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?
Other posts of the series
- 2012: THE YEAR OF 50TH ANNIVERSARIES (May 8, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Commercial Test at Abbey Road (June 5, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles First Visit to Abbey Road Studios - More (June 11, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles First Visit to Abbey Road Studios - Continued (June 18, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles First Proper Recording Session (September 4, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: The Beatles 2nd Recording Session for their 1st Single (September 12, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: EMI Prepares for Release of First Beatles Single (September 25, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: EMI Releases First Beatles Single (October 3, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: The Beatles First Television Appearance (October 16, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles played at Queen’s Hall (October 23, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles leave for Hamburg (October 30, 2012)
- 50 years ago: The Beatles and James Bond (November 6, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Another full week of concert appearances for the Beatles (November 21, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: The Beatles Record their Second Single (November 27, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: A Rare Beatles Stage Show Flop (December 4, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Top Mersey Beat Poll Again (December 11, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Leave for Final Hamburg Club Dates (December 18, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles spend Christmas in Hamburg (December 24, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Ring in New Year in Hamburg (December 31, 2012)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles in Scotland (January 7, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Promote Please Please Me Single (January 15, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Promote Please Please Me Single (January 22, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Gearing Up for First National Tour (January 29, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Please Please Me Single Released in America (February 5, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Record First Album (This post) (February 11, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Continue Promoting 2nd Single (February 19, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: George Martin Prepares Album; Beatles Resume Helen Shapiro Tour (February 26, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Record From Me To You (March 5, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles on Tour with Tommy Roe & Chris Montez (March 12, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: First Beatles Album Released (March 18, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Conclude Roe/Montez Tour (March 25, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles at the BEEB (March 28, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Release and Promote Third Single (April 9, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Play Royal Albert Hall & Empire Pool (April 16, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Continue With Concerts (April 22, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: While the Beatles on Vacation, Singles Chart (April 30, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Beatles Please Please Me LP Tops the Charts (May 7, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: CONCERTS, CHILDREN’S TV AND TOURS (May 12, 2013)
- 50 Years Ago: Touring with Orbison and their own Radioshow (May 13, 2013)