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Please Please Me

Do you want to know a secret? Listening to this album nonstop for a week is actually pretty difficult. It's extremely short, kinda repetitive, and not all the tracks are keepers. That said, I discovered a couple of hidden gems, heartily sang along with the hit singles, and tried to imagine being a 1960's music critic or radio DJ hearing this band for the first time. In this photo you can see that my high tech car stereo weirdly has a complete phone keypad. It's as useless as you are likely imagining. But hey, it can play a CD.



Of note: there are only 8 Lennon/McCartney compositions on this thing. The other 6 tracks are covers, all of which was somewhat hastily recorded to put together a full LP (take a moment to reflect upon whether anyone would bother doing this in our current instant download era).

1. "I Saw Her Standing There"

This is a great album opener, and has always been a song I was fond of...but in 2018, there is something a little weird about hearing a grown man start an album with the line "Well she was just 17, you know what I mean.." Ew. But you can totally close your eyes and imagine John, Paul, George, and Ringo shaking those adorable haircuts during the "woos." And if you're a child of the 1980's you may remember Tiffany's cover version.

An aside: I think I may still be actively jealous of my childhood next door neighbor who saw Tiffany in concert and bought a huge poster at the show, which she taped to her bedroom door, I'm assuming just to taunt me every time I went over to play Barbies at her house.



2. "Misery"

This song is totally just ok, and if you don't remember it, that's totally fine.

3. "Anna (Go to Him)"

This is the first cover song on the album. I LOVE it. I don't think I had ever heard this one before last week, but it is exactly the sort of jangly 1960's pop that I love to revisit because it still sounds fresh to my ears. During the early 2000's, when I was deeply entrenched in the college music scene, this type of sound was being regularly referenced. In fact, you could've probably told me that "Anna" was a bonus track on The Shins' "Oh, Inverted World" and I may have believed you. John's vocal is adorable, the song is terrific, and this is by far my favorite track on the album (I'm just as shocked as you are!) Also, I'm rethinking my list of Top 5 songs with a girl's name in the title so I can include this one. That's how much I love it!

4. "Chains"

This one is a Goffin/King composition that you may or may not recognize. Wikipedia randomly tells me that it mattered a great deal to Neal Peart, but other than that, it's definitely just filler.

5. "Boys"

I mean, I guess at some point you gotta let the drummer sing. But while this might not really be the most musical moment on the album, I'm pretty sure that if I was a hipster attending a show at the Cavern Club, I would totally dance to this one. In fact, at the next show, it would probably be the song I would be most looking forward to hearing. Plus, this is the first of two songs that was originally recorded by The Shirelles. You guys, I LOVE 1960's girl bands, and apparently so did the Beatles. Plus, I still maintain that The Shirelles' version of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" is the definitive one.

6. "Ask Me Why"

This was the b-side of "Please Please Me", and while relatively musically complex, it's a total b-side. I mean, it's FINE, and John sounds great, but I definitely skipped this one numerous times throughout the week.

7. "Please Please Me"

Here's where this album really picks up. Of course you know this song, and of course it was released as a single, because it is GREAT. That said, this is definitely one of the Beatles' "lesser" hits, but I think it ranks higher in my personal listing. While it is perfectly fine on its own, it would be remiss of me not to mention Mary Wells' wonderful cover version. I don't know the story behind this cover, but I like to think she is cheekily referencing her famous "My Guy" when she sings "Last night I said these words to my guy..." Or maybe some producer just really liked the way she sang the words "my guy." Who knows? But you should give it a spin:



8. "Love Me Do"

What can really be said about "Love Me Do"? It was the Beatles' debut single, Paul wrote it as a teenager, John plays harmonica, you know all the words, it's delightful. I'll note that even if you listen to this album over and over for a week, you never skip "Love Me Do." It's like pop music comfort food.

9. "P.S. I Love You"

This is the b-side of "Love Me Do" and it's pretty much just ok. The internet tells me that the title may actually be a subtle nod to Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" (the P.S.!) which I find super charming, though.

10. "Baby It's You"

Oh you guys, if I was a 1960's teen, I would have probably listened to this track repeatedly, pretending that John was singing it directly to me. This is the second song on this album originally recorded by The Shirelles. It's got the sha la las at the beginning, which totally won me over. The only thing keeping this song from being practically perfect in every way is when the boys weirdly chant "CHEAT CHEAT CHEAT." It is jarring and the way it is mixed kinda punches you in the face. Especially when you just spent the previous 20 seconds pretending that John Lennon was your boyfriend.

11. "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" 

My mom started playing the Beatles in our car after I became obsessed with George Harrison's song (and music video) "Got My Mind Set On You" when I was about 6 years old. She revealed that once upon a time he had been in a band with Paul McCartney (who I knew as that British guy who sang "Say Say Say" with Michael Jackson) and that I would maybe like that band too. Growing up in the 1980's was weird, y'all. Whoa, also, I just googled "Got My Mind Set On You" to make sure I had my dates approximately right, and it turns out that was a COVER song? Gah, who knew? Anyway, "Do You Want To Know A Secret?" is pretty cute, and it's sung by George, so it gets bonus points from me.

12. "A Taste of Honey" 

Oh, y'all, I hate this song. I've been making fun of it all week. I even stopped putting honey in my yogurt because I hate this song so much.

13. "There's a Place"

Admittedly, this song did not get due respect from me due to its being directly after "A Taste of Honey." I would pretty much skip these two so I could jam track 14. You do get lots of John/Paul harmonies, and it's perfectly pleasant but nonessential.

14. "Twist And Shout"

I should preface my analysis of this song by saying that I pretty much love all songs involving The Twist. I am a BAD dancer, but that's what makes The Twist so great. It takes basically no dance skill whatsoever, plus it is peppy and fun. "The Twist"? Yep. "Let's Twist Again"? Sure. "Twistin' the Night Away"? Yes, please, especially due to its association with the movie "Innerspace."

Legend has it that the version of "Twist and Shout" on this album was the first take, since John totally destroyed his voice while recording it. But it is undeniably awesome. Listening to this song conjures up two images for me. First, John shouting his way through it on the Ed Sullivan Show. And second, Ferris Bueller lip-syncing it while leading a parade through downtown Chicago.



While I doubt that this album will hold up for very long as my personal #1 Beatles album, I did discover a couple of new-to-me tunes that I really liked, it affirmed that "Love Me Do" was a worthy debut single, and made me wish that I could've attended one of those early live shows at the Cavern Club.

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