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History In One Day: The Beatles Record ‘Please Please Me’

Mostly recorded in one day at Abbey Road Studios, The Beatles’ debut album, ‘Please Please Me’ went on to top the charts, staying there for 30 weeks.

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Beatles Please Please Me Debut Album Cover

Shortly before 10am on Monday 11 February 1963, The Beatles arrived at Abbey Road Studios in North London to work on their debut album, Please Please Me. Ten hours later it was all but finished. Two days later, George Martin did a few overdubs, before the final mono and stereo masters were completed the following Monday.

The Beatles’ monumental effort produced ten of the 14 tracks for Please Please Me. It’s an amazing achievement given that they were in the middle of a tour with Helen Shapiro, playing two shows every night, while travelling from show to show up and down the country. Truth is, when they arrived at Abbey Road they were exhausted, so much so that there were doubts in the mind of producer. George Martin that they could last the two sessions he had booked them to do. In the end, they did three. As Ringo Starr later said, “For me it was all a bit of a blur. The sessions and those times until we did the album — and that too — are a bit of a blur.”

Listen to Please Please Me right now.

Today, we instantly preface so many Beatles songs with ‘Lennon & McCartney’, but on this debut album, only eight of the tracks are written by John and Paul. The others were covers that they had been playing regularly at gigs.

During the morning session, the group recorded two of John and Paul’s songs, ‘There’s A Place’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ which at the time they were calling ‘Seventeen.’ After lunch — or to be more precise, after George Martin and the engineers had their lunch while the four Beatles stayed in the studio drinking milk and sucking throat sweets — they started work during rehearsals on the first of the cover songs. It was Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow’s ‘A Taste of Honey,’ a song originally written for the Broadway play of the same name and recorded first by Lenny Welch the previous year.

Next, George took the lead vocal for ‘Do You Want to Know A Secret,’ another of John and Paul’s songs. A month later, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas recorded the song at Abbey Road and took it to No. 1 on the UK charts. After some more work on ‘There’s A Place’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ they did another Lennon & McCartney song, ‘Misery,’ one they had written with Helen Shapiro in mind, but she had turned it down; Paul and John shared the lead vocals.

Come the evening session for Please Please Me, the first song they tackled was ‘Hold Me Tight,’ which Paul had written. This version has never been heard because it was rejected for the debut album and the tape was wiped; instead The Beatles recorded it again for their second album. From there on in they were on hyper-drive, rattling through five cover versions in quick succession.

The Beatles Parlophone Postcard

Arthur Alexander’s ‘Anna (Go To Him)’, they nailed in three takes. Next up a song written by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell, ‘Boys,’ with Ringo on lead vocals. This was the b-side of the Shirelles’ ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,’ written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. They then recorded another Goffin & King song, ‘Chains,’ which had been an American hit for the Cookies. What The Beatles almost certainly didn’t know was that Gerry Goffin, at home in New York, was celebrating his 24th birthday that very day… it was a nice present.

The fourth of the covers was Burt Bacharach and Mack David’s ‘Baby It’s You,’ another hit for the Shirelles. Just before the 10 pm curfew imposed by Abbey Road Studios, they did one more song, and in one take nailed ‘Twist and Shout.’ The Phil Medley and Bert Berns song (although it’s credited to Bert Russell) had been a hit for the Isley Brothers, having originally been recorded as ‘Shake It Up Baby’ by the Top Notes.

The Beatles had to do their version in one take because John’s voice was so shot, with the effects of his cold, that he could only do the one vocal. It was a defining number in The Beatles’ early career and remains one of the great rock vocals of all time. As John later said, “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.”

And that was it: ten songs in ten hours. Add to them ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘PS I Love You’, their first single, and ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Ask Me Why,’ the follow-up, and you have The Beatles’ debut album, named after their second hit. All in all, not a bad day at the office.

The following day, The Beatles were in Sheffield playing the Azena Ballroom and later that evening, the Astoria Ballroom in Oldham, Lancashire. Between recording their debut album and 22 March, when it was released, they did not have a day off. Apart from two days in the studio, every other one was spent on the road – like much of the rest of their first year of fame.

Please Please Me went to No.1 on the UK album chart on 11 May and stayed there for the next thirty weeks. This is history.

Please Please Me can be bought here.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. antho bobenkz

    February 11, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Good album

  2. Peter Grad

    February 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    A classic, superb album. Thank you for the terrific summary behind the scenes in the making of this gem.

    • uDiscover

      February 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks, Peter

  3. Scarramouche

    February 11, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    How many artists work as hard as that these days??

  4. Valdimir D'Angelo

    February 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    A perfect tecnichal and artistic album. Hear today… no fails!… ion just 10 hours.
    Today, in 10 hours, the artist did not tune his guitar.

  5. Byrdy

    February 11, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    A real classic …there was before and after this album was published.

  6. Andrewb

    February 12, 2015 at 2:09 am

    10 hours that changed the world

  7. Robert Killingbeck

    February 12, 2015 at 2:37 am

    The Beatles album that was made in ONE DAY! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

  8. beatlenic

    February 12, 2015 at 9:51 am

    what a wonderful summery of the album.
    my sister was the biggest fan,untill her untimely death.
    hey jen…

  9. Maggie Dickson

    February 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I have spent a lifetime loving the Beatles
    It’s incredible how hard they worked to become the amazing entertainers they have. It sure paid off and I love these updates. It lightens my life. Thank you..

  10. Astley Sharples

    February 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Great summary of the making of this fantastic debut album…….how hard they all worked and such pleasure it has given so many people.

    RIP John & George…thank you

  11. Erik Smith

    February 13, 2015 at 2:05 am

    Love those Beatles!

  12. Peter

    February 15, 2015 at 2:34 am

    i enjoyed this article. Minor correction: “Baby, It’s You” was co-written by Bacharach and Mack David, elder brother of Hal.

  13. Julio

    February 18, 2015 at 2:30 am

    This is an amazing work, in 10 hours, today nobody works well as they!!!

  14. Roberto Gutiérrez Sánchez

    February 20, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Deseó recibir fotos de the Beatles, de su trayectoria artística

  15. Bianca

    February 11, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I love The Beatles. It’s great to know a little bit of them every now and then. Thank you!

  16. Mike

    February 11, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    My favorite LP by these guys! Paul once said that this album best represents the “Beatle sound”.

  17. Phil Webster

    February 11, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    My Partner Angela got me an original 1963 mono copy off eBay for Christmas, As well as a copy of revolver.

  18. Peter Anderson

    February 18, 2016 at 5:48 am

    Please Please Me was the Album’s name and the single went to No1 in the UK charts so how the hell did it miss out on their 1 cd? Baffles me to this very day!!!!!

  19. Kiwi40

    March 22, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Exactly, Love me do was included and was never no 1 in the UK only in the US, Please Please me was no 1 in both

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