On February 11, 1963, the Beatles entered EMI’s Abbey Road Studios to record songs for inclusion on their debut album. In what is generally acknowledged to be one of the most productive days ever spent in a recording studio, the Beatles recorded ten high-spirited songs that were standards in their live performances. Of the ten songs completed for release, four were Lennon-McCartney originals (credited on the album as “McCartney-Lennon”) and six were cover versions that are today better known than their original versions. These songs, plus four songs recorded for the group’s first two singles, became the Beatles first album, which was named Please Please Me after the group’s second single, which was rapidly moving up the charts.
When the Beatles second single began racing up the charts, producer George Martin felt the need to quickly get the group into the studio to record a long-playing album to cash in on what the Beatles had already achieved. After checking schedules, Martin and manager Brian Epstein determined that the group could do a recording session on February 11 if they could be excused from the February 10 concert on the Helen Shapiro tour. An arrangement was made for Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers to take the Beatles place on the bill that night.
Three February 11 recording sessions in Studio Two were booked for: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and 7:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. It was an ambitious goal, particularly considering that the band had been performing on the road non-stop since returning from Hamburg at the beginning of the year. In addition, the group had been traveling through a brutally frigid winter, and John was suffering from a bad cold.
The album was recorded on a twin-track machine. For the most part, the instruments and the vocals were recorded on separate tracks. This was done to allow Martin and the engineers to balance properly the volume of the vocals and instruments when mixing the songs for mono. The songs were recorded live with the group singing and playing their instruments simultaneously. Overdubs appear on only a few of the tracks. Paul played his Hofner bass, and Ringo was on his Premier drum kit for all of the songs. John alternated between his Rickenbacker Capri electric guitar and his Gibson J-160E “Jumbo” acoustic-electric guitar, while George played either his Gretsch Duo-Jet electric guitar or his Jumbo.
Engineer Norman Smith placed the microphones further from the amplifiers than what was normally done so that they would pick up not only direct sound from the amplifiers, but also the ambient sound of the room. This gave the songs a more raucous sound, resembling what was heard at the group’s live performances. The music performed and captured by the Beatles, George Martin and the Abbey Road engineers on that magical day resulted in the group achieving its goal expressed by John “to make the LP something different.”
The Beatles had absolutely no time to recover from or celebrate the recording of their first album. On Tuesday, February 12, 1963, the group played two shows, the first at the Azena Ballroom in Sheffield, Yorkshire, followed by a concert at the Astoria Ballroom in Oldham, Lancashire. The next night the band was at the Majestic Ballroom in Hull. Then it was back in Liverpool for a Valentine’s Day dance at the Locarno Ballroom. Friday night the Beatles played the Ritz Ballroom in Birmingham. On Saturday, the group performed at the Carfax Assembly Rooms in Oxford.
On Sunday, February 17, the Beatles were at Teddington Studio Centre in Middlesex to tape a lip-synced performance of Please Please Me as part of the February 23 broadcast of the ABC television show Thank Your Lucky Stars.
Today’s trivia questions pertain to the recording session for the Please Please Me album.
- At what venue did George Martin originally consider recording the Beatles first album?
- What Lennon-McCartney song was recorded during the Please Please Me LP session but not released until it was re-recorded for the group’s second album?
- What song did New Musical Express erroneously report as being recorded during the Please Please Me LP session?
- According to a story on the Beatles that ran in New Record Mirror, who was slated to sing lead when the Beatles recorded I Saw Her Standing There, for their first album?
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