Please Please Me (Single)

Chapter Eight

1963-8 Please Please Me

Where are you going, John?

I’m going to listen to Pick of the Pops. I’ve got to write the charts down.

Well, you’ll have to put David to bed first.

Oh, Mum! But I’ll miss some of the charts if I do that.

It won’t matter, Alan Freeman repeats all the record positions at the end.

(Grrhh) OK Mum…

That’s what happens when your Mum listens to Pick of the Pops as well.

Dave and I shared a bunk. We’d travelled so much of the world on troop ships that we assumed bunks were the best way of sleeping. Plus a bunk allowed Dave to be on top, his favourite position, and me to be all snug and cosy in my very own bottom bunk, my favourite position. A bed with a built in roof! Now that was worth traveling the world to discover. We chatted about guitars and the Shadows and if we would ever buy another record together after our last success. I silently counted the records I was missing in putting Dave to bed.

Eventually I reckoned that I had paid enough attention to Dave to be able to leave and listen to the rest of Pick of the Pops. I grabbed my chart book and I went downstairs to the front room to write everything down.Alan Freeman was his usual endlessly cheerful self, expressing that uniquely intimate combination he seemed to have of confidentiality and wordly experience. He seemed to have a laugh in his voice and it always felt like he had just stopped by to joke with you personally as he revealed each new chart position one by one. This was very important to me then as it was through his triangulations that I got my bearings on the world around me, and made some kind of sense of it all. And he read all the positions out whilst playing “At the Sign of the Swinging Cymbal”, a drummers song, so I knew I could trust him.

And in this weeks Top Ten we have;

At Number 10; The night has a thousand eyes – Bobbie Vee.

Caroline’s favourite record and bouncy enough. But spooky Bbrrr…

At Number 9; Do You Mind– Anthony Newley.

The finger-snapping Idol off parade in limbo between Frank Sinatra and David Bowie.

At Number 8; Sherry Baby – The Four Seasons.

What a voice, none of that Philadelphia Bobby nonsense, real New Jersey screech.

At Number 7; Cant Get Used to Losing You – Andy Williams.

Memorably Jerky with pizzicato strings, great with village cricket and Mivvi’s.

At Number 6; A Slow Boat to China – Emile Ford and the Checkmates.

I’d been to China, on a slow boat, in a bunk; I love autobiographical songs.

At Number 5; Like I’ve Never Been Gone– Billy Fury.

Elvis imitator, good voice, good delivery, strings and syrup all present and corrupt.

At Number 4; Do You Want to Dance? – Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

Real English rock, beaty and bouncy, but its not big and its not meaty.

At Number 3; The Young Ones-Cliff Richard.

The perfect blend of Cliff, Shads, Strings, Norrie Paramour and EMI.

At Number 2 we have; Dance On – The Shadows.

Good old Shads, Hank can take anything and turn it into a hit. I like Kathy Kirby too.

And now for this weeks number one.

Cymbals crashing as Fluff teases us a bit more.

And it’s a new one!

More cymbals, waiting for the white smoke to appear and reveal the newly anointed number one.

This weeks new number one is Please Please Me by The Beatles!

The Beatles, who are they? Number One! The best record is by The Beatles? A group at number one and it isn’t Cliff or the Shadows? What’s going on? How can that be? I’ve never heard of them!

Wait! What is this mad urgent noise?

Cue; a fast rising distinctive riff, blending guitar and harmonica, kicks in furiously and we are off;

Last night I said these words to my girl

Oh Great harmonies. Is this the chorus? At the start?

I know you’ll never even try girl

Really intense harmonies there!

And a guitar cue, Dave’ll like that…

Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On,

Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On!

Please Please me,

Whoah yeah!

Like I please you.

Wow, that really builds, like nothing I ever heard before! And they sound like they really want you to come along with them.

That’s! That’s? What? That’s really, really exciting…

Whoah yeah do I like it that!

You dont need me to show the way, love

They aren’t slowing down at all! That’s unusual after starting off with such a bang like that, really unusual; they aren’t letting up.

Why do I always have to say love?

Its completely full of intent. Intense intent; seriously intense intent.

Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On,

Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On,

Please Please me whoah yeah.

Like I please you

That is so catchy! Please Please me! So that’s the chorus then..

I dont want to sound complaining,

but you know there’s always rain,

In my heart…

Raining in my heart, I know what they mean by that!

I do all the pleasing with you,

Its so hard to reason with you,

Whoah yeah!

Why do you make me blue?

Blimey! Blue? But they sound happy, so incredibly happy.

Last night I said these words to my girl,

I know you’ll never even try girl,

Is this the chorus too? Does it have two choruses this song, then?

Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On,

Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On,

Please Please me, whoah yeah,

Like I please you…

Please Please me, whoah yeah

Like I please you…

Oh, its over; already?

Please Please me, whoah yeah

Like I please you..

It is over! Gone in 122 seconds…

Whoah yeah! Please Please Me! Yes, inpleasey!

What a record; Please, well that means they are polite, but they are really rocking, seriously rocking that song. I’ve never heard anything like it. What a record! And they are British, whatever next?

Well that definitely blows Joe Brown away. And Bobby Vee! And all the rest of them right out of the clear blue water. Wow!

Blimey, and it was so quick, what a record. And it is the best record. The best record in the charts. Because it’s top. It’s the Pick of the Pops! I knew it was worth listening to the charts. Things happen in the charts.

Why is this so different to Joe Brown then? It’s the same but completely different. That Bruvvers record is good for Bruvvers, mind. I wonder if Dave will like The Beatles. I hope so, but what a funny name, what does it mean?

There’s so much energy in it! And it keeps on going and going and going. Going to new places; just like us! We are always going to new places. I bet Mum will like it. I bet Mum knows about it.

The record was overwhelming. Short, dynamic and completely overwhelming. He didn’t so much hear it in the moment as remember the feeling of the moment he heard it in. It was both over before it started and lasted forever. The opening seemed to escalate the rest of the record into a place he just didn’t recognise at all. There was a place after all.

Are the charts over John?

Oh yes Mum! I think you can say that the charts are over.

Better go to bed then. Up the wooden hills to Bedfordshire. Sweet dreams John.

Night Mum.

He went to bed trying to make sense of what he had just heard. He could only recall one record from the charts that week. Which was unusual as he normally went over and over the charts in his head trying to predict next weeks chart and which record was going to get better and which records had been higher than they should have been and would be returned to their proper place in the firmament of life as it existed in 1963. But he couldn’t this week. He could only remember one record.

He didn’t know it yet but he had just been made a Beatles fan and the charts, like everything else, were about to start changing.



  1. August 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    […] the first Beatles song I heard was Please Please Me. I have captured that particular experience in chapter 8 of “63/68 A Visceral History“, the unpublished book that this blog is promoting. However this blog is about The Beatles […]

  2. fred6368 said,

    August 31, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Was Please Please Me ever Number One? In England yes, that was how I and many others first heard The Beatles, on the BBC on Pick of The Pops, announced as #1 by Alan Freeman. The reason that it is not recorded as a number one is that in about 1970 the UK charts were standardised and a particular company’s charts were selected which showed Please Please ME at #2, hence it’s omission from the Beatles album “1”. As Capitol had rejected Please Please Me & Ask Me Why as a single in 1963, despite George Martin’s recommendation, it was released by Vee-Jay in the US and eventually reached Number 3 in the week the Beatles had the top 5 singles. It was also released on two different albums in the US in 64, neither of which reached number one.

  3. September 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    […] first heard the Beatles when Please Please Me became the Number One single on the BBC’s Pick of the Pops on a Sunday in February 1963. Having followed the […]

  4. December 8, 2010 at 9:30 am

    […] of the room. Lennon, who shook up my life with the Beatles (see the rest of this blog), first with Please Please Me on the radio, then when he told the Queen Mother to ‘rattle her jewellery’ live on national TV, both […]

  5. February 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    […] richer than I remember even though I’d heard every Beatles song when they came out since Please Please Me. Fifty years ago this week The Beatles began their informal residency at the Cavern Club on Mathew […]

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