Beatles Week – Please Please Me

I’ve been visiting Stewart at Number1sblog for a few years. His blog never lets me down. Learning about #1 songs in the UK and how different the American charts can be from them. He is currently in the year 1989 but travel back to see the previous years also. He always gives you a quality take on every #1 song. 

Stewart writes about every UK number one single at He’s 630 singles in, give or take, and about to enter the 1990s…

When Max asked us to write a post on our favourite Beatles song, I instantly thought about choosing one of their seventeen UK number one singles. It would have been ‘on-brand’ for me, at least, at the number 1s blog. But I’ve been there and done those, so I decided to cast my eye one place further down the charts.

The Fab Four have two very famous #2 singles. One is the ‘Penny Lane’ / ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ double-A that became their first single in four years not to make #1, in March 1967 (famously held off by none other than Engelbert Humperdinck). The other is the single that introduced them to the British public in January 1963: ‘Please Please Me’.

‘Love Me Do’ had been the Beatles’ first single to make the charts a few months before. It has huge significance, for obvious reasons, in the history of the band but I’ve never loved it. It’s slow, it’s a bit predictable. Not terrible, not at all, but I can’t imagine many who heard it on the wireless in October 1962 thinking that this new band were going to change the world. ‘Please Please Me’, however…

There are many moments in the Beatles’ discography in which they took a lightyear-sized step towards the future, and this was the first. The tempo has increased a hundred-fold from ‘Love Me Do’, everything – guitars, vocals, drums – is tight, the harmonies inspired by the Everly Brothers, the harmonica in the intro an alarm announcing them to the world. John Lennon was the main player here: he wrote it, and it’s his harmonica that gives the song its distinctive hook. It’s a simple song (a lot of the early, early Merseybeat hits were traditional pop arrangements modernised with guitars and drums) and originally a slow, bluesy number that George Martin thought was dreary. It’s him we have to thank for upping the tempo, and turning this into a rattling, breakneck pop hit, with that wonderful, swinging middle-eight.

The record was released during one of Britain’s worst-ever winters, and legend has it that the audience for their performance of the song on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ on January 19th would have even larger than usual, with large swathes of the country snowbound. This was the first time most people had seen or heard The Beatles, with their long (by 1963 standards) hair and their natty suits. It created a buzz, and got them booked on tours supporting Tommy Roe, Helen Shapiro, and Roy Orbison. ‘Please Please Me’ began to shoot up the charts, and by the time those tours came around The Beatles had been bumped up the bill to headliners. Martin predicted that it would be the Beatles’ first number one hit, and he was correct.

Well, sort of… The singles charts of the 1950s and ’60s were a tad messy. There wasn’t just one of them, for a start. You had the ‘Melody Maker’ chart, the ‘NME’ chart, and the ‘Record Retailer’ chart. None of which offered a complete overview of a week’s sales – they all conducted ‘surveys’ of select record stores over the phone. ‘Please Please Me’ hit #1 in the NME chart (which had the largest circulation) and ‘Melody Maker’ chart, but it only reached #2 in ‘Record Retailer’, which was the one that the Official Singles Chart chose to follow. So, it may well have been the UK’s biggest selling single at some point; we’ll just never know for sure… The history books record it as having stalled behind Frank Ifield’s dull-as-dishwater country ballad ‘The Wayward Wind’ for two weeks.

It’s far from the only single to have suffered this unfortunate fate – it wasn’t until 1969 that the UK charts were unified into one – but it’s a landmark single from the biggest pop group in history, with one of the very best middle-eights. And it set the tone for the next two years, in which the Fab Four would release single after single of pop perfection. ‘From Me to You’, the record that officially gave them their first #1, was perhaps a step back towards ‘Love Me Do’. But then came ‘She Loves You’, and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, and there was no looking back.

It’s interesting to note that an intervention from George Martin, and a particularly snowy winter, contributed to the official start of Beatlemania. Of course a band as good as the Beatles, with a songwriting partnership as prolific as Lennon-McCartney, would have made it eventually. It’s just fitting that ‘Please Please Me’, their first of many, many great songs, was the record that did it.


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

29 thoughts on “Beatles Week – Please Please Me”

  1. What a couple of strong couple of Beatles songs to only reach #2! Amazing time back than when you had three different magazines doing charts and by phone! Man how the times have changed as its whats Number 1 on the streaming services. By the way a great idea for doing a blog and one that I am now following thanks to Mad Max!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh ok…for some reason I thought I saw you there before. Randy…it confuses me when I see some of the number 1’s over there that didn’t make a dent here at all…and I never heard of.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love Me Do and Please Please Me had a different tempo but they both had an infectious swing,. Anything and anybody had to be better than Frank Ifield and his woozy yodelings- he’s deservingly consigned to oblivion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A good early one by them . Interesting point about the charts early on, several different ones and none necessarily precisely accurate. Similar in States for awhile with Billboard & Cashbox though few gave as much weight to the latter since Bb carries on & Cashbox I believe was found to have had incidents of basically ‘selling’ better chart placements.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Beatle boots! I hadn’t thought of them in a long time. All of the cool (and/or rich) kids had Beatle boots. I had sensible shoes. Did John flub the lyrics in the second version at about 1:30? He sang “Why do I never even try, girl?” I have always heard that as “you”, not “I”, which is the word that makes sense in context (and is the word in the live version of that verse).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My dad was more of an Elvis guy but he wore Cuban Heeled boots in the 70s which were Beatle boots. I had some later on….I loved them. Hmmm…I might look for some. You are influencing me this week…Gunsmoke and now Boots.

      He does flub that line…they let some go back then…I guess not thinking that people would later dissect it.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. “Please Please Me is a great pick! In my completely unbiased opinion, pretty much any Beatles tune would be a terrific choice for this series! 🙂

    I also enjoyed reading the background on the British singles charts at the time, which I didn’t know. It’s indeed unfortunate “The Wayward Wind” denied The Beatles the no. 1. Though, you have to give to Frank Ifield. He sang with lots of passion and he beat the Fab Four!

    I find it even more mind-boggling “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” did “stall” at no. 2 – especially the latter, which is among my all-time favorites, together with “A Day in the Life” and my pick for this series, which Max shall reveal on Wednesday! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks Max and Stewart, Please Please Me was exciting, not at all the Roy Orbison styled ballad they intended! I remember being snowed in in a rural country estate flat in Norfolk as I turned 5 – but i dont recall the Fabs performance! Doh! I think i was more into Helen Shapiro at that time….😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t around at the time but compared to others they did seem way ahead. The melodies are there in the early music but the wrapping is different.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really like the YouTube that was chosen. It always gets me to see the looks and emotional states the audience gets into. Love that comment the beginning also about England and where it fell on the charts then rose again. Good write-up about a fabulous song and good to know some about what made it a big hit.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Completely forgot about Beatles Week. Love this song. Never gets old. There’s long been a rumor that he wants to be pleased (orally) the way he pleases her. I wouldn’t put it past the Fab Four to slip that in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I wouldn’t put it past them…it’s like Ticket To Ride was supposed to be about the Health certificate that German prostitutes had…have to love it.


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