Tag Archives: Please Please Me

Rocks In The Attic #355: The Beatles – ‘With The Beatles’ (1963)

RITA#355Of the three Beatles records with a 60/40 split between originals and covers, this one has to be my favourite. I’m not too fond of some of the covers on Please Please Me and Beatles For Sale. The latter album always feels rushed – which it was – although you can hear how strong their original material was becoming on that record. With The Beatles gets the balance just right.

At this point, they’re still very much a band with everything to prove. They’d soon be on the crest of a wave, but here they’re still paddling their hardest to get there. In an opener like It Won’t Be Long, you can see how the world fell in love with their optimism. Post-war austerity’s days were numbered. There’s a section in the Beatles Anthology TV series where It Won’t Be Long is used to soundtrack some footage of the band on a British seaside holiday. They’re all wearing old-style bathing suits, and having a blast of a time. It was probably one of the last holidays where they could live a relatively normal life without being mobbed.

One of my main gripes about their first record is that some of the covers seem to be a little on the soft side – worlds apart from the leather-clad rockers they started as. Still, one of my favourite songs on this second album is Till There Was You­ – not only a cover, but one of the soppiest love ballads you’re ever likely to hear. I think by this time though, they’re making everything they touch their own thing. It seems so perfect for McCartney, he might as well have written it. Six months later with the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night he had the mastered the process with And I Love Her. Silly Love Songs was only just around the corner.

Of course, the really amusing thing about this record is that they made Ringo out to look like a midget on the cover…

Hit: All My Loving

Hidden Gem: Till There Was You

Rocks In The Attic #274: The Who – ‘My Generation’ (1965)

RITA#274It’s funny that on most of the debut albums by the ‘60s bands that have endured, there’s not much of a hint of how the band will end up. Here you have the odd bit of feedback across opener Out In The Street, the wig-out of closer The Ox, and of course the rousing and frantic My Generation, but the rest of the album doesn’t sound too much like a band that would go on to be such an important rock band of the late ‘60s and ‘70s.  There are two James Brown covers on this record, and that choice of artist doesn’t fit entirely well with the band that would go on to produce the glorious eight-and-a-half-minutes of Won’t Get Fooled Again.

The same goes for the Beatles – who would have thought the same voice that sang A Taste Of Honey would go on to rip through the lyrics of Helter Skelter. Or the Stones, when you compare the simplicity of their debut’s Route 66 cover, with the rawness and sleeze of later songs like Brown Sugar.

Speaking of the Stones, I was watching the Some Girls Live In Texas show the other day, and it’s such a contrast when the band play an early rock n’ roll cover. They’re a sloppy live band at the best of times, always sounding like they’re playing different songs, especially after Ronnie Wood joined their ranks; but on a cover of Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen, they gel together like a well-rehearsed group of 18-year olds.

The Who’s debut is very similar to a lot of those albums – solid, probably groundbreaking for the time, but quaint and quite dated when you compare it to their later albums.

Hit: My Generation

Hidden Gem: I Don’t Mind

Rocks In The Attic #122: The Beatles – ‘Please Please Me’ (1963)

Rocks In The Attic #122: The Beatles - ‘Please Please Me’ (1963)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

Rocks In The Attic #67: The Beatles – ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967)

Rocks In The Attic #67: The Beatles - ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967)…and the winner of the most overrated album in the history of pop music goes to…

When I first started listening to music exhaustively in the early 90s, it was widely agreed that Sgt. Pepper’s was the best Beatles album. It wasn’t even questionable. Then, as Britpop came along and prompted a revival of the Beatles and sixties music in general, Revolver quite rightly started to overtake its successor. Nowadays, every music magazine you pick up, or best album polls will proudly place Revolver at the top, with the same single-mindedness that was reserved for Sgt. Pepper’s a couple of decades ago. If this continues, perhaps in 100 years we’ll be seeing Please Please Me as the pinnacle of pop music achievement.

That’s not to say that Sgt. Pepper’s is a bad album, it’s just nowhere near the best of their work. Even the outtakes from these sessions – available on Anthology 2 – show that the band was essentially directionless at this point, and they were given all the time in the world to come up with a new album. Taking lyrics from a newspaper, or a fairground poster is not a stroke of genius, it’s a stroke of laziness. They may have conquered pop music, but I think this album suggests that perhaps they were not the best people to decide where music would turn next.

Also, for a lot of non-musos, this album may be the only Beatles album in their collection. This was true of a friend of mine I went to school and college with. So as far as he was aware, this is what all Beatles albums sounded like – a collection of mid-tempo songs with vaguely abstract lyrics and no real thematic cohesion. He’s probably a Coldplay fan these days…

Hit: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Hidden Gem: Lovely Rita