There’s a scream inside everyone of us at every moment. And every one of us has had the experience of listening to a record and feeling that scream take over. Release. Abandon. Let it all out. Rock and Roll for me is about Eros, not Logos, which is paradoxical since my job is putting the experience in words.
~Paul Williams (Author’s note)
One of our favorite authors here at JV is Paul Williams, and…. he did write about other stuff than Bob Dylan.
We all love lists, so I’ll try out a new series of posts honoring one of his lesser known books:
..the list is chronological, starting back before the beginning and going through the 50′s and the 60′s and the 70′s and the 80′s, and ending for the sake of convenience in 1991. So #1 is not supposed to be ‘better’ than #100. It just got in the line first.
My criteria are simple: the song has to have been released as a seven-inch 45 rpm single in the United States or Great Britain (Robert Johnson’s 78 rpm ten-inch is the exception that proved the rule), and it has be “rock and roll” according to my subjective evaluation…
~Paul Williams (Author’s note)
..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“.