On #askNat this week I’m addressing a message from Brian in Pompton Lakes New Jersey that goes like this:
I’ve heard and read lots about the original, slower version of “Please Please Me,” and was shocked when that didn’t show up on Anthology. Does a recording of that version exist? Thanks!
Good one Brian! It was September 4th, 1962 when The Beatles convened at EMI Studios for the first time with their new drummer Ringo Starr. Their previous session at EMI had been three months earlier on June 6th when Pete Best was still in the drummer’s seat. On that day they recorded “Besame Mucho” and “Love Me Do.” These two recordings appear on the Anthology 1 CD set. On September 4th, The Beatles were intent on recording their first single. Neither of the tracks offered at the earlier session was strong enough for a single release and therefore producer George Martin insisted The Beatles record Mitch Murray’s “How Do You Do It.” The Beatles recorded this one first but really wanted another shot at a “new-improved” rendition of their own composition “Love Me Do.” Of course, we all know that the story pans out for the group. They recorded “Love Me Do” that day and it was released as their first single. A remake of “Love Me Do” recorded the following week on September 11th that used session man Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine was used for some later copies of the single and the Please Please Me LP issued in 1963. Due mainly to his early opinion of Pete Best, George Martin took a couple of sessions before he was completely sold on Ringo’s drumming skills.
During a six song warm-up rehearsal at the September 4th session the group played “Please Please Me” but at this time the song had a slower tempo with dramatic crescendos reminiscent of a Roy Orbison-type song. George Martin despised the arrangement and told them to pep the song up and add some harmonies. Unfortunately, since this was only during their warm up, the tape was not rolling during this early performance.
The Beatles did exactly what George Martin told them too and by the time of their September 11th session were ready to record the improved version of the song. George Martin, still not completely sold on Ringo’s drumming, had Andy White play drums on this one. He liked the newer version of the song much more but decided that there was still room for improvement. John Lennon later remembered this attempt at the song and said that they were all feeling tired at this point in the day and just couldn’t seem to get it right. George Martin decided to save it for the next session since they were running out of time. This September 11th performance of the song also appears on the Anthology 1 CD set. The next session was not held until November 26th, 1962 and that was when they recorded the finalized rendition of “Please Please Me” prompting George Martin’s legendary quote “Congratulations, gentlemen, you’ve just recorded your first number one single!” George was proven right three months later when “Please Please Me” reached number 1 in the U.K.’s Melody Maker singles chart on March 2nd, 1963. It remained there for two weeks before dropping to number 2.
Thanks Brian for a great question! If anyone has anything to add, I welcome your comments below.
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Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:
1) Please Please Me – 2009 stereo remaster of the first LP by The Beatles. Includes finalized versions of “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me.”
2) Anthology 1 – 1995 2-CD compilation of Beatles out-takes and extras from the earliest days up through 1965. Includes recordings of “Besame Mucho” and “Love Me Do” from first session with George Martin and Pete Best on drums. Also includes an early version of “Please Please Me” with session drummer Andy White and “How Do You Do It” recorded on Sep. 4, 1962, at the same session the “Love Me Do” single was recorded.