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Please Please Me (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


"Please Please Me" is the second single released from The Beatles' first album, Please Please Me.

It has been subject to controversy in the UK, because at the time there were many charts circulating, and Record Retailer, whose opinion is now most widely considered as being the correct chart, published the single at #2, whereas all other charts published it at #1. Today, The Official UK Charts Company, claim the song only made #2 in the charts. However many believe it to have been a #1 – especially as the NME chart was the main one at the time – thus making The Beatles the first group to score 18 #1 singles on the UK charts, and also increasing their overall count to 18. Nevertheless, it was a huge hit for a follow-up and gained them a much larger fanbase than their debut "Love Me Do" had.

The single, as initially released with "Ask Me Why" on the B-side, failed to make much impact in the US, but it was re-released there on January 3, 1964 (this time with "From Me To You" on the B-side) and reached #3 in the US chart.

Composition and lyrical intent

Like other early Beatles songs such as "Love Me Do" and "From Me To You", John Lennon's harmonica playing features prominently. Paul McCartney's bass playing is much simpler than the highly-cultivated technique he would later develop, but the bass sound is solid and does contain a few interesting flourishes.

There are two different mixes of the song. The mono mix that appears on the single along with the mono version on the "Please Please Me" LP are identical. But a new mix was needed for the stereo version of the album, and on 25 February 1963 George Martin performed another mix created from original takes 16, 17 and 18. This stereo version has Lennon fluffing the final verse, causing him to sing 'come on' with a slight chuckle in his voice.

The Beatles had secured a minor debut success with "Love Me Do", but outside of Liverpool and Hamburg The Beatles were still virtually unknown. Nonetheless, they had earned the right to a second single. "Please Please Me" has a somewhat chequered history. In the 1984 documentary The Compleat Beatles, George Martin states that the original version of this song was too slow, had no prospects of being the big hit the band were looking for, and suggested bringing in a professional song writer. The group replied that they were only interested in writing their own material. John Lennon first conceived "Please Please Me" as a bluesy, slow tempo song in a style inspired by Roy Orbison. Vocally sparse, it did not contain harmonies or responses, nor did it have the scaled intro. George Martin first heard it at the "Love Me Do" re-make session on 11 September and in his opinion it "badly needed pepping up" [1] and was set aside. But by the time it was brought back into the studio on 26 November 1962, it was almost unrecognisable as the same song. Now played much faster, and with far more self belief than any previous recordings that they had made, it took 18 takes, including the harmonica superimpositions, to tape what George Martin immediately predicted would be a hit. Martin said "As soon as I heard it, I knew it was a number one - there's a great atmosphere about it."

Lennon's distinctive echoed harmonica launches the song prior to a dynamic two-part vocal, delivered by McCartney holding a high note while Lennon cascades down through the scale. A short pause allows Harrison a guitar break into the call and response segment that then has three Beatles harmonising as it builds to a climax in the chorus. Ringo Starr asserts himself with fine rock and roll style drumming (exorcising any lingering doubts from the "Love Me Do" sessions regarding his ability) and the whole effect, especially when considering the lyric, is of sexual urgency. Where "Love Me Do" had been arguably parochial, relying to a large extent on their existing home fans for support, "Please Please Me" would be groundbreaking. Lennon is quoted as saying that The Beatles took everything one step at a time, first Liverpool, then Britain, then America and the world.

  • It was credited to Paul McCartney and John Lennon, as were all other Lennon-McCartney originals on the Please Please Me album. The songwriting credit was changed to the more familiar "Lennon-McCartney" for their second album, With the Beatles.
  • First US single, released 25 February 1963 on Vee-Jay Records, with "Ask Me Why" as the B-side.

Critical reception

Rolling Stone ranked the song at #184 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

"Please Please Me" was chosen for the Beatles first national TV appearance, on Thank Your Lucky Stars on January 19, 1963. [2]

"Please Please Me" is cited as the "first real oral sex pop song" in Tim Riley's 1999 book about the Beatles discography. He credits two Beatles-era writers for the first such observation, Robert Christgau, and John Piccarella. Riley also notes the lyric's (call and responses) "C'mon, C'mon," and points out the song "closes the side [of the album] ignoring the conventional practice of putting the hit up front, and fleshing out the album with weaker material."


  • John Lennon on rhythm guitar, harmonica, lead vocal
  • Paul McCartney on bass, backing vocal
  • George Harrison on lead guitar, backing vocal
  • Ringo Starr on drums


  1. ^ Mark Lewisohn. The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, p.20
  2. ^ "Tell Me Why" by Tim Riley, 1989, Vintage books
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