On a bitterly cold Monday, fifty years ago today, the Beatles entered Abbey Road Studios at 9 a.m. – and left almost at midnight that day having recorded the ten songs they needed for their first album, entitled “Please Please Me.”
It spent 30 weeks as the #1 album on the British charts, and served as the gasoline that fueled the Beatlemania that swept England that fateful year.
Happy Anniversary, Rock ‘n’ Roll!
And your intrepid author is liberally quoted in an article marking the occasion by Examiner.com Beatle correspondent, Steve Marinucci.
Nearly 50 years ago, on 11 February 1963, the Beatles entered EMI Studios on Abbey Road in London for a marathon session to record the ten songs they needed for their first album. Today, when musical artists often take months to complete an album, it’s hard to believe that the Beatles recorded their first album in a single day.
“The album was basically the gas that fueled the launch of Beatlemania,” says Alex Hendler, author of the critically acclaimed short e-book, Please Please Me. “Yet the Beatles faced tremendous obstacles going into the session. They were on a national tour so they only had the single day to record the entire album. The musicians’ union’s rules had a limit on how many hours the band could actually work so they could only do so many takes of each song. And John was sick as a dog.”
Hendler is making himself and his rare collection of outtakes from the “Please Please Me” sessions available to bring this historic day in rock ‘n’ roll history to life.
“Fifty years later, they still blast ‘Twist & Shout’ between innings at Yankee Stadium. I think people would appreciate the song even more if they knew how John had one performance left in him at the end of a very hard day’s night, and the curious ritual he undertook to nail their classic performance in one take,” says Hendler.
To schedule an interview with Alex Hendler, please contact him directly via email.
Nice review of Please Please Me e-book on Blinded by Sound today. Check it out.
Arthur Alexander is a name you hear often from early Beatles’ lore. His song, “Anna (Go to Him),” was covered on the Please Please Me LP, and they covered a few more of his songs, including “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues” and “Soldier of Love,” as part of their live act.
Arthur Alexander. Such a regal name. And yet, as was the fate of many early Rhythm & Blues musicians, he never really cashed in on his talent. In spite of being the only songwriter to have his songs covered by the Sixties’ Holy Trinity – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan – he spent much of his life working as a bus driver and died of a fatal heart attack at the age of 53 shortly after he began performing and recording again, according to Wikipedia.
The Beatles recorded “Anna” during the evening portion of the Please Please Me recording session, when they were playing catch-up in their desperate effort to record all the songs they needed for the album before the studio closed for the night. They nailed it in three takes. John’s vocals were like velvet, George had faithfully replicated Floyd Cramer’s piano lick on his black Gretsch Duo Jet, and as for Ringo’s drumming, I think George describes it best:
I remember having several records by (Alexander), and John sang three or four of his songs. Arthur Alexander used a peculiar drum pattern, which we tried to copy, but we couldn’t quite do it, so in the end we’d invented something quite bizarre but equally original. A lot of the time we tried to copy things but wouldn’t be able to, and so we’d end up with our own versions.
– George Harrison, The Beatles Anthology
The Beatles did a number of gorgeous cover songs; this is one of my favorites. Here’s Alexander’s equally gorgeous original version. Have a listen.
“‘Seventeen,’ take two.”
Been on the road for weeks.
Sick as a dog.
It’s bloody 11 in the morning, hardly the time for rock ‘n’ roll.
Way Beyond Compare – The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy by John C. Winn
The Beatles Recording Sessions – The Official Abbey Studio Session Notes by Mark Lewisohn
The Beatles’ Anthology – by The Beatles
We’re lucky the tapes managed to survive, because the usual policy back then was to get rid of the stuff that wasn’t used. Thus, the famous “Roy Orbison” demo version of “Please Please Me” appears to be gone forever, but fortunately many more treasures still exist allowing us to listen in as the Beatles work.
“[‘Please Please Me’] was my attempt at writing a Roy Orbison song, would you believe it? I wrote it in the bedroom in my house at Menlove Avenue, which was my auntie’s place. I remember the day and the pink eyelet on the bed and I heard Roy Orbison doing ‘Only the Lonely‘ or something. That’s where that came from. And also I was also always intrigued by the words of [sings] ‘Please lend a little ear to my pleas’ – a Bing Crosby song. I was always intrigued by the double use of the word ‘please.’ So it was a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby.”– John LennonInterviews by David Sheff