It took approximately 40 days to get here, but we have just reached the next major milestone. John… Paul… George… and Ringo. In early 1963, the Beatles released their debut album, “Please Please Me”, named following one of two lead singles on the album. Building on many of the sounds we have enjoyed so far, the Beatles represented another quantum leap forward in popular and rock and roll music. As songwriters, performers, and cultural influencers, the impact of this four-piece band from Liverpool, England is immeasurable.
The Beatles were dominated from the beginning by their two lead songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, whose partnership and evolving rivalry fueled many of the highs and lows for this quartet. Along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, these four men changed music forever. There were only two singles released from this album, the first of which was “Love Me Do”. This was one of the last Beatles recordings to deal with their recent turnover at drums, and the percussion on this track was actually recorded by a session drummer, not Ringo Starr. Both “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”, the second single, feature John on harmonica, with altering lead vocals from John and Paul. Personally, I have always preferred the upbeat “Please Please Me” as a true debut for the Beatles. The harmonies are spectacular, the melody is incredibly infectious, and the instrumentation, while not highly complex, is very well performed, including a very tight drum line from Ringo Starr.
Even from a band as consistently excellent as the Beatles, some songs deliver a bigger impact than others. The album hits the ground quickly, with Paul on lead for “I Saw Her Standing There”. The rhythm section of Paul on bass and Ringo on drums really drives the tempo, with us getting our first look at Paul’s “Little Richard” rocker voice. Two other standout songs that aren’t as highly acclaimed are “Anna”, and “Chains”. John’s soulful sadness on “Anna” is one of many great contrasts on this album, and “Chains” presents another beautiful three-part harmony, led by George. As with nearly every Beatles album, Ringo gets at least one song to sing lead on. “Boys” is not my favorite Ringo song by a long shot, but it is good to hear the wide variety of voices amongst the group.
There are three other songs that for me, have stood the test of time above the others. “P.S. I Love You” is perhaps the first of Paul’s many “silly love songs”, “Do You Want to Know a Secret” is another great vocal harmony with George on lead, and “Twist and Shout” is the iconic cover version with John on raspy lead, followed by Paul and George with backing harmonies. It’s unlikely they realized back then that their rushed recording of this classic would re-appear again and again in popular culture, including the streets of downtown Chicago, as celebrated by the one and only Ferris Bueller.
In many ways, the Beatles are without equals in the history of popular music, and you can expect to see all of their catalog covered as we follow their evolution in sound, including their industry-influencing movements along the way. Dismissed initially by some as the latest “fad of the month”, they remain among the most impactful artists in the history of music as we approach the 60th anniversary of this debut album.