It was sixty years ago today … well, almost.
Tomorrow on March 22 it will be sixty years since The Beatles released their first album in the UK. Sixty years, wrap your mind around that for a moment. I’ve done a lot of fifty year anniversary posts in the last few years but now that we’re up to the sixty year range it’s truly a bit surreal.
When The Beatles “Please Please Me” Lp was released in Britain on March 22, 1963, they already had one Top Twenty hit (“Love Me Do”) released in October 1962 and a second hit (“Please Please Me”) that reached No. 1 (or No. 2) in early 1963 depending on which UK sales chart you followed.
Since The Beatles popularity was rapidly growing making a full-length Lp seemed like the next logical step for their career. I’m sure their record company EMI and producer George Martin felt the same way so the time was right to try a full album.
After spending the day in the studio on February 11, 1963, The Beatles recorded ten more songs to add to the four songs from their first two singles and presto the “Please Please Me” album was born. While it may have only taken a day to record most of the album, the album certainly has stood the test of time.
In 1963 albums weren’t big sellers for the teen market in the UK as they were much more expensive than the average teen could afford in that era. Even EMI I’m sure had not anticipated The Beatles first album not only hitting the top spot on the UK sales charts but spending a whopping thirty weeks at the top which was something unheard of for a new pop group especially one from Liverpool of all places.
(Note: The north of England was looked down upon at that time and no pop groups from port cities like Liverpool had ever become top sellers let alone a world wide phenomena. The Beatles in may ways broke the mold of what a pop group could do and achieve).
So here we are sixty years later and to celebrate I thought I’d share my all-time favorite mono and stereo vinyl as well as CD versions of the “Please Please Me” album that I have in my collection.
First up, the vinyl:
Please Please Me – UK gold label mono first vinyl pressing
What can I say, this first pressing of The Beatles very first album is special in more ways than one.
Firstly it’s the only pressing that features the gold colored Parlophone label, that in itself is really cool. But it is also one heck of a great sounding disc as even if you have a beat up copy these early British pressings were made to last and even a worn looking copy probably sounds great.
Since my pressing is a fairly early copy I think (Matrix/Stampers: Side One XEX 421-1N 1P and Side Two XEX 421-1N 1L) the sound on this pressing just shines; it’s full of life, punch and clarity.
Overall I prefer the mono mix of this album though I do enjoy the stereo as well. This first mono pressing is nice and punchy and jumps out of the speakers and hits on all cylinders. I also own a 1982 repress of this mono mix but this first pressing just has a life and excitement that other pressings lack.
(Note: Mono copies of this album on the regular black and yellow Parlophone label that were also pressed in 1963 sound just as good. If you can find one of those at a decent price and can’t find a black and gold label copy you’ll be quite pleased.)
I know it’s becoming harder and harder to find a decent copy of this first pressing mono that won’t break the bank but if you can manage to swing it this copy does not disappoint. Even though many of the second issue UK mono copies sound great as well there’s just something special about this first issue that’s well worth seeking out.
Please Please Me – German Stereo vinyl pressing:
This stereo copy from Germany was first released in the late 1960’s on the Horzu label and was titled “Die Beatles”. I guess the first pressings of this album sounded like the UK stereo pressing but later pressings with the matrix numbers SHZE 117-A-2 and SHZE 117-B-2 come from an uncompressed tape that sounds a lot better than any other stereo pressing of this album out there including the first UK stereo pressing.
I’ve read that either an early twin-track tape before compression was added was copied from EMI and sent to Germany or somehow the German record company did some kind of eq to get this result but whatever the case this version is the version to have of this classic album as it’s the best sounding version of this album I’ve ever heard.
My particular copy has the following matrix numbers; Side 1: SHZE 117-A-2 04219-A-2 and Side 2: SHZE 117-B-2 04219-B-2. This copy is on the Apple label (see photos below) and was released under the original “Please Please Me” title. If you look closely at the photos below you can faintly see the SHZE 117-A-2 and SHZE 117-B-2 matrixes followed by the 04219-A-2 and 04219-B-2 which are easier to see.
Copies without the SHZE 117-A-2 and SHZE 117-B-2 in the run-out groove are out there but they don’t have the uncompressed sound so if you look for this album make sure to check the run-out groove for these matrix numbers.
“Please Please Me” – Mono 2009 CD remaster
The 2009 CD remaster of the “Please Please Me” album which came in “The Beatles in Mono” box set is my go-to version of this album in mono on CD. The original 1987 CD version which was the only official CD version from 1987 to 2009 is actually not that bad but suffers from being mastered on a stereo tape deck instead of a full mono deck which left the sound a bit lacking compared with the 2009 remaster.
Plus the 2009 remaster mono CD comes in a stunning mini-CD cardboard cover that replicated exactly the original UK mono album even down to the correct inner sleeve. I love the flip-back style mini sleeves which really give you a feel for what an original copy looks like and with the better sound it’s my favorite mono CD version of the album.
“Please Please Me” – Stereo 2009 CD remaster (SHM-CD mini-lp CD version):
The 2009 stereo remaster CD of the “Please Please Me” album is the only official stereo version of this album available in the CD format. Like I said previously up until the 2009 remaster the “Please Please Me” album was only available on CD in mono and on an inferior version as well.
The version I’m sharing here is the groovy Japanese SHM-CD mini-lp CD which was a limited release of the 2009 stereo CD in a stunning flip-back style mini sleeve of the original UK stereo pressing of the album.
I know others feel the SHM-CD format is some sort of snake oil but I think this SHM-CD version of the “Please Please Me” CD has better bass and separation that the regular CD so this makes it my go-to version of the stereo album on CD. It’s nice to finally have a decent sounding stereo version of this album on CD and hopefully a box set of the “Please Please Me” album is on the horizon so maybe an even better version of the stereo CD will happen soon.
Well there you have it. This is my special celebration the 60th birthday of the wonderful “Please Please Me” album. I have to say it’s the most dated sounding of The Beatles original albums, which is no surprise, but to me that’s part of its charm.
I remember when I first heard this album on a 1970s Parlophone UK vinyl pressing and thinking that I loved the older sounding songs like “Chains”, “Baby It’s You” and “A Taste of Honey” because that took me to another place and time. To me the energy of the performances on this album still transcend time making this album one of my favorite Beatles albums of their entire catalog.
So happy birthday “Please Please Me” and until next time be well and safe and see you soon! That is all.