Music Notes: The Beatles, Please Please Me

November 30th, 2006

I’m on kind of a Beatles kick after seeing Love in Las Vegas, so I think I’ll plow through all the Beatles albums and post some thoughts. Since the songs are so familiar to me, I’ll rate each from one to five stars, and generate an amusing “Best Beatles Songs” list.

Please Please Me

Amazon link

The BeatlesMy ratings may seem a bit harsh - but they’re relative to other Beatles songs - two or three star ratings appear often because the four and five star songs are so incredible.

The album Please Please Me was the Beatles’ introduction to the world, and it’s a strong one. At this stage in the game, the group had to prove itself commercially, so it’s full of rock energy and several covers - not a lot of rule-bending. But there are some glimmers of the artistic prowess to come - the songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney and those killer harmonies were already taking shape. One neat bit of trivia is that the whole album was recorded in a day - about 10 hours of work.

I Saw Her Standing There

= 4 stars

This is a great album opener and a high-energy showcase for Paul’s youthful, strong voice. I have fond memories of this tune, but it does feel a bit old-hat. The song structure is quite normal and the verses drag a bit - plus the subject matter of the lyrics is definitely on the typical teenage fluff side.

Misery

= 3 stars

A catchy song, but not really the type of song I want stuck in my head. The great intro sinks quickly into something a bit ordinary, and I’m not a fan of the drippy bridge with its Liberace-style piano riff.

Anna (Go To Him)

= 3 stars

John demonstrates his ability with a slower song, the best part being the confidently-sung bridge with supportive background vocals.

Chains

= 2 stars

I’m not a big fan of this song which despite pretty harmonies and boppy energy kind of sinks with George’s lackluster vocals during the middle section.

Boys

= 2 stars

Pretty much every Beatles album reserved one tune for Ringo to sing. He handles this one just fine, but it’s an ordinary rock song and nothing special, especially in comparison with the songs around it. It serves merely to indicate that the Beatles are a group where everyone’s talented.

Ask Me Why

= 2 stars

This is a bit of an oddity, especially because the much better Tell Me Why shows up on a later album. I don’t really appreciate the little ornamentations in John’s melody, and it feels like the song is a demonstration that Lennon / McCartney could write a standard pop song. Mission accomplished.

Please Please Me

= 5 stars

This is as close to perfection as I’ve ever heard. The melody reminds me of a mousetrap, opening and closing, trying to catch the listener in between the diverging voices of John and Paul. There are also some neat guitar hooks and surprising chord changes. But above all, the glorious high harmonies sell the song and let you ride it home.

Love Me Do

= 5 stars

A classic but odd song, with the early Beatles harmonica as the center of my fascination. I’m also peculiarly drawn to the parallel octave harmonies of the bridge. It seems John Lennon sang a lot of low parts in the early days. It’s unique and has a distinctive, unforgettable sound.

P.S. I Love You

= 3 stars

Love letters seem rather quaint by today’s standards. Would this be an instant message today? There’s one odd chord, and a nice trade vocal trade-off comes about three quarters of the way through this song to add some needed pep.

Baby It’s You

= 3 stars

A cover tune, where John takes the lead vocal and adds a bit of longing feeling and emotion to the song, especially to the line “can’t help myself.” It’s subtle, but I think his understanding of when to push forward and when to hold back does wonders at selling this song. Too bad everything else about it is tragically average.

Do You Want To Know Secret

= 3 stars

George takes a turn at singing this Lennon / McCartney tune, and while it’s reasonably catchy (I still hear it on the radio every once in a while) and has some interesting chromatic melodies and chord changes, I can’t tolerate the heavy dose of corn. The “doo dah doos” drenched in plate reverb don’t help things.

A Taste Of Honey

= 2 stars

An extremely cornball song sung by Paul. I give it a bit more attention since there are undeniable elements here that are seeds of later work - I’m reminded of I’ve Just Seen A Face and even Fixing A Hole on the spaghetti western-esque “I will return” parts. But it’s still one song I find myself skipping.

There’s A Place

= 3 stars

Nice energy, and the songwriting of Lennon and McCartney shows some careful understanding of ornamentation and precious pauses, plus there’s also that wailing, haunting harmonica again. This song has a strange parallel to the Beach Boys’ In My Room, only it sounds like John and Paul jump on their bed imitating Elvis while Brian Wilson closes his door and gets stoned.

Twist And Shout

= 5 stars

Nothing bad can be said about this awesome number, where you literally hear John shredding his voice for the sake of rock and roll - perfect in every way. Especially neat are the building sections with the cascading “ahs”. Not any group could sell excitement like this, and with this song alone the Beatles success as a rock group was sealed.

Wikipedia: Please Please Me

7 comments!

  1. comment Gravatar sang - November 30th, 2006

    didn’t the Bangles do a cover version of “I Saw Her Standing There”? if not, someone else did. it’s one of those things I’d rather not google — too much precision on the internet and memories should be left uh vague and sometimes inaccurate.

    my favorite Beatles cover is Candyflip’s ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and Finona Apple’s ‘Hands Across the Universe’.

    nice blog

  2. comment Gravatar webomatica - November 30th, 2006

    heh … it was Tiffany that did a cover of that song. The cover is terrible. Let’s not revisit that one.

    I think there was a cool video for Fiona Apple’s beatles cover… directed by that Paul Thomas Anderson dude (they were a couple for a while). That might be a memory worth revisiting.

  3. comment Gravatar sang - December 1st, 2006

    tifanny?? well i’d rather take tifanny over britney spears any day of the week.

    i think i’ll youtube that fiona apple video right now.

  4. comment Gravatar sang - December 1st, 2006

    that’s possibly one of the best music videos ever…i totally forgot about this!

  5. comment Gravatar webomatica - December 1st, 2006

    this one, right?

    Yeah that is a pretty kick ass video.

    Here’s another Paul Thomas Anderson video… directed for another musican I like a lot… Michael Penn. This is for the song Try. It’s one of the “one take” type… some pretty cool moments.

  6. comment Gravatar sang - December 1st, 2006

    nice one, i didn’t know paul thomas anderson was a prolific music video director. his next film is about the gold rush (i hear).

    saw on the sundance channel recently, a documentary series called ‘icon’ featuring fiona and quentin tarantino — i guess they like each other alot. i just can’t stand this bloated tarantino dude trying to mack on pt anderson’s ex missus….

  7. comment Gravatar webomatica - December 1st, 2006

    heh is tarantino bloated now… the guy was always pretty skinny.

    I should probably create a different post for cool music videos… this thread is getting kind of long and doesn’t have much to do with the beatles anymore.

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