At a Recording Session With the Beatles

By Alan Smith  

Mersey Beat: January 3 1963

Beatles '63 The seconds tick away, high in the control room at EMI's recording studios in St. John's Wood, London. Through the glass panel I could see the Beatles, grouping themselves round the microphone as they waited for the signal to begin. Recording manager George Martin made a few last-minute adjustments to the control panel.

Everything was ready. He waved his hand - and suddenly the silence was shattered. The boys had launched into the throbbing beat of 'Please Please Me,' the number they hope will take them high into the Top Thirty when it is released this month.

Believe me, I wouldn't be surprised if it jumped right into the Top Ten. It has everything, from the hypnotic harmonica sound that came over so well in 'Love Me Do' to the kind of tune you can remember after one hearing. This time the harmonica sounds much bolder, too. It almost jumps out at you. And in the background there's the solid, insistent beat, defying you not to get up and dance. The Beatles rightly regard it as the most commercial number they've done so far.

John told me, "I tried to make it as simple as possible. Some of the stuff I've written has been a bit way out, but we did this one strictly for the hit parade. Now we're keeping our fingers crossed."

After 'Please Please Me' had been recorded we all went down to the canteen for a short tea break, where George Martin told me: "The thing I like about the Beatles is their great sense of humour - and their talent, naturally." It's a real pleasure to work with them because they don't take themselves too seriously, as many groups do these days. You know the types: they think they're heaven's gift to the music business."

George added that he thought the group have a sound something like "a male Shirelles." He may be right, but to my ears they come across something like the Drifters.

Whatever the answer, though, you can't deny they sound quite unlike any other British group. Little Richard can't be blamed for thinking they were an authentic R&B outfit (and he should know).

The Beatles started rehearsing their numbers at about 6.p.m. It was a Monday night and they were in London to take part in one of the Light Programme's 'Talent Spot' shows. 'Please Please Me' was taped shortly after 8p.m. After tea the boys went back into the studio to record the 'B' side of the disc. 'Ask Me Why'. This is another of their own songs, and value-for-money at that.

For technical reasons the harmonica was dubbed onto 'Please Please Me' after the rest of the number had been recorded. But it's been done so professionally you won't be able to tell when you hear it.

Drummer Ringo Starr had just cause to be pleased with himself after the session. During the recording of the Beatles last disc, George Martin wanted him to do some intricate drumming effects. He was naturally nervous - it was the first time he'd recorded, unlike the rest of the boys - and it took quite a bit of time. On this occasion he had the confidence to perform without worrying.

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