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FEB. 11 1963 - 50 YEARS AGO: THE BEATLES RELEASE ‘PLEASE PLEASE ME’

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“Congratulations, gentlemen. You’ve just made your first No. 1.”

According to Beatles lore, those were the words spoken by producer George Martin on Nov. 26, 1962 after finishing the recording ‘Please Please Me,’ which was released, inconspicuously enough, as Parlophone 45-R 4983 on Jan. 11, 1963. Six weeks later, Martin would be proven right, with it topping the charts of two major British music magazines, Melody Maker and New Musical Express, thus kicking off the phenomenon that would soon become known as Beatlemania.

‘Please Please Me’ was one of the original songs the group recorded on their first recording session two months prior, but it would require a major modification. John Lennon, like everybody else cool at the time, was listening to a lot of Roy Orbison, and so he fashioned an Orbison-like ballad. For the lyrics, Lennon, whose fascination with wordplay was already in place, took inspiration from Bing Crosby’s ‘Please,’ which began, “Please lend your little ear to my pleas.”

Martin liked the song, but not the arrangement, and instead he had them record a song by an established composer, Mitch Murray, called ‘How Do You Do It?” The Beatles grudgingly complied, but were more enthusiastic to another suggestion of his, that they consider speeding up ‘Please Please Me.’ To Martin’s delight, they had it ready to go, adding Paul McCartney’s second vocal and Lennon’s harmonica to the song, when it came time to record their second single.

Unfortunately, EMI chose to erase the masters of the slowed-down version of ‘Please Please Me,’ so Beatles fans can only envision it in its original form.

The B-side, ‘Ask Me Why,’ is a ballad that shows off how much they had already learned about songwriting from the Great American Songbook, with a few jazzy chords and close harmony singing. It was recorded in the same session that birthed the A-side.

Copyright ® ultimateclassicrock.com

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10.00am, Monday 11 February 1963 (50 years ago)

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Producer: George Martin

Engineer: Norman Smith

On this day The Beatles recorded 10 songs of their debut album Please Please Me, at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London.

http://www.beatlesbible.com/1963/02/11/recording-please-please-me-lp/

Well, it was a very cold morning and I didn't know any of them. I actually had to ask Norman Smith, who was the engineer, 'Who are they? Who are who?' so he introduced me and everything else. They were very businesslike, and they just had come down into London from the gig they had done the night before. But they were fine, just like any other group that's coming in to record.

We helped them bring all their equipment in and set it all up. Because they were rushing around the country all the time and their amplifiers maybe broke down or something like that, there were no backs on the amplifiers, you see; they were just boxes with their speakers. And as I was putting it all up, we'd look for dirt inside, but there were bits of paper lying around in there, and I picked them up. They were notes from the girls from the dance floor who threw them up on the stage—they said 'Please play this, please play that, this is my phone number.' I guess they just read them and then threw them in the back of the amplifier, all of these bits of paper in there!

The first session began at 10am. The Beatles recorded 10 takes of There's A Place and nine of I Saw Her Standing There, which at the time had the working title Seventeen.

The first session finished at 1pm and the studio staff took a break for lunch. The Beatles, meanwhile, had other plans.

We told them we were having a break but they said they would like to stay on and rehearse. So while George, Norman and I went round the corner to the Heroes Of Alma for a pie and pint they stayed, drinking milk. When we came back they'd been playing right through. We couldn't believe it. We had never seen a group work right through their lunch break before.Richard Langham, tape operator

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The second session began at 2.30pm, and finished at 6pm. The Beatles began with work on A Taste Of Honey. The best version was take five, onto which Paul McCartney double-tracked his lead vocals. This overdub was recorded in two attempts, making the final version take seven.

In between recording the basic track for A Taste Of Honey and the vocal overdubs, The Beatles recorded eight takes of Do You Want To Know A Secret, with George Harrison on lead vocals.

With those two songs finished, John Lennon recorded a harmonica overdub onto There's A Place in three attempts, and handclaps were added to take one of I Saw Her Standing There.

The final song to be recorded in the afternoon session was Misery, a Lennon-McCartney original which had originally been offered to Helen Shapiro. The song was recorded with the tapes running at double speed - 30 inches per second - to allow for a piano overdub to be laid down at the slower speed at a later date. This was added on 20 February by George Martin, without The Beatles being present.

The third session of the day took place from 7.30-10.45pm, although it had been scheduled to finish at 10pm. The Beatles firstly taped 13 takes of Hold Me Tight, which was later reworked for their second album With The Beatles.

Of this day's attempts at Hold Me Tight, only two takes were complete run-throughs. Five were false starts, one broke down mid-way, and four of the takes were edit pieces intended to be spliced into the tape at a later date. The final version was to have been an edit of takes nine and 13, but this was never made and the tape was later destroyed.

The Beatles then recorded three takes of Arthur Alexander's Anna (Go To Him), followed by a single recording of Boys, the latter featuring Ringo Starr simultaneously on vocals and drums.

Two more cover versions came next. George Harrison sang The Cookies' Chains, written by Goffin and King. Four takes were recorded, although take one was later decided to be the best attempt. The Beatles then performed The Shirelles' Baby It's You in three takes, with Lennon on lead vocals.

By this time it was around 10pm, the time EMI Studios normally closed. The Beatles, however, still had one song to record. A discussion took place in the canteen about what this should be, and several suggestions were put forward.

Someone suggested they do Twist And Shout, the old Isley Brothers' number, with John taking the lead vocal. But by this time all their throats were tired and sore - it was 12 hours since we had started working. John's, in particular, was almost completely gone so we really had to get it right first time, The Beatles on the studio floor and us in the control room. John sucked a couple more Zubes [throat sweets], had a bit of a gargle with milk and away we went.Norman Smith, sound engineer

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles had been recording Twist And Shout for many months, and regularly used it as a show-stopper. And so it was on this day, with The Beatles putting all their energies into one final electrifying performance, with John Lennon singing bare-chested.

The last song nearly killed me. My voice wasn't the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn't bother me. You can hear that I'm just a frantic guy doing his best.John Lennon, 1976

Anthology

Two takes of the song were recorded, but the first was selected for the Please Please Me LP. Although complete, Lennon's vocals in the second take were too far gone for it to be usable.

Everyone in the studio knew they had witnessed something truly special, and with the recordings complete The Beatles climbed the stairs to the control room to listen to the playback.

Sessions never normally over-ran past 10pm. At 10.05 you'd meet half the musicians on the platform of St John's Wood station, going home. But on this occasion after the first playback they decided they wanted to hear certain songs again. I glanced at Norman and at the clock and said, 'Look, I have to be in at nine tomorrow morning. How will I get home?' Brian Epstein said that he would run me home if I played the tape again. So I played the tape and he drove me back to Camden Town in his little Ford Anglia.Richard Langham

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

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The Beatles made their stop in Dallas Texas 50 years ago today (09/18/1964) at Memorial Auditorium. I was 13 at that time and living in the south Oak Cliff area of Dallas. I was not yet a fan....but I was a fast learner. My, my, how "rock & roll" has evolved.

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