We Wanna Be Your Band

The popular music landscape of the UK was transformed in September 1963 when She Loves You went to number one ushering in Beatlemania; the name attached to their phenomenal popularity by the Daily Mirror after their performance at Cheltenham Odeon on November 2nd. Beatlemania was stoked by the irreducable excitement of the song, it’s yeah, yeah yeah catchphrase, the maniacal media hype and the Beatles own ferocious work ethic. Fuelled by this With the Beatles remarkably became the best selling album of 1963 despite only being released on November 22nd; the same day as President Kennedy’s assassination. Like Please Please Me I first heard it at Tony’s house where the Bilton Games Gang assembled on the Saturday following its release to listen to it. Tony had already established that you bought Beatles records the day they came out and the album had only been released the day before, adding an unusual sense of excitement to first hearing the music.

I think Philip Larkin said sex began in the UK just before Please Please Me came out but our little crowd of 12 year old boys weren’t aware of the social changes in the air despite the clues offered by the album’s exotic rhythmication, featuring Ringo playing loose-skinned Arab bongos on Don’t Bother Me; leaving me worrying that drumming skills were getting as complicated as guitar picking.

Mike Grimshaw said that each Beatles album was an event which captured a moment in time. With The Beatles felt like the moment that the conquering heros of Beatlemania returned to us, their fans, with their first proper album, rather than just capturing a snapshot of their stage show. It was the first British pop music album whose release was universally anticipated; to the tune of half a million advance orders, notching up over 1.5m sales in six weeks. At the time it felt incredibly sophisticated, the cool sleeve revealing four mature young men instead of the cheeky chappy’s we had seen before and who had turned up for the Royal Variety Performance on November 4th that year. Just as She Love’s You had notched the excitement surrounding singles up several levels With the Beatles similarly notched up the sophistication of albums, and just in time for Christmas; it wasn’t just heady stuff it was phenomenal. She Love’s You and With The Beatles made pop music in the UK an immediate event rather than something you stumbled across some time later. TV responded by creating Top of the Pops to capitalise on their popularity and provide weekly updates on record sales.

With hindsight the Beatles second album used pretty much the same formula as the first, a bunch of Lennon and McCartney songs, some Motown, some rockers, some show tunes; it was still The Beatles live show only the product was classier. Full track listing on Wikipedia. Having taken more time to record it the production was better John didn’t have a cold, and the opening five tracks rocked irresitably. It Won’t Be Long gave us the yeah, yeah, yeah’s we craved with a witty chorus (It wont be long til I belong to you).

This time All My Loving was the song everyone raved about, it was good enough to be a single, got a lot of air play and was the track other kids asked if you had heard. It was also released on an EP for those of us without the money to buy an LP if we didn’t get it as a Christmas present.

I always liked George’s Don’t Bother Me, it bongo’s along with a great guitar sound and is a little unusual after the opening three tracks had proved The Beatles could reprise their opening album. The middle part of the album mixes show tunes with Motown but another great performance by Ringo on I Wanna Be Your Man sets up John’s feral Money as a climax that leaves us on an high; it won’t belong til we play it all over again.

I remember reading the sleeve notes in great detail as we discussed the tracks with the mixture of awe and fan-like enthusiasm that characterised Beatlemania, but in retrospect the album seems a bit of a ragbag. In the States Capitol recognised this and continued releasing ragbag Beatles albums to increase their profits until Revolver. But at the time I remember thinking that albums had become the cultural artefacts that defined cool; and only bloody Tony owned them! Previously albums were an opportunity for your parents to buy the same musical soundtracks as their friends, and their remarkable sales figures were probably the reason Colonel Parker pushed Elvis into films.

In fact sales of the With The Beatles were so phenomenal that when the first Top Of the Pops aired on January 1st 1964 it was at Number 19 in the singles chart, having reached number 11 over Christmas. The Beatles also had the top two singles and the Twist and Shout EP in the shows Top Twenty chart. With The Beatles knocked Please Please Me off the Number One position in the album charts resulting in The Beatles having the top album in the UK for 51 weeks in a row. Not a great album but an event album. Its release at the height of Beatlemania meant With The Beatles enabled them to achieve the unique hat trick of being the height of cool, ahead of the game and loved by everybody.

My story is about I Wanna Be Your Man and can be read by selecting With The Beatles from the pages menu. You can see YouTube versions of the songs in the Poll at A Beatles YouTube History.

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2 Comments

  1. Ronan said,

    August 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I was born September 1963 at 93 Baggot Street, Dublin and the song playing on the radio was She Loves You. A few weeks later the Beatles came over to Dublin to see me! This recording from Irish TV shows their arrival at the airport.
    http://www.rte.ie/laweb/ll/ll_t01d.html

  2. fred6368 said,

    August 10, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    They came over on my brothers 10th Birthday, so lots of links there. Thanks for the link! You might like the Help story (page) where I make friends with a Dublin lad.


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