Carl on The Beatles and the Please Please Me single
Come on, come on,
Come on, come on,
Come on, come on,
Come on, come on…
Now we’re getting down to business. John calls, Paul and George respond. The first taste of John and Paul getting really serious with their songwriting.
It’s just so much more muscular than Love Me Do. Featuring another Lennon harmonica riff, the repeated come ons, each one slightly more intense and emphatic than the previous one indicate their growing songwriting prowess. Their sense of creating dynamics within the song. It’s lyrically a world away from Love Me Do with it’s single rhyme pattern. Here there is a middle eight that really works in providing a contract to the verses and choruses. In the space of three months they’ve really started to develop their songwriting artistry.
MacDonald suggested in Revolution in The Head they were spurred on by the threat of having How Do You Do It released as their second single and so they came up with something that gave George Martin no sensible option. This song simply had to be released. There was no argument, no competition as to which was the better song. Some Tin Pan Alley pap or this slice of… not quite rock ’n roll, but something that was their very own. But something that generated a real sense of excitement.
The excitement derived from distilling some of that Hamburg/Cavern energy and transferring it to the studio; all the sense of dynamics and structure they’d learned from deconstructing songs to see how they worked – the songs of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy Holly the Everlys and more. The years of struggle, the thousands of hours on stage. It was now all coming together. And it lasted under two minutes. Not quite two minutes of perfection, but they were getting close.
The version they recorded of How Do You Do It is on Anthology 1, but not on-line. The song went to Gerry & the Pacemakers. Gerry took it to No 1 (ironically beating The Beatles to the No1 spot as this record, according to British Hit Singles, only got to No 2), but would that have been remotely possible without the excitement the Beatles generated? Through the credibility and marketability G & the Ps gained through association with The Beatles and their being part of the phenomenon taking the nation by storm called Merseybeat.
I always thought that song was pretty weedy, even as 7 year old. It does beg the question, had that song gone out instead of Please Please Me, would Beatlemania ever have happened and would they perhaps now just be a footnote to a musicological phenomenon that sputtered but never took off in a meaningful way, known as the Mersey Sound? I think The Fabs would have gone on, but their breakthrough to mass acceptance would have taken longer. I’m sure that Please Please Me would have been the B side of this. However had HDYDI been the A side, their relationship with George Martin (and the lesser relationship with EMI) would have been tarnished and so different from what it became. The level of trust between the two sides would have been diminished. If Ringo has never been able to totally forgive George Martin for pushing him off the drum stool for Love Me Do, how would John and Paul have felt towards him had this completely inferior song been foisted on the band instead of Please Please Me?
But that is idle speculation because, in this universe at least, George Martin took the wholly sensible, artistically credible decision to put the right song out to .
Of course the young me of January 1963 had no real idea what they were singing about, (had the Beeb considered just what the girl was being asked to do?) but understanding was the last thing on my mind. It just sounded GREAT. It was exciting and it made me feel good. Would they ever be able to do something as good again?
Fortunately I and the world would find out this was but a beginning, nowhere near the peak of their achievement.
Meanwhile, there were others cutting their teeth on this material. Who would think, watching this, that this bunch would go on in just a few years to be almost as big as The Beatles?