Friday, March 22, 2013

A Beatles' Anniversary...

It isn't Music Sunday, but I have to take the opportunity, as late in the day as it is, to mark an important day in music history.

Fifty years ago (!) today, on March 22, 1963, the first Beatles' album "Please, Please Me" was released in the UK, on the Parlophone label.

This is a big deal, for a few reasons. First of all, The Beatles. Just that. This release marked the beginning of an era. Also, eight of the fourteen songs on the album were written by Lennon and McCartney, an indication that The Beatles were not going to be like other singers and bands and record songs written by someone else. It took them a couple of albums to get to the point where they were writing some (or all) of their own material, but even with this record they were on their way to that.

The four Beatles also substantially played all the music on the album, something else that wasn't especially common at that time. Other than producer George Martin's turn on the piano on "Misery" and on the celesta on "Baby It's You", and drumming by Andy White on "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You", John, Paul, George, and Ringo played all the instruments and sang all the lead and background vocals.

Additionally, the album - all fourteen songs - were recorded in one day, in a three-part session that lasted a little less than 10 hours, on February 11, 1963. Granted, none of the songs were very long - none were over three minutes - and recording technology was not exactly sophisticated in 1963. Still, that isn't very long to record an entire album.

The song that opened the album was "I Saw Her Standing There" which, I will confess, was my favorite song as a second-grader, at the time The Beatles first came to the United States. I found this live performance of the song from October 30, 1963. This is a rare video in that there is little of the shrieking by the audience that would become so much a part of the band's legacy:

The final song on the album was also the last song recorded in the session, "Twist and Shout". Legend says it was left until last because George Martin was afraid that if John Lennon - who sang lead on the song)- sang it any earlier, his voice would be done for the day, and the rest of the songs could not be recorded. Lennon had a cold and his voice was already showing the effects of the illness. This performance is from an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, early in 1964:

I was talking to a couple of people today about The Beatles and their music, and there was some disagreement about which was the better period, their early work or their later songs. My take is that both are just fine. I like the early stuff, and I like the late stuff, and I like the stuff in between. I do have to admit that my favorite of their albums is one of their latest, "Abbey Road". That doesn't mean that I think their earlier work was any less good, as "Please Please Me" shows.

But really...was it that long ago?

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