Although not necessarily the best Beatles album, the band’s 1963 debut, Please Please Me, is perhaps the most interesting of all their records. Its beauty lies in the fresh sound of a band superbly emulating the music of their youth, mixing American rock ‘n’ roll with the sweet sounds of early 1960s British pop. They may not have been the only band offering British rock ‘n’ roll to a whole generation of young people for the first time, but Please Please Me certainly makes it clear that they were doing it better than anyone else. Here were four ordinary, working-class lads from Liverpool playing such exciting music to an audience who could finally relate to and engage with the musicians and be inspired to do the same themselves.
Originally intended as a live album, the song choices capture the band’s early live performances, staying loyal to set lists from their pre-Beatlemania tours. This results in a heavy presence of 1950s and early-‘60s covers, but The Beatles brilliantly make the songs their own, so that covers like ‘Anna (Go To Him)’ and ‘Baby It’s You’ are camouflaged in deliciously warm guitar tones and a Beatles energy which makes the songs so upbeat and fantastic to listen to. There’s no telling these songs apart from the band’s own material on the album, and original tracks like ‘Ask Me Why’, ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’ similarly share melodies played to absolute perfection, carried by drum beats which blend so intricately with the music.
The album’s fourteen tracks feel like a live performance themselves, starting with Paul McCartney’s excited “one…two…three…four” at the beginning of the classic ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, and ending with John Lennon’s coarse vocal delivery in ‘Twist And Shout’. Recorded in an extraordinarily quick twelve hour session, the album has a real sense of raw progression, and in the final track Lennon’s fading voice is brilliantly obvious, adding to the authenticity of the music. Remarkably, this performance is over in 32 minutes, despite having fourteen songs, making the album very easy to familiarise yourself with. Even more remarkable is the fact that four different voices sing across those 32 minutes, but rarely do you realise that a different Beatle is singing. This is a result of the beautifully constructed Beatles vocal style, whereby one of the band will lead the song while the other three add enormous depth through their harmonising.
Please Please Me almost acts as an idiot’s guide to pop – the music is incredibly simple, made up of easy three-chord patterns, but this doesn’t stop it from being excellent. All along the way The Beatles deliver textbook ‘ooooos’, ‘aaaahhhs’ and ‘wooooos’, handclaps in the right places, and naive dreamy lyrics of love, but these just add to the quality of the songs and make Please Please Me the timeless classic that it is.