UPDATED to include 22 lists from the comments section in this post.
The new votes caused some (minor) changes to the list. Most important: BIABH moved up to #4 & TOOM dropped to #5.
Saturday I asked the question – What are your five favorite Bob Dylan studio albums ? – over at our Facebook page. The response was great. As of writing 80 people (all Bob Dylan experts) have uttered their opinions.
If you’re not on Facebook, or do not “like” our page.. you can use the comment section to post your 5 favorites. I will update this list at a later stage.
To me, there’s nothing freer than a bird, you know, just flying wherever he wants to go. And, I don’t know, that’s what this country is all about, being free. I think everyone wants to be a free bird.
~Ronnie Van Zant
..now let’s focus on The Beatles debut album..“Please Please Me” released 50 years ago today!
….they were a group with the luck to meet opportunities, the wit to recognize them, the drive to seize them, and the talent to fullfil them. Please Please Me is the sound of them doing all four.
~Tom Ewing (pitchfork.com)
#1 – I Saw Her Standing There
22 March 1963
11 February 1963,
EMI Studios, London
Rock and roll, pop
Please Please Me is the debut album by the English rock band the Beatles. Parlophone rush-released the album on 22 March 1963 in the United Kingdom to capitalise on the success of singles “Please Please Me” (No. 1 on most lists but only No. 2 on Record Retailer) and “Love Me Do” (No. 17).
Of the album’s fourteen songs, eight were written by Lennon–McCartney (originally credited “McCartney–Lennon”), early evidence of what Rolling Stone later called “[their invention of] the idea of the self-contained rock band, writing their own hits and playing their own instruments”. In 2012, Please Please Me was voted 39th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.
…It’s a blueprint of everything the Beatles would ever do, mixing up doo-wop, country, R&B, girl groups, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Tin Pan Alley into their own exuberant sound. John and Paul sang the openhearted originals “Ask Me Why,” “There’s a Place,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Ringo shouted, “All right, George!” in his gender-flipped cover of the Shirelles’ ultrafemme “Boys.” All four Beatles sang and played with total emotional urgency, holding nothing back, knowing their first shot at getting out of Liverpool could have been their last. You can hear John completely blow out his voice in the last track, “Twist and Shout.”
#7 – Please Please Me
In order for the album to contain fourteen songs (the norm for British 12″ vinyl pop albums at that time was to have seven songs on each side, while American albums usually had only five or six songs per side) ten more tracks were needed to add to the four sides of their first two singles recorded and released previously. Therefore, at 10:00 am on Monday, 11 February 1963, the Beatles and George Martin started recording what was essentially their live act in 1963, and finished 585 minutes later (9 hours and 45 minutes). In three sessions that day (each lasting approximately three hours) they produced an authentic representation of the band’s Cavern Club-era sound, as there were very few overdubs and edits. Optimistically, only two sessions were originally booked by Martin—the evening session was added later.
The day ended with a cover of “Twist and Shout”, which had to be recorded last because John Lennon had a particularly bad cold and Martin feared the throat-shredding vocal would ruin Lennon’s voice for the day. This performance, captured on the first take, prompted Martin to say: “I don’t know how they do it. We’ve been recording all day but the longer we go on the better they get.”
#14 – Twist and Shout
All songs written by McCartney–Lennon, except where noted.
John Lennon – lead vocals, background vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, hand claps
Paul McCartney – lead vocals, background vocals, bass guitar, hand claps
George Harrison – background vocals, lead vocals on “Chains” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, hand claps
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, hand claps, lead vocals on “Boys”
Additional musicians and production
George Martin – producer, mixer, additional arrangements, piano on “Misery”, celesta on “Baby It’s You”
Norman Smith – audio engineer, mixer
Andy White – drums on “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”
Please Please Me hit the top of the UK album charts in May 1963 and remained there for thirty weeks before being replaced by With The Beatles. This was surprising because the UK album charts at the time tended to be dominated by film soundtracks and easy listening vocalists.
In 2012, Please Please Me was voted 39th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. It was ranked first among the Beatles’ early albums, and sixth of all of the Beatles’ albums, with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver,Rubber Soul, The Beatles (The White Album) and Abbey Road ranked higher.
Rolling Stone also placed two songs from the album on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: No. 139, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and No. 184, “Please Please Me”.
According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic, “Decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh”, the covers are “impressive” and the originals “astonishing“.
My thoughts, my personal needs have always been expressed through my songs; you can feel them there even in ‘Mr Tambourine Man’.
~Bob Dylan (to Sandra Jones – June 1981)
Even a song like Mr. Tambourine Man really isn’t a fantasy. There’s substance to the dream. Because you’ve seen it, you know? In order to have a dream, there’s something in front of you. You have to have seen something or have heard something for you to dream it. It becomes your dream then.
~Bob Dylan (to Bill Flanagan – March 1985)
Original version from youtube:
@ #12 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs. The original version from “Bringing It All Back Home” was recorded on January 15 – 1965 @ the third recording session.
….and proceeded to record the final versions of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “It’s Alright, Ma” & “Gates Of Eden” in a single take* with no playback between songs… it’s as though all three songs came out of him in one breath, easily the greatest breath drawn by an American artist since Ginsberg & Kerouac exhaled “Howl” & “On The Road” a decade earlier..
~Paul Williams (BD Performing Artist 1960-73)
*although this has been found not to be entirely true (after PW wrote his book).. It’s still a GREAT quote.
The specific Tambourine Man he had in mind was Bruce Langhorne, the magnificent multi-instrumentalist who would usher in Dylan’s electric era with some spellbinding guitar playing on Bringing It All Back Home (notably on “Mr. Tambourine Man” itself).
~Clinton Heylin (Revolution in the air)