February 12, 2013

"The artists who, on a snowy February morning in 2013, are re-recording the same 11 tracks..."

"... in the 12 hours it took the Fab Four to lay down the album aren't changing the world perhaps — but they are taking part in a one-off event."
In 1963, both record industry convention and time restraints dictated that The Beatles record a number of cover versions for Please Please Me (six in total) - which accounts for its low standing in the band's back catalogue.

"It's not the best Beatles album," says BBC 6 music presenter Stuart Maconie. "But it's the first Beatles album.

"It's the first album of the rock era, really. That's what people forget. It was all about singles and it was the first self-contained album and it did change the whole rock era."
The references to "Please Please Me" there — in that BBC.com article — are not the single we remember but to the album which you can buy these days in the United States but wasn't what we had back then.
In the United States, most of the songs on Please Please Me were first issued on Vee-Jay Records' Introducing... The Beatles in 1964, and subsequently on Capitol Records' The Early Beatles in 1965. Please Please Me was not released in the US until the Beatles' catalogue was standardised for CD.
Anyway, the recording of the album you probably have on CD was made on February 11, 1963, 50 years ago, yesterday. 

49 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

All my troubles seemed so far away...

EMD said...

"It's the first album of the rock era, really.

The Chirping Crickets dare to disagree.

As well as many others who went before, and who made an impact on the young lads from Liverpool.

St. George said...

Sounds about as exciting as the album Todd Rundgren made in which he created various 60s hits note-for-note.

Zzzzzzzz

EDH said...

This is Keith Richards' favorite Beatles song. He told Jimmy Fallon: "I've always told McCartney, 'Please Please Me.' I just love the chimes, and I was there at the time and it was beautiful. Mind you, there's plenty of others, but if I've got to pick one, 'Please Please Me'… oh, yeah!"

EMD said...

As exciting as Gus Van Sant's Psycho!

Patrick said...

It's the first album of the rock era, really.

Nah, just the first massively popular boy band.

traditionalguy said...

A snowy February morning sounds so Gatsbyesque. I see that the light will be dim as faint Beetles songs reverberate across the Atlantic and reach startled ears of East Egg until Jay begins to sing "I want to hold your gland" to Daisy.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Someone truly ambitious should re-record The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart.

Shouting Thomas said...

The 60s stuff really has been worked to death.

I say that as a Boomer who plays in a classic rock band.

Our audience is even beginning to tire of the endless nostalgia, and the more adventurous members are asking us to write new songs, move on and establish an individual identity.

YoungHegelian said...

If you ever get a chance to listen to an original V-J 45 rpm pressing of "Please, please me", do so.

It sounds like it was recorded in someone's barn. The pressing is horrible. The studio sound is horrible.

The differences between the V-J recordings and the Capitol/EMI recordings afterwards are like night & day.

edutcher said...

Rock morphed slowly out of rock 'n' roll (which was tons better).

The Galling Stones were more rock than the Beasties.

PS I remember my sister had a Vee-Jay album of the Beatles, complete with a picture of them before they let their hair grow, so it would have been nice to see a picture of that.

Will Cate said...

Couple of problems with this article -- first, the "Please Please Me" album had 14 tracks, not 11. Also, the decision to record 8 originals and 6 cover songs was purposeful and not necessarily dictated by time constraints. They used the same formula for their 2nd album "With The Beatles" (1963) and their 4th album "Beatles For Sale" (late 1964).

supermagicman said...

The Beatles were one of the worst bands ever. They were, in fact, the first Boy Band, a la New Kids on the Block. They played silly little jingles, with endlessly repetitive lyrics, to get teen-age girls all hot and bothered.

Decades later, after those teenagers had all grown up they had to come up with a reason as to why they lost their minds over a bunch of so-so artists playing 60's versions of 'Girl You Know It's True.' Ahh, ahh, they thought! We lost our minds because in our genius, even at the tender age of 13, we were able to recognize The Greatest Band Ever. And so the legend was created to justify all the screaming and crying.

They were a mediocre band playing mediocre, and sometimes awful, songs, like that masterful example of song writing and musicianship, We All Live in a Yellow Submarine.

It's time to face reality, they were the first in an endless parade of boy bands that serve one purpose: get teenagers to buy music.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Hey, wait a minute!

The Beatles!!!

The BEATles!!!

Now I get it. It's like their music has a beat and it's not like they're insects or anything like that but still they're named after beetles but they don't spell it like that so it's something different.

Man! Does it ever feel fucking great to finally put my finger on the pulse of an entire generation!

Groovy!!!

Surfed said...

Cut my guitar rock and roll teeth on some of those tracks. Still play "There's a Place".

T.K. Tortch said...

Listening to the album Please Please Me today is interesting because of the almost complete absence of post-recording studio refinement. It was essentially a "live" recording of tunes the Beatles did on stage, but in a controlled studio setting. Most of the songs were recorded straight to tape (two recording tracks!!) as performed and then mixed down for Mono sound. Pretty much the same for the follow-up album With The Beatles.

These days recordings are so heavily processed they sound - uh - very heavily processed. Bland even when meant to be raucous.

IIRC during the Please Please Me session the Beatles saved "Twist and Shout" for last because Lennon had a cold and Georgia Martin didn't want him to stress his voice by recording that tune earlier. Martin commented that the band actually got better as the session went on; the recording of "Twist and Shout" was apparently banged out in one take (and for my money the Beatles' version stomps the Isley Brothers' original).

Which is to say that in 1963 the Beatles were a tight performing unit.

Carol said...

The "first self contained album"?? what's that about? I remember my brothers had quite a few Chuck Berry and Fats Domino albums long before that.

I agree with Thomas, gawd get over the 60s already.

sonicfrog said...

These days recordings are so heavily processed they sound - uh - very heavily processed. Bland even when meant to be raucous.

Since they won something at the Grammys, I thought I'd check out some stuff by the band Fun. I see (hear) what they're trying to do... But My God! I can't tell where the human ends and the endless tiresome processing and auto-tuning begins!

BTW, I don't hate autotune. It's a neat tool for studio work and can be a time saver if you're on a limited budget, or even at a live show (the Eagles use it during their concerts). It's one thing to do a little pitch correction here and there, but quite another when you can't tell if the artist can even sing or not!

Bob R said...

@Surfed - There's A Place is my favorite song on that album, and probably second only to She Love's You as their best song of the Fab Four period.

SteveR said...

For me its still great music, I suppose its necessary for some people to diminish it but I don't need to. There's hundreds of variations of the "Joe Smith in 1959 laid down a bass rift and THAT's the most significant event in Rock history" and endless "boy band not to be taken seriously" critiques.

Whatever



Surfed said...

The Stereophonics recreate the amphetamine fueled (prellies) speed that enfused all the early Beatle shows and performances.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/ewzc6q/acts/abjv4f#actVideos

Surfed said...
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Surfed said...

This one is the best - Gabrielle Alpin performing "There's a Place". Absolutely lovely. My Wisconsin gf (relocated to North Florida) and I will work this up tonight on guitar, uke and maybe a childrens wooden xylophone. No prellies though....
http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/ewzc6q/acts/amx5d4#p014y5lj

chickelit said...

The Kingston Trio set records with vinyl LPs before The Beatles did so. According to the Wiki:

Four of the group's LPs charted among the Top 10 selling albums for five weeks in November and December 1959,[3] a record unmatched for more than 50 years,[4] and the group still ranks after half a century in the all-time lists of many of Billboard's cumulative charts, including those for most weeks with a number 1 album, most total weeks charting an album, most number 1 albums, most consecutive number 1 albums, and most top ten albums.[5]

chickelit said...

But the Kingston Trio were the Sarah Palin of pop music.

T.K. Tortch said...

Carol - I think what's meant by "self-contained album" is that Please Please Me was recorded as an album - all the tracks meant to go on one record in one presentation. By contrast earlier acts like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly recorded singles meant to be released one-by-one. The singles were only compiled into album format after their initial releases.

As for "first", well, maybe in Rock & Roll; otherwise, not first.

Sonicfrog - "autotune" - that's part of the contemporary overprocessing I had in mind. I couldn't remember what that effect was called. And I think a lot of contemporary singers do need it.

Chuck66 said...

I really like blues music, and to this day, a lot of lower level blues artists, and even some more well known ones, record "live in the studio". Basically playing their concert/bar set straight through with no overdubbing or editing. It makes for a good sounding album. Not something over processed.

Ann Althouse said...

I think the point is about albums. Before the Beatles, rock music fans bought singles. It was all about singles. Only singles were played on the radio. With the Beatles, those radio stations started playing the entire album.

Yes, these earlier rock musicians put out albums, but few people bought the albums, and many people only had a singles record player. You'd stack up the singles on the changer in the order that you wanted them played and that was it.

The albums were often full of covers that you didn't really want to hear, and The Beatles had that too early on. For example: Taste of Honey and 'Til There Was You.

It took a while for the U.S. to catch up to the importance of albums, and the early Beatles albums didn't have the singles songs that were on the British versions of the album.

Ann Althouse said...

"This one is the best - Gabrielle Alpin performing "There's a Place". Absolutely lovely."

Yes, but completely old-fashioned. It's like pre-Beatles singing. Why not Patti Page?

Chuck66 said...

TK....yup. So much of over processed. I love southern black gospel music. Can't tell you how many times I've heard a great group live, so then bought a CD of theirs. Then immediately sold the CD to a used CD store as it was not very good. Way to smooth, mellow and overdubbed insturments. Just record like you do a live show.

Chip Ahoy said...

There is nothing by the Beatles Beetles is it? Bugs are they? No beatle bugs in i-Tunes or anywhere. Here, I'll look.

Aw shit where did this come from? Somebody infected my itunes with revolver and abbey road, there are those guys again walking across the street. And something from the house of love. I have no idea what that is.

That was a hard sentence to read too I had to form pictures to follow, "ok, now that song that's mentioned back there by the bbc, that refers to the song available in the US on this cd but not what we listened to back then." And all that means nothing to me except the very first album and I believe there were albums before that. I told you about the time my brother and I were smashing them because they flew so fantastically like frisbees BLAM right into the wall. We had a nice pile of shards there. And not recalling at all what happened after that so I must have eluded punishment somehow. We honestly didn't think it was bad when we were doing it, maybe that was it. This talk of first albums takes me back to my first known experience with albums. I recall smashing them with unhampered glee. And ever since then the phrase "breaks another record" I took literally due to the experience and stayed perplexed for lack of any actual black vinyl record being visibly broken in association with the use of the term. For years. Thanks, you just now reminded me what a thick little kid I was and probably still am.

Surfed said...
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Surfed said...

The Beatles refused to put their singles (45rpms) on albums because the fans had already bought those songs. The Beatles felt they would be ripping off their fans by making them buy the same song twice. This policy ended with the album Revolver.

T.K. Tortch said...

Chip Ahoy said I told you about the time my brother and I were smashing them because they flew so fantastically like frisbees BLAM right into the wall.

I distinctly remember my first experience with 78 RPM records when I was a kid. Maybe seven years old. I was delighted to discover that when frisbee'd the old acetate (or whatever they were made of) 78s shattered on impact much more explosively than newfangled vinyl 33.3 RPM albums.

sonicfrog said...

TK said:

"autotune" - that's part of the contemporary overprocessing I had in mind. I couldn't remember what that effect was called. And I think a lot of contemporary singers do need it.

That's the problem. There are some that wouldn't have a career without it. But there are an awful lot who, although they may not have perfect voices, are still none-the-less very good singers! There is a difference between having a wonderful instrument for a larnyx - Steve Perry, Freddie Mercury, k d lange, Bowie, Art Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, Timothy B Shcmidt etc - and being a really good singer. You don't have to have the voice like one of those I listed above to be a wonderful singer.

Joan Armatrading is a perfect example. Not a great voice by any means. But if you listen to her sing a song, and then listen to a modern artist try to do it.... Pathetic. You feel the pain JA sings about. Keisha? Painting by numbers. Can you imagine autotuning Mark Knopfler on either "Walk Of Life" or "Brothers In Arms"?

sonicfrog said...

Chuck... I much prefer recording with the band in the studio, playing live, rather than laying down each instrument at a time. That does have it's place though, depending on the music and situation.

Drummers have the most difficult job in the studio. Getting the drums tuned to sound right can be vexing. And if the drummer goofs up while recording, usually that equals having to start the track over.

EMD said...

The Professor's point about consumer buying habits changing with The Beatles is probably correct, but the article's contention of

it was the first self-contained album

is just bullshit on stilts.

Surfed said...

Analog on 1" tape is the best. I worked part time in a studio and the analog warmth to the recording was palpable. Especially for voices with a Neuman U87. 1" tape is a pain in the ass to work with vis a vis digital. A GREAT example of recent(ish) analog live recording would be James Hunter's debut album from Ten Penny Studios (?) with all the old original Abbey Road/EMI equipment that was used to record the Please, Please me album.

sonicfrog said...

Surfed, I like analog, but it's too impracticable considering the cost. Digital can provide warmth with the right engineer.

When "Brothers In Arms" came out, I would hear would-be audiophile proclaim the LP had a warmth that the CD of the same album did not, and proclaim so because it captured the true analog sound. Of course, the entire record was recorded using digital equipment and tech of the day, so the album was digital before it got transferred to an analog format.

The biggest problem with modern recording today is that there is no headroom left to spare when mixing down music tracks. Everything has to be compressed and gated to the hilt. The signal is maxed at 0db, all the time! There is no room for the music to breathe.

EMD said...

Surfed, I like analog, but it's too impracticable considering the cost. Digital can provide warmth with the right engineer.

Listening to music on vinyl is an experience no digital output can match ... and I'm not even that old.


eddie willers said...

Listening to music on vinyl is an experience no digital output can match ... and I'm not even that old.

I was sharing an apartment with a younger guy who had just started working at the stereo store where I was employed (the late, lamented HiFi Buys of Atlanta) and we were listening to Steely Dan's Aja on CD and he's talking about how great it sounds. I say, "yeah...but you ought to listen to the record. It's much better."

He's flabbergasted as he was taught 'CD = Perfect Sound Forever' and wants to argued with me.

I get up, fire up the old DUAL turntable, pull Aja out of the peach crate, slobber the thing with Disc-Washer fluid, let down the cue and carefully tiptoe back to the couch.

He winches as the clicks and pops of the lead-in groove moves toward "Black Cow".

Then the music kicks in and roomie stands up not believing that the same song he had just listened to was now a new thing that was bigger, wider, and deeper.

If a picture can be worth a thousand words, a single audio track can be worth a thousand ringing CDs.




And don't even get me started on iPods!.

EDH said...

Thanks to supermagicman for trotting-out that cliched Beatles deconstruction that's supposed to make everyone say "oh yea, the Beatles were just like the Jonas Brothers".

tiger said...

The Beatles are 'a-ok' in my book but they are still just a band and pop band at that.

One of the very few times when the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

I LOVE McCartney taking credit for songs that are completely out of the lame/weak/shallow style he used on his solo work. He claims to have written 'Ellenor Rigby'; show me ONE song of his solo work that comes close to ER. You can't because there aren't any.

As for Lennon: 'Wasn't it a rich man who said "Imagine no possessions"'?

Alex said...

The Beatles were one of the worst bands ever.

Yeah they only wrote Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper, The White Album & Abbey Road. Not to mention non-album singles like Rain, Paperback Writer, We Can Work it Out, Hey Jude, All You Need is Love.

You're a joke.

Alex said...

tiger - what about Uncle Albert?

Alex said...

Surfed - actually the only time The Beatles put out singles in the UK that were on the album was their last album - Abbey Road.

Alex said...

EMD - you can't bring your vinyl in the car or jogging or at work.

dustbunny said...

It is absurd to say the Beatles were just a boy band. For one thing,even though very young, they were tough and savvy,very driven and talented, they created their band not some executives in a music company. Boy bands were created entities based on marketing and being cute. That the fab four were so photogenic and appealing to young girls was just amazing luck. There is a story about Dylan driving across Colorado or somewhere and hearing I Want to Hold your Hand for the first time, and going "whoa, what is that?!!" It sounded new and familiar at the same time and that is hard to do.

Dante said...

Listening to music on vinyl is an experience no digital output can match ... and I'm not even that old.


It's an economics equation, that's all. You can pine all you want for ancient technology, but the mass markets will beat you out.

Don't worry, technology will win as the cost equation changes. Stereo means 2 channels, that's it, and that's what you get with a record. You have 5.1 with newer encoding. Sorry, it's a lost cause. Pretend all you will, that "tubes" have "warmth," and all that stuff. But in the end, digital will provide higher fidelity, better reproduction, and better sound. That's simply the way it is. Don't be a Luddite. Or a snob, if that's what you are being.