The Beatles' 1st album, 'Please Please Me,' turns 50 today (with audio slideshow)

The Beatles' 1st album, 'Please Please Me,' turns 50 today (with audio slideshow)

March 22nd, 2013 by Barry Courter and Casey Phillips in Entertainment

The Beatles' first album was "Please Please Me."

The Beatles' first album was "Please Please Me."

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

POLL: Are The Beatles the best rock band ever?


(Track number/title/lead vocalist. Songs written by John Lennon-Paul McCartney unless otherwise noted in parenthesis.)

Side 1

1. "I Saw Her Standing There" - McCartney

2. "Misery" - Lennon and McCartney

3. "Anna (Go to Him)" (Arthur Alexander) - Lennon

4. "Chains" (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - George Harrison

5. "Boys" (Luther Dixon, Wes Farrell) - Ringo Starr

6. "Ask Me Why" - Lennon

7. "Please Please Me" - Lennon and McCartney

Side 2

1. "Love Me Do" - McCartney and Lennon

2. "P.S. I Love You" - McCartney

3. "Baby It's You" (Mack David, Barney Williams, Burt Bacharach) - Lennon

4. "Do You Want to Know a Secret" - Harrison

5. "A Taste of Honey" (Bobby Scott, Ric Marlow) - McCartney

6. "There's a Place" - Lennon and McCartney

7. "Twist and Shout" (Phil Medley, Bert Russell) - Lennon


Here are five things you may or may not have known about "Please, Please Me."

1. The raspy lead vocals in the album ender, "Twist and Shout," aren't being faked. John Lennon reportedly was so into the performance that he shouted himself hoarse by the end of the take.

2. Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics to "I Saw Her Standing There" in a Liverpool Institute exercise book.

3. The iconic cover shot for "Please Please Me" was taken at the headquarters of EMI Limited, 20 Manchester Square in London's West End.

4. "Please Please Me" and "Ask Me Why" were removed from "Introducing ... The Beatles" -- the U.S. version of "Please Please Me" -- because the band's American label, Vee-Jay Records, wanted to stick to the States standard of 12-song albums.

5. By the time the song "Love Me Do" was finished, three drummers had been used for various takes: Pete Best, during an 1962 audition recording; Ringo Starr in a second session; and finally Scottish session drummer Andy White, whose performance was used in the first American pressing of the single.

The Beatles, from left,George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr, perform on stage in London, England, in 1963.

The Beatles, from left,George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Ten of its 14 tracks were recorded in just 15 hours, and it lasts only slightly longer than the average sitcom.

Yet half a century after the United Kingdom release of "Please Please Me," people are still talking about The Beatles' first album. It might be hard to imagine what the music world was like before March 22, 1963, but most agree The Beatles' debut was a game changer.

"Please Please Me" leapt to the top of the British charts, hitting the No. 1 spot within six weeks. It remained there for 30 weeks, only to be replaced by the band's second album, "With The Beatles," released on Nov. 22, 1963.

The original version of "Please Please Me" was not released in the United States until 1987, when it was converted to the still-emerging CD format. Instead, America's first Beatles album was "Introducing ... The Beatles," released in January 1964 on Vee-Jay Records and including mostly the same songs, minus "Please Please Me" and "Ask My Why." It was also subtitled "England's No. 1 Vocal Group."

Ten days later, Capitol Records released "Meet the Beatles!," which also included "I Saw Her Standing There" but was mostly comprised of songs from the British "With the Beatles." After the legal battles between Capitol and Vee-Jay ended in late 1964, Capitol became the Beatles' only label in the U.S.

George S. Clinton, 66, a Chattanooga native and now a film composer, says he clearly remembers where he was the first time he heard "Please Please Me."

"I was in [current Chattanooga State Community College theater teacher] Sherry Landrum's bedroom - with the door open, of course" he says. "We were in high school or junior high. She was playing it for me. I was blown away totally.

"I had been a huge Everly Brothers fan. What I loved about their harmonies was it was very much like the Everly Brothers. It was great to hear this new, fresh kind of rock 'n' roll. And, they seemed to be the voice of my generation. They were speaking directly to and for kids our age."

Unlike its English predecessor, "Introducing ... The Beatles" didn't even make the domestic charts, but "Meet the Beatles!" launched Beatlemania here with the release of the singles "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There."

Prior to "Please Please Me," pop stars were rarely well-educated individuals and almost never wrote their own songs. Instead, record labels and managers would pick songs and hand them to the artists, telling them to record them.

The Beatles, though, wrote most of their own songs, including eight of the 14 on "Please Please Me." In a 2007 biography about The Beatles, Rolling Stone magazine credited their self-driven approach as "[inventing] the idea of the self-contained rock band, writing their own hits and playing their own instruments."

"[The Beatles] figured out that bands didn't have to sound like one thing," says Chattanooga's Ryan Oyer, 29, a pop/rock singer/songwriter. "Early on, you have the pop/rock 'n' roll that wasn't quite edgy but just edgy enough, but once 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver' came around, that was when it seemed like they figured out the full potential of what you could do in the studio."

Beatles songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon both attended respected schools in England, a background that helped them write music that elevated the pop genre in the eyes of academics. In 2009, Liverpool University launched The Beatles, Popular Music and Society, a masters program whose participants studied the Fab Four's work and the societal forces at play during their composition. The program saw its first graduate in 2011.

In 1963, the world was a different place. Producer George Martin brought McCartney, Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr into the EMI studios in London to record 10 songs that would be added to the two singles/four songs ("Love Me Do"/"P.S. I Love You" and "Please Please Me"/"Ask My Why") the band had already released. Parlophone Records wanted to capitalize on the hit singles, so they put a rush order on the album project.

The Beatles convinced Martin to let them record some of their own material, as well as six cover versions of other songs.

Martin's original idea was to record live at Liverpool's Cavern Club, where The Beatles regularly performed. Instead, the 15-hour session at EMI on Feb. 11, 1963, consisted of what essentially was the band's live show. Most songs took only one or two takes.

While that recording session seems quick and dirty, Lennon and McCartney had been playing and writing together for five years, and Harrison had been with them almost that long. Starr was fairly new to the group, having replaced recently ousted original drummer Pete Best, but Starr was known to the other Beatles and was familiar with the group's sound.

As a group, they were used to playing long sets, thanks to their club gigs at home as well as stints at clubs in Hamburg, Germany, where they played regularly between 1960 and 1962.

By 1963 and '64, McCartney and Lennon were so proficient at writing songs they were composing not only for themselves but also had credits on hits by artists such as Peter and Gordon and Billy J. Kramer.

"They made everything so timeless," says Sarah Siener, 25, an English and writing major at the University of Tennessee. "You can still hear Beatles songs on the radio today. There's a lot of hope in their music, and that's something that has stuck with me a lot, their optimism. I don't think anyone can write songs that are that timeless again."

The songs are timeless enough that teenagers and young adults today still are buying Beatles records, including the oldest ones.

"I used to sell mostly the Beatles albums from 'Help' on," says Chad Bledsoe, 45, owner of Chad's Records. "Lately, I'm seeing kids getting more into vinyl. By that I mean teenage and later. They are buying more of the old ones. They want to have the first ones. People want to trace the roots of everything, and they are rediscovering everything from its origins."

That's kind of how American fans felt in 1964. The Beatles were enormous in England after the release of "Please Please Me" in early 1963, but they refused to come to America until they had a No. 1 single. That didn't happen until early 1964 when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" hit the top of the charts.

At one point in 1964 - after they'd come to America and appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" - The Beatles held the Top 5 spots on the Billboard singles charts with "Please Please Me," "Twist and Shout," "She Loves You," "Can't Buy Me Love" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand." The first three songs were on "Please Please Me."

Within a year, everything was "mop-top" or "yeah, yeah, yeah," and the music industry was never the same. Some say a career like the Beatles' - from the hysteria of Beatlemania to the musical and cultural effect of the band, its members and their music - can't be repeated.

But even now, the Beatles are best sellers. The album "1," a collection of 27 of the band's No. 1 hits in the U.S. and U.K., was released in 2000 and is currently the best-selling album of the 21st century with 31 million copies worldwide. The Recording Industry Association of America lists them as the best-selling act in U.S. history, with 177 million units sold in this country alone.

Their catalog was put up on iTunes for the first time on Nov. 16, 2011 and, by early January 2012, it had sold 5 million songs and 1 million albums, according to Entertainment Weekly.

"What they managed to do, in my mind, is writing really poppy, really catchy songs that were sonically ahead of their time," says Matt Skudlarek, 25, founder and producer at Motion Music. "They're so easy to sing along to, but if you really listen to them, there's a ton of stuff going on - production-wise - that's mind-boggling and incredible."