Fifty-three years ago, the world changed in 32 minutes. On March 22, 1963, The Beatles released their debut album, Please Please Me, in the U.K. Though the songs themselves were short—each side of the album was about 16 minutes long—the impact was huge. Here’s what you need to know about the record that put The Fab Four on the map.
1. THE ALBUM TOOK LESS THAN 13 HOURS TO RECORD.
The album had to be recorded quickly in order to capitalize on the success of the “Please Please Me” single, which had been riding high on the charts for two months. Producer George Martin booked two consecutive studio sessions at EMI Studios on Abbey Road, starting at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning. They ran long, so Martin booked a third. They wrapped up “Twist and Shout” just as their studio time expired at 10:45 p.m.
2. IT WAS RECORDED ON THE CHEAP.
Despite the cost of the extra studio session, the whole day cost about £400 (or about $10,000 nowadays). Thanks to the Musicians' Union, each Beatle received a whopping £7.50 per session.
3. IT WAS ALMOST RECORDED LIVE AT THE CAVERN CLUB.
Martin wanted to capture the magic and excitement of The Beatles’ live performances at the Cavern Club, and even visited the space to work out the technical details for recording there. The timing didn’t work out, so Martin booked the studio instead—but the feel remains the same. “It was a straightforward performance of their stage repertoire—a broadcast, more or less,” Martin said. Lennon later agreed: “That record tried to capture us live, and was the nearest thing to what we might have sounded like to the audiences in Hamburg and Liverpool. You don't get that live atmosphere of the crowd stomping on the beat with you, but it's the nearest you can get to knowing what we sounded like before we became the 'clever' Beatles."
4. THE TITLE WAS INSPIRED BY A BING CROSBY TUNE.
The song title (and thus the album title) was inspired by an old Bing Crosby song called “Please.” “I was always intrigued by the words ‘Please lend your little ears to my pleas’—[a] Bing Crosby song. I was always intrigued by the double use of the word ‘pleas(e),'" Lennon said.
5. THE SONG ITSELF ORIGINALLY SOUNDED MORE LIKE A ROY ORBISON SONG.
“I’d heard Roy Orbison doing ‘Only the Lonely’ or something,” Lennon admitted. George Martin wasn’t impressed with the ballad-style crooning—one account says he told them it was "Too bloody boring for words"—and suggested a more upbeat tempo. "We were a bit embarrassed that he had found a better tempo than we had," McCartney said.
6. JOHN LENNON'S VOICE WAS TRASHED BY THE END OF THE DAY.
They had saved “Twist and Shout” for the end and knew they would only get one or two takes, because after nearly 13 hours of nonstop singing, John Lennon’s voice was shot. He took throat lozenges and gargled milk just to get though it. “I couldn’t sing the damn thing. I was just screaming,” he later said. They got it in one take.
7. THE ICONIC COVER COULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
As an honorary fellow of the Zoological Society of London, which owned the London Zoo, Martin thought it would be clever to have The Beatles pose in front of the zoo's insect house. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the Society wasn’t crazy about the idea, and politely declined. Martin brought in photographer Angus McBean instead, and he simply shot the boys looking over the stairwell outside of the EMI building.
8. "HOLD ME TIGHT" WAS ALSO RECORDED DURING THE MARATHON SESSION.
No one was happy with any of the takes, so they decided to table it and move on to other songs. "Hold Me Tight" eventually ended up on With the Beatles. "I can't remember much about that one," McCartney later said. "Certain songs were just 'work' songs, you haven't got much memory of them. That's one of them."
9. IT'S ONE OF THE RARE INSTANCES OF "MCCARTNEY-LENNON" CREDITS INSTEAD OF "LENNON-MCCARTNEY."
McCartney later told Rolling Stone that the plan was to alternate credits—sometimes Lennon would come first, and sometimes McCartney would. But "Lennon-McCartney" quickly became "a good logo," McCartney said. "Hammerstein and Rodgers doesn't work."
10. "PLEASE PLEASE ME" IS KEITH RICHARDS' FAVORITE BEATLES SONG.
“I’ve always told McCartney, ‘Please Please Me.’ I just love the chimes, and I was there at the time and it was beautiful,” the Rolling Stone told Jimmy Fallon. “Mind you, there’s plenty of others, but if I’ve got to pick one, ‘Please Please Me’ … oh, yeah!”
Here’s Richards doing an acoustic version of the song: