#SaturdaySongs No.5 – Please Please Me

For someone of my vintage this is probably a fairly obvious choice for one of my #SaturdaySongs memories. But I’m not apologising for that: this was the first UK top ten hit by the Beatles, and the way it stormed into the British consciousness – and then the world – was unheard of before then. I would argue that despite there having been many artists who have since sold records by the truckload, the way for them to do this was paved by the Beatles. They weren’t the first major pop music act, but the floodgates opened on the back of their popularity.

Let me take you back to when the song was released. This was on 11 January 1963 and, a week later, I along with probably most of the UK population saw them perform it on the TV programme Thank Your Lucky Stars. At the time, the UK was two weeks into the worst winter we have had in my lifetime: it started to snow on Boxing Day, 26 December 1962, and we didn’t see the ground again until three months later, in March. Transport networks were less plentiful than today in any case, but those that we had were paralysed by the severe weather, so we had little else to do other than stay indoors and entertain ourselves as best we could. I do remember that the school bus managed to run most days though – there’s no justice in life, is there!

I was 9 at this time, and had been interested in pop music for a year or two, but the Beatles were an eye-opener. In those days our exposure to pop was on a much smaller scale than today. In the UK we only had 2 TV channels, which had very little in the way of pop music programmes, and the BBC’s national radio networks weren’t really geared up to younger audiences. The only commercial radio station available to us was Radio Luxembourg, which was so difficult to pick up that you had to be really dedicated to persevere with it – and when you finally did manage to tune in, it was like listening to music being broadcast from another galaxy, transmitted through a high-powered wind tunnel. But it was all we had, and we listened in our droves. The national UK broadcasters gave us the occasional pop artist as a guest on the variety shows which were popular at the time with our parents and other assorted oldies: you know the sort of thing, an awful comedian, a magic act usually involving a few doves, ‘comedy’ acrobats and jugglers, songs from the musicals performed by people we’d never heard of, the hideously racist and patronising Black And White Minstrel Show. And now and then, we’d get a pop artist.

Prior to the Beatles this would be the likes of Cliff Richard or John Leyton. It’s a surprise that I ever got interested in music, really, after an introduction like that! The radio stations were no better: the BBC had three networks, only one of which – the Light Programme – played popular music, and even then it was usually cover versions by the in-house orchestra rather than proper records. The long-running Top Of The Pops TV show was nearly a year away (it started on 1 January 1964) and the BBC didn’t reorganise its radio networks until 1967, after the runaway popularity of pirate stations, which began broadcasting from rusting old boats in the seas off the UK shore, around 1963-4 I think.

Here’s today’s song:

The sound and video quality has degraded a little over the 50+ years since then, but I wanted to share a live version to give you an idea of the kind of hysteria that the Beatles generated, if you weren’t around in those days. Please Please Me was the Beatles’ second single in the UK, after Love Me Do reached no.17 in autumn 1962. It reached no.2, and led the way for a string of UK and worldwide number ones, starting with From Me To You, its follow up. Whenever I hear this I’m transported back to those magical days of my childhood, to the times when my little sister and I used to play and sing along, using our toy tennis rackets as guitars, and were convinced that we sounded far better than the BBC’s anonymous concert orchestra singers. With hindsight I doubt that we did, but we were living a dream, and that is one of the wonderful things about music, and why I have chosen this song this week. I hope it brings back memories for you, too.

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38 thoughts on “#SaturdaySongs No.5 – Please Please Me

  1. Pingback: Saturday Song blog – faBgear

  2. Pingback: The Music of My Youth – Health from one Heart to Another

  3. Ok I am obviously the oldest of this little enclave so you won’t be surprised to read that my walls were covered, and I mean covered, with Beatles Monthly pics, I was in mad passionate love with Paul, I remember spending a week off school with flu and sitting in my bed drawing his portrait. I never saw The Beatles live (but I did see Cliff Richard (!)) though I did see Wings for 50p when they turned up at uni asking to do an impromptu gig to try out the songs they had so far – which numbered about four! They played ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ several times, it was to be their first single and it was banned by the BBC. I was an arm’s length away fom Paul McCartney the whole evening and I don’t know how I stopped from swooning! I still dream about him occasionally…
    And yes, that winter was really something! We lived in a tiny village and were snowed in. My dad tried to drive down our street to the main road and slid under a refuse lorry when he put his brakes on as the sun shone on the ice into his eyes. (He wasn’t hurt).
    Radio Luxembourg was like trying to listen under water, do you remember how it used to blow in and out and you had to keep moving your tranny to face a slightly different direction! And all the adverts! ‘Keynsham, that’s K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M, Bristol!’

    Liked by 1 person

    • All the girls at school had Beatles Monthly for the pictures. And most had the same taste as you! I remember the Beeb banning that, thought it was miles from being his best anyway!

      Good that your Dad was unhurt. We didn’t have a car, so it was stuffing wellies with loads of socks and waiting for a bus to get through.

      And yes, we are the generation that knows how to spell Keynsham though we’d never been there. Happy days 😊

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  4. I remember too that the Beatles were causing a revolution at that time. This song came a bit later to Denmark though. I loved to hear pop music from a radio channel called “Radio One” and the address was repeated over and over and it was London W 1 if I got it right. I believe it was from 1964 -66. I had trouble finding the channel on my transistor radio. It was a very narrow space and I had to put it in a certain angle to hear

    Liked by 1 person

    • They conquered the world, really! I’m glad you enjoyed the music of that time too. The only British station I know of called Radio One is the BBC pop music station. I’m not sure if it’s the same one you remember as it didn’t start broadcasting until 1967, after the government had outlawed the pirate radio stations that we enjoyed so much. The two famous ones were Caroline and London though there were plenty of others – maybe yours was one of those?

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      • It must have been Radio London. Why are these things so hard to remember ? I am trying to put a post together on this so I will be glad to get your opinion when I have finished it or maybe I could send the draft to your email as I find it a bit difficult

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      • Our memories play tricks on us over time. I frequently find that something I have believed for many years is incorrect! Happy to help if you’d like. Message me via the contact form and we can then be in touch by email. Good luck with your post 😊

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  5. Dear Clive,

    On the other side of the pond I was 10 in 1963 when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Up until then I didn’t care much for pop music. I developed an immediate crush on Sir Paul. To this day, I remain a fan. I guess it was the time. There will never be another phenomenon like the four lads who took the world by storm. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rochelle, I’m glad you enjoyed it. We’re clearly of a similar vintage, and shared in the amazing experience of the Beatles exploding into our consciousness. As you say, there will never be any other like them 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was only three when Please Please Me was released but the song is just as much a part of my fabric as it would have been if I’d been a little older. The wireless was always on in the kitchen so I guess I absorbed it sublimely along with the newspaper pictures of them being mobbed, screaming teenaged girls, waving from the top of aircraft steps and just being Beatly. My husband,on the other hand, a scouse and 8 years older than me …. now he has different memories tied up with older sisters and tales of The Cavern. The remarkable thing is that they still thrill not just us but our children and grandchildren ….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad it brought back those memories! The video is from the Ed Sullivan Show – back in those days TV didn’t travel round the world so much, and their appearance was the first I’d heard of Mr Sullivan 😊

      Like

  7. I was 5 in 1962 and missed The Beatles in their heyday, but remember having a 3-D picture of them on my bedroom wall when I was about 8 or 9. I think my favourite Beatles song is ‘Twist and Shout’, followed by ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.

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