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British pop group The Beatles pose while in Los Angeles, California, circa 1965. Clockwise from Top L: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon. (Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)

The Story Behind “Please Please Me” by The Beatles and How a Snowstorm Helped Propel It to the Top of the Charts

A snowstorm and an unlikely combination of musical influences helped propel The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” to the top of the British charts, while its path in America took a much longer route.

“Love Me Do” by The Beatles was the first single released by Parlophone Records. It peaked at No. 17 on the British charts, which was encouraging. The constant touring and long hours onstage contributed to the groundswell of support from the growing number of fans. This very moment in their career was crucial. The follow-up single had to come in strong to continue the momentum.

As soon as the recording session ended, their producer, George Martin, believed they had their first No. 1. Let’s look at the story behind “Please Please Me” by The Beatles.

Last night, I said these words to my girl
I know you never even try, girl
Come on (come on), come on (come on)
Come on (come on), come on (come on)
Please, please me, whoa yeah, like I please you

An Unlikely Combination of Musical Influences
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The songwriting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was evolving at an incredible pace. From early songs like “Hello Little Girl” and “Love Me Do,” the listener can hear the progression of “P.S. I Love You” and “Please Please Me.” These weren’t just Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry three-chord knockoffs.

Lennon told author David Sheff in 1980, “‘Please Please Me’ is my song completely. It was my attempt at writing a Roy Orbison song. Would you believe it? I wrote it in the bedroom in my house at Menlove Avenue, which was my auntie’s place. … I remember the day and the pink coverlet on the bed, and I heard Roy Orbison doing ‘Only The Lonely’ or something. That’s where that came from. And also, I was always intrigued by the words of ‘Please, lend me your little ears to my pleas’ – a Bing Crosby song. I was always intrigued by the double use of the word ‘please.’ So it was a combination of Bing Crosby and Roy Orbison.”

You don’t need me to show the way, love
Why do I always have to say love
Come on (come on), come on (come on)
Come on (come on), come on (come on)
Please, please me, whoa yeah, like I please you

The Recording
The Beatles first brought the song to the recording studio on September 4, 1962, when they recorded “Love Me Do.” They pegged it as a possible B-Side.

Drummer Ringo Starr had just joined the band a few weeks before. Martin was not so sure about him when he arrived at the studio. Andy White, a session drummer, had been arranged for the session.

Starr remembered in The Beatles Anthology, “On my first visit in September, we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did ‘Please Please Me.’ I remember that because while we were recording it, I was playing the bass drum with a maraca in one hand and a tambourine in the other.”

Said Martin said in The Beatles Anthology, “At that stage, ‘Please Please Me’ was a very dreary song. It was like a Roy Orbison number, very slow, bluesy vocals. It was obvious to me that it badly needed pepping up. I told them to bring it in next time, and we’d have another go at it.”

I don’t want to sound complaining
But you know there’s always rain in my heart (in my heart)
I do all the pleasing with you
It’s so hard to reason with you
whoa, yeah, why do you make me blue?

The Second Attempt
The Beatles brought the song back to Abbey Road Studios on November 26, 1962.
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Lennon told Sheff in 1980, “We almost abandoned it as the B-side of ‘Love Me Do.’ We changed our minds only because we were so tired the night we did ‘Love Me Do.’ We’d been going over it a few times, and when we came to the question of the flipside, we intended using ‘Please Please Me.’ Our recording manager, George Martin, thought our arrangement was fussy, so we tried to make it simpler. We were getting very tired, though, and we just couldn’t seem to get it right. We are conscientious about our work, and we don’t like to rush things.”

McCartney said in The Beatles Anthology, “We sang it, and George Martin said, ‘Can we change the tempo?’ We said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘Make it a bit faster. Let me try it.’ And he did. We thought, ‘Oh, that’s all right, yes.’ Actually, we were a bit embarrassed that he had found a better tempo than we had.”

Last night, I said these words to my girl
I know you never even try, girl
Come on (come on), come on (come on)
Come on (come on), come on (come on)
Please, please me, whoa yeah, like I please you
(Please me) whoa, yeah, like I please you
(Please me) whoa, yeah, like I please you

The Snowstorm
The single was released in the UK on January 11, 1963. A massive snowstorm hit England, forcing most people to stay home. The Beatles performed the song live on the TV program Thank Your Lucky Stars, giving “Please Please Me” a massive boost. The song went to the top of the charts, fulfilling Martin’s prediction.

The song was offered to EMI’s American label Capitol Records. They passed. Atlantic Records was then offered the recording with no interest. Vee-Jay Records out of Chicago took EMI up on their offer and released the single in America on February 25, 1963. It made little impact—at first. Almost a year later, when footage of the band appeared on NBC’s The Jack Paar Program, Vee-Jay rereleased the song. By this time, Capitol had agreed to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” and it was zooming up the charts. Vee-Jay couldn’t press copies of “Please Please Me” fast enough to meet the demands of Beatlemania. This time, the song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, behind “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

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Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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