The Beatles

Please Please Me

Song Review by

The first bona fide Lennon-McCartney Beatles classic, "Please Please Me" became their first British chart-topper in early 1963, and became a number three hit in the U.S. a year later, brought back from the dead after "I Want to Hold Your Hand" took off in America. Right from its very first bars, the song burst with a dynamism that was not just unheard of in British rock & roll, but had rarely been heard in rock music of any sort. After an ultra-catchy descending instrumental hook from John Lennon's harmonica, the group explodes into an exuberant, closely harmonized verse, like a rocked-up Everly Brothers. What immediately grabs the listener's attention, even the first time around, are the unexpected twists at every turn. George Harrison answers the first line with an urgent, ascending guitar riff; after the next line, everything stops except Harrison, who delivers another crafty lick to get the group into the chorus. The call and response between lead singer Lennon and the rest of the group raises the urgency yet further, resolved by the prototypically giddy ensemble harmonies as the singers deliver the title phrase. You can almost see the group shaking their moptops in euphoria at that point -- a euphoria which is contagious. After negotiating a rather tortuous (by 1963 standards) bridge, the group returns to the verse one last time and has one last surprise in order. In the last chorus, the backup harmony vocals repeat the title a few times instead of dropping out, suddenly ending with an explosive series of power chords heard nowhere else on the track. Principally the work of John Lennon, "Please Please Me" had its improbable genesis as an earnestly sung Roy Orbison imitation, and was reworked and sped up on the advice of Beatles producer George Martin. You can still hear elements of Orbison in the eventual recording, particularly in the almost operatic leaps when the title is sung. However, the brashness, quirky chord changes, and overpowering enthusiasm marks this performance as the Beatles' own. Critic Roy Carr went as far as to proclaim (in The Beatles: An Illustrated Record) that "Please Please Me" "was the prototype for the next five years of British music." It was not the sort of song that could be easily matched by cover versions, although a few tried, including Petula Clark, who did a faithful and competent rendition in French in 1963. Aficionados of Beatles cover versions should also be on the lookout for a devastating mod-soul-psychedelic arrangement by obscure U.K. band the Score a few years later -- one of the rare occasions on which a Beatles arrangement is totally revamped, and a fine track results (though it's still no match for the original).

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Please Please Me 1963 Apple Records / Capitol
The Beatles' Hits [EP] 1963 Parlophone 2:00
Meet the Beatles! 1964 Capitol 0:00
No Image 1964
No Image 1964 Vee-Jay
The Early Beatles 1965 Capitol / Universal 2:03
1962-1966 1973 Capitol / Parlophone 2:01
No Image 1984 MGM
Compact Disc EP Collection 1992 Apple Records
No Image 1993 Big Music 2:29
CD Singles Collection 1993 Capitol 2:02
Anthology 1 1995 Apple / Capitol 1:59
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 2:03
EP Boxset 1999 Parlophone 2:03
No Image 199? VigoTone
Produced by George Martin 2001 Capitol 2:03
The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2 2006 Apple / Capitol / EMI 2:02
Cavern: The Most Famous Club in the World 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:01
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 Capitol 2:00
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol / EMI 2:00
1962-1970 2010 EMI / Parlophone 2:01
The U.S. Albums 2014 Capitol / Universal 2:03
Can't Buy Me Love [Stargrove] 2015 Stargrove 1:59
No Image