Sunday, February 10, 2013

Marathon Men

Fifty years ago tomorrow, the Beatles recorded their debut album, Please Please Me.

In a single day. In less than a single day. In roughly nine hours.

Well, not everything was recorded on that day. There were a few singles that had been released — and had been wildly popular. "Love Me Do," for example, was the Beatles' first release a few months earlier and rose to 17th on U.S. charts. "Please Please Me," the track for which the album was named, was #1 on most charts.

To capitalize on the popularity of those singles, the decision was made to release an album.

Albums were not always released in those days, but, when they were, it was typical in England for an album to include 14 songs. The two hits, with their B–side tracks, made four songs. The Beatles needed 10 more.

So, on Feb. 11, 1963, the Beatles recorded the rest of what would become the Please Please Ne album, which was released less than six weeks later.

The Beatles recorded all 10 songs in three three–hour sessions in London. Well, actually they recorded 11 songs, but one of the tracks, "Hold Me Tight," was not included. It was re–recorded later and wound up on the "With the Beatles" album a few months later.

"Twist and Shout" was the last one recorded because John Lennon had been sick, and producer George Martin was concerned that Lennon's voice might be ruined if they tried to record it first.

To everyone's surprise, the song was recorded in a single take. A second take was attempted, but, as Martin had feared, Lennon's voice was shot.

The first take was remarkable, though. Still is, for that matter.

In fact, if you listen to the Please Please Me album carefully, you can hear Lennon coughing in the background. Reportedly, he had been drinking milk and taking cough drops to soothe his throat, and it worked well enough for him to get through the other songs, but, after his vocal contribution to "Twist and Shout," he said his throat felt like "sandpaper," and it was weeks before his throat returned to normal.