The Beatles: Please Please Me
The Beatles’ debut takes some heat for not being as good as later albums. I’d like to put it in a bit of context. This is a tremendously different group than what was out there at the time. Some of the hits that year were “It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore, “I will follow Him” by Little Peggy March, “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton, and several surfing tunes by the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout” must have seemed like they came from another planet. Even their treatments of the covers were different than what their contemporaries were doing with the same numbers.
Now, it wasn’t perfect. There are tracks that don’t hold up as well as others (“Anna,” “Ask Me Why”), but their charm carries it through. This was a group that had just gotten off a grueling touring schedule, and was eager to try many new things. They were still coming into their own. The chops were there, but the direction was unclear. The fact that they were so bold (dare I say even progressive?) was a clue that this was a band worthy of keeping an eye on.
There is a lot to like on this album. You have solid rockers, and beautiful ballads. All wrapped up in a sense of innocence (history would reveal that they were a bit more worldly than we thought). It sounds dated, and was nowhere near the level of what they would achieve. If you can put yourself in the spirit of the time, you can see the value of this important piece of rock music. Without early innovations like this, music would not have taken the same course. It may not be an essential album, but if you enjoy seeing the evolution (as I do), this is a good one.