quite interesting in numerous aspects. It was recorded on the minimal budget of 400 pounds; it also features the rather unsettling Boys
, in which Ringo sings about, well, boys
. But perhaps most intriguing about the album is its sound. By taking the vocal harmonies of late-50's girl groups, the driving rock and roll of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, and the gentler vibrations of The Everly Brothers and morphing them into a single, cohesive musical statement, the Beatles created a very distinct and enjoyable sound. A superb example of this is I Saw Her Standing There
, which was written By John and Paul in 1962. The driving, rock instrumentation gels unusually well with the harmonized "woo!" refrain of the chorus. Also notable about the tune is the presence of a rather proficient George Harrison guitar solo, which would be uncommon throughout the bands' career. Similarly, There's A Place
is very soothing and melodic, and introspective in a rather revolutionary sense, given that it was 1963 and the lyrical content had more to do with isolation and social malfunction than boy-meets-girl, she loves you, komm gib mir deine hand-esque pop subject matter. While it invariably holds true that there were some rather unorthodox styles on the album, the abundance of cover songs does much to undermine the albums originality, though perhaps covers were a good idea for the time being. Elabration? Quite.
Obviously, 1963 was a quite different time. What was standard slang then ("fab gear" and "good golly" perhaps being the most humorous) is obviously light-years behind the super fly phrases put into use now a days (my personal favorites being "frontin'" and "yo"). The moral of this little inquisition? It is inevitable that a few of the things spawned and accepted in the year 1963 are going to appear outdated and honestly rather ghastly now. While the Beatles would later transcend the idea of being outdated altogether, original compositions on this album such as P.S. I Love You
are mildly to excruciating painful depending on mood, perception, and state of mind (I.E. how many narcotics you've consumed prior to listening). Covers like the immortal Baby It's You
seem all the more delectable and well-performed (which says a lot, as Baby It's You
is arguably the best cover on the album, with only one challenger) than they would on their own when placed next to the rather slight Ask Me Why
. Hell, four out of the first five tracks are covers. Do not read me wrong, ladies and gentlemen, as even some outdated tunes by the fabulous duo of Lennon-McCartney are still very pleasant, the most shining example of this being Do You Want To Know A Secret
, sang by the future Hare Krishna'd out George Harrison. I am merely stating that the groups' unrivaled talent for songwriting had yet to fully blossom, and the idea of the band being reviewed by a bunch of amateur losers some forty years later was laughable, and had yet to reach any sort of fruition. The album did manage to serve up some hits, though, one of which would herald in Beatlemania in Britain and would make American chart appearances a year or so later. It's a deviously clever tune, and it's called: you guessed it, Please Please Me
Please Please Me
is undoubtedly the first John Lennon composition to hint at any sort of dormant musical genius. For proof, I refer you to the climax of the tune, which features some glorious overlapping John and Paul vocal harmonies over the familiar and catchy main riff. More so than any other Beatle at the time, one gathers the impression that Lennon is the groups' de facto leader and resident musical go-to-guy. Sure, McCartney may have been heavily involved with the crafting of many of the tunes, but John tends to capture the listeners ears and attention more, especially when he gives a great vocal performance. On the subject of great vocal performances, if you crave one, look no farther than the Beatles cover of the Isley Brothers hit, Twist and Shout
. Being one of the few straight rock and roll songs on the album, it almost has to contain a ripping vocal. And it does. Man
, it does. The story is now the stuff of legend. It was the last song recorded for the album, and John Lennon was tired. The band had ripped through all of the songs prior to it, carrying on despite the testimonies of John and George Martin that Lennon had a cold throughout the recording. Making matters worse, his voice was shot from 585 minutes straight of singing, playing, and harmonizing. With studio time running out, and with Lennon's voice about to give any second, the Beatles tore through a live take of this, and in so doing, created a fantastic cover, with Lennon's voice ironically becoming the songs highlight and the album's most brilliant performance. Take that Ronald Isley.
For a debut album, Please Please Me
has a surprising amount of diversity in it. Indeed, the album covers schmaltzy styles such as A Taste Of Honey
(which the band ironically enough despised) to the rock and pop infested tunes like Twist And Shout
and Anna(Go To Him)
. More surprising is that while the album has multiple weak spots and is obviously dated at points, not once did the diversity seem out of placed or remotely forced. The band's gruff and grueling tenure in Hamburg had obviously turned them into fine, well-rounded musicians; even if the songwriting aspect of their music had yet to reach it's soon to be evolved state. Still, there are more problems with the album itself that may repel some modern listeners. Much akin to the fact that 1963 and 2006 are very different time periods, recording technology was rather primitive. The technological leaps of close-miked recording for drums had yet to even be conceived in the minds of any engineers, and it would be some years before four-track recording technology would be considered out of date. The main problem with the albums' production is the drums. Unlike the sound that would permeate throughout 1969's Abbey Road
which was forceful and domineering, the Percussion sound here is absolutely tinny and weak, and a lot of the more primitive technology is the reason for the lack of fills courtesy of Ringo Starr. However, allowing rather trivial things to stop you from enjoying a great pop record is downright foolish, and will probably give you cancer. Just maybe.
Since the release of this, the Beatles eponymous debut album, the band has gone onto making teenage girls lose control of their bodily functions, to smoking pot with Bob Dylan. From there, they went to songwriting geniuses to counter-culture spokesmen and musical and cultural gods. Many new recording and songwriting marvels would come along in the seven years after this album was released, and many events would occur that would leave the band virtually unrecognizable from their younger, Fab Four counterparts. In this day and age, the Beatles profound impact on culture, style, thought, and most of all music are more or less incalculable. There are most definitely better Beatles albums, as this is probably the worst of the lot. But hearing this album is a must for any serious music fan, and let me tell you missy, the Beatles worst was and still is far better than everyone else's best. At the very least, you'll find yourself with a rather enjoyable pop record, which features some great songs beside some other rather underwhelming ones. Either way, you can't lose.
A few excellent tunes
Twist And Shout
Fun, light-hearted pop, yo
There's A Place
Some very painful songs
Some numbers are outdated
Poor drum sound