When I first listened to this, the debut album by The Beatles, I used to think it would have sounded pretty revolutionary at the time. In hindsight, you can hear that it’s still got one foot firmly planted in the 1950s. Dylan followed Please Please Me two months later with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and that’s like a futuristic text compared to the childlike nature of this album.
This album is notable for a few things. Firstly, the original compositions are attributed to ‘McCartney-Lennon’, not long before the decision was made to reverse the surnames. I heard a few years ago that McCartney was lobbying Yoko Ono to get the rest of their back catalogue changed back to this original song-writing credit. Thankfully it didn’t happen, and anyway, you never know if things like that are even true. I wouldn’t put it past McCartney to try something like this – he obviously waited until George Harrison died to release Let It Be…Naked – but you’d get the impression that after 40 or so years, he’d be content that his name comes last in 99% of their song-writing credits.
Secondly, the album was famously recorded in one day. I don’t really see that as being anything special though. This happens for a lot of bands – especially on their debut albums – and perhaps this should be a rite of passage for bands recording their first batch of songs.
In terms of their song choices though, I do think that there are a few mistakes. Their original songs really sound very good alongside some very odd covers, but maybe that was the intention. There were better covers recorded during the New Years Day 1962 Decca audition (available on Anthology 1), that would have fit better than some of the covers here, and are closer to the standard of covers they recorded on their second album.
Thirdly, Ringo Starr isn’t the only drummer on the album. He’d later be replaced by McCartney on the occasional track later in their career, but here he is replaced by session man Andy White on their prior single, Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You – both sides of which open the second side of the album. George Martin had expected them to turn up to the session with Pete Best (who had played on their first Parlophone session), had told Brian Epstein that he wouldn’t allow Best to play on another session and that he would supply the drummer next time. When The Beatles then arrived with their newly appointed drummer in tow, Ringo was relegated to tambourine. If nothing else, this story confirms that the band was right to fire Pete Best.
All in all, a very simple album that’s very hard not to like. Sometimes that simplicity turns me off, but I also think that’s where most of its charm comes from. The Beatles would produce works of much greater value and innovation, and it wouldn’t take them long.
Hit: Twist And Shout
Hidden Gem: Baby It’s You