The Beatles’ Second Single

January 11, 2017

It’s one of those questions to which everyone is (pretty) sure they know answer. What was The Beatles' first No.1 on the official UK charts?

Just about everyone knows that ‘Love Me Do’, their first single, did OK on the charts, but didn’t reach the coveted top spot. So the answer has to be… ‘Please Please Me’ recorded at the end of November 1962 and released as their second single on 11 January 1963. But the truth is, according to the Record Retailer magazine chart, ‘Please Please Me’ only made No.2. However, the reason for their being some confusion is because the good old BBC did place the song at No.1 on their chart, which was determined by an average of various UK charts published in the New Musical Express, Record Mirror and other British pop papers.

It was on Monday 26 November 1962, following a Sunday evening gig at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, that The Beatles headed to London to record ‘Please Please Me’, along with the B-side ‘Ask Me Why’. The next day, The Beatles were at the BBC’s Paris Studio, in London’s Lower Regent Street, for their first-ever London appearance on the UK’s national radio station. Released on 11 January, ‘Please Please Me’ charted a little over a week later, peaking at No. 2 in late February, where it stayed for two weeks and it made the No.2 slot again on 16 March for a single week.

VJ581Sleeve1In America Capitol Records turned down the opportunity to release The Beatles’ first two singles, and so a deal was done with Vee-Jay, a US label whose main claim to fame was that they had The Four Seasons on their label. A few weeks before the impending arrival of The Beatles in New York to appear on Ed Sullivan’s Show in February 1964, Vee-Jay reissued ‘Please Please Me’ with ‘From Me to You’ on the B-side (having originally released ‘Please Please Me’ in February, 1963 that at the time did not perform well).

When The Beatles set foot on American soil, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday 7 February 1964, it marked the beginning of what has come to be called, ‘the British invasion’. The following morning The Beatles, minus George who was unwell, did a press photo-call in New York’s Central Park. After lunch there were rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show, and the band’s road manager, Neil Aspinall, stood in for George at a TV camera call.

The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast from Studio 50 on Broadway and West 53rd Street in Manhattan and The Beatles taped what became their third appearance on the show here the following day. On The Beatles 1’s DVD and Blu-ray the clip of the band performing, ‘Please Please Me is taken from the Sullivan show that was transmitted on Sunday 23 February.’

640404 billboard copyOn the evening following the afternoon’s videotaped session, The Beatles performed live to a studio audience of 728 people. More significantly, the Sunday evening Sullivan Show was seen by 73 million Americans in over 23 million homes. It remains one of the most watched broadcasts in TV history. Brian Epstein’s deal with the Sullivan Show resulted in The Beatles being seen on American TV on three consecutive Sunday nights – an unprecedented PR opportunity.

Their performance on the Sullivan Show of ‘Please Please Me’ was a significant reason behind the single peaking at No.3 on the week of 21 March 1964. Two weeks later ‘Please Please Me’ was at No.5 on the charts, but in the four places above it were, ‘I Want Ro Hold Your Hand’ at No.4, ‘She Loves You’ at No.3, ‘Twist and Shout’ at No.2 and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ at No.1. It is not a feat that has ever been repeated, nor shall it.

The Beatles 1s celebrates their might achievements and 'Please Please Me' is included on the bonus disc on the DVD/Blu-ray edition. It's available here…

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8 comments

  1. Dean Haas, Jr.

    I bought the single ‘She Loves You’ when it was released in America, on the Swan label, and the ‘Introducing The Beatles’ LP (Mono, no less) on VJ. It always made me upset that the records released in the U.K contained different songs than the American releases, such as Meet The Beatles on capitol.

  2. Tom Purdue

    Capitol, having at first refused to release the Beatles’s material in America, then proceeded to carve up all their albums (up to and including Revolver) turning 14 track British releases into 12 or 11 track American ones, thereby short changing the American buyers by making about 9 albums from what were 6 albums in
    Britain. The worst example was Revolver, where they took off 3 Lennon songs and put them on Yesterday and Today so Revolver was virtually devoid of Lennon’s songs.

  3. Robin Ore

    For the historical record, there was no “official” UK chart until Feb 1969. The Record Retailer chart might be the “official” 60s chart of the UK Official Charts Co, but it was never the “official” chart of the UK, no way, no how. This is revisionist history decades after the fact. Of the other 3 charts, NME, Melody Maker, and Disc, they sampled a total of 270 record shops in 1963. They all said Please Please Me was # 1 for 2 weeks. The BBC had it # 1 for 3 weeks. Record Retailer sampled only 30 record shops, and claimed PPM peaked at #2. Who are you going to believe, 270 or 30? Not only that, Record Retailer was the least accurate of the 4 charts, had the most volatility, and frequently couldn’t get their weekly record shop tallies in on time. They made the same mistake with The Rolling Stones “19th Nervous Breakdown.” No, Record Retailer was not “official”, and they were the least reliable. Don’t take my word for it, look up UK record industry and chart expert Alan Smith’s article https://www.ukmix.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=103263 and all will be revealed. Don’t believe the revisionist lie, people. Even The Beatles 1st UK LP and some EPs said PPM was #1. Why would a record company claim their artist had fewer #1 hits than they really did? Total rubbish. And oh yes, Strawberry Fields Forever also hit #1 for 3 weeks on the Melody Maker chart, the chart which sampled the most number of record shops at that time, around 250. And in the US, Twist & Shout, Nowhere Man, and For You Blue also hit #1 on the Cashbox and Record World charts. Thus The Beatles had 32 total #1’s in the UK and US. Put that in your pipe and smoke it…

    1. Robert C

      I had read various articles over the years making the same point as Robin did about judging the various charts. It’s hard to imagine now but there was a time before one, well-documented, authoritative source for this information was available.

  4. Adrian Thomas

    Robin Ore, you are spot-on with all your points. I’ve been saying the same for years.
    Let there be no doubt, in 1963 The Beatles ‘Please Please Me’ DID get to #1 in the UK!

  5. Robin Ore

    Let me just add in, the Record Retailer chart IS a part of 60s UK chart history, but only 10% to 16% of it, not 100%. There are better/more accurate ways for the Official Charts Co to represent the 60s than using the RR chart: use the NME chart, the Melody Maker chart, the BBC average chart, or use any of those 3 and fill out the missing positions 31-50 (when they are missing) with the RR chart (adjusting for duplicates). Or do a flat out recalculation of the 520 weekly charts and weight them by the approx. number of record shops each of the 4 charts sampled, per Alan Smith’s article. Any of these options is way more historically accurate than using Record Retailer, the least representative and least accurate chart of the 60s. Now go play and be nice…

  6. uDiscover (author)

    As has also been well documented over the years, the charts in some of the pop papers were falsified… It’s a minefield, but The Record Retailer chart is what is accepted as the best source. Whatever the arguments, it’s a great record.

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