60 years Ago: Please Please Me Single Released in America


After playing their last lunchtime concert at the Cavern on Monday, February 4, 1963, the Beatles were back on the road with the Helen Shapiro national tour. The group played its four-song sets that week at the following venues: Gaumont Cinema in Doncaster, Yorkshire on Tuesday; Granada Cinema in Bedford, Bedfordshire on Wednesday; Regal Cinema in Wakefield, Yorkshire on Thursday; ABC Cinema in Carlisle, Cumberland on Friday; and Empire Theatre in Sunderland, Durham on Saturday.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the first American record to bear the Beatles name was released on February 7, 1963, exactly one year prior to the group’s triumphant arrival in America. The disc, Vee-Jay 498, featured the same two songs as the group’s second U.K. single, Please Please Me and Ask Me Why. The labels to all first pressings of the disc have the group’s name misspelled as “THE BEATTLES” with two “T”s. These records are worth over $3,000 in near mint condition.

The Beatles ended up on Vee-Jay, a Chicago-based independent label that specialized in R&B and gospel recordings, because Capitol Records failed to exercise its right of first refusal as EMI’s American subsidiary to issue the single. (Capitol had also declined to release the Beatles first single, Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You.) On January 10, 1963, Vee-Jay Records entered into a five-year licensing agreement with Transglobal Music Co., Inc. (an American corporation controlled by EMI) to issue the songs Please Please Me and Ask Me Why in America. A rider to the agreement also gave Vee-Jay a right of first refusal for all Beatles recordings owned by EMI for the length of the five-year contract.

The deal was brokered by Paul Marshall, a New York attorney who represented both Vee-Jay and Transglobal. Marshall offered Vee-Jay the single after several major companies, including Atlantic Records, had passed on the disc. His decision to offer the deal to Vee-Jay was based on his friendship with and respect for Vee-Jay president Ewart Abner, as well as the label’s then-recent success with a Frank Ifield single. After Capitol had declined to issue Ifield’s I Remember You, Vee-Jay released the single, which became a number five hit. In addition, Vee-Jay was doing well with another group of four white male singers, the Four Seasons, who quickly scored two number one hits with Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry.

Shortly after the single’s official release date, Chicago radio station WLS broadcast Please Please Me. The station’s March 8, 1963 survey indicates that Please Please Me by “Beattles” had been played for 3 weeks and lists the song at number 40. The survey from March 15 shows the single at its peak and final position of number 35.

Today’s trivia questions pertain to the first Beatles single released in America.

1. Who was the first disc jockey to play a Beatles record in America?

2. What American cities had radio stations that charted the Please Please Me single during 1963? (We are aware of five such cities.)

3. Which, if any, of the American music trade magazines (Billboard, Cash Box and Record Vendor) charted the Please Please Me single during 1963?

4. How many copies of Please Please Me were sold in America during 1963?

(A) 2,250

(B) 5,650

(C) 7,300

(D) 10,500


1. WLS (Chicago) disc jockey Dick Biondi, who frequently got together with Vee-Jay president Ewart Abner, recalls receiving a copy of the Please Please Me single in early February, 1963. Abner endorsed the 45 with his usual “I feel this could be a big record,” and Biondi liked what he heard. Biondi believes he may have debuted the single as early as Friday, February 8, 1963, during his 9:00 p.m. to midnight shift.

The WLS survey shown left has a picture of Dick Biondi at the bottom and lists Please Please Me by “Beattles” at number 35.

2. Chicago, San Bernardino, San Francisco, Miami and Houston. The highest the song got on any of the charts was #34 (KEWB San Francisco and KNUZ Houston)

3. None of the American music trade magazines charted the Please Please Me single during 1963.

4. B. Approximately 5,650 copies of Please Please Me were sold in America during 1963.

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