When was it recorded? Nov. 26, 1962
When was it first released, and on which album? Jan. 11, 1963 as a single (later on “Please Please Me”)
Who wrote it? Lennon
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
I’d like to thank the Apple Store employee who made the past two weeks possible. Thanks for not listening to my request to just replace the battery. Thanks for dicking around with the trackpad when I asked you not to, breaking it in the process when there wasn’t a spare one in stock That’s exactly what I drove four hours and waited in the store for two hours for. Jesus Christ.
Fun as my impromptu vacation was, I started going through withdrawl around last Wednesday, so I’m ready to pick things back up. [It wasn’t too bad — my local radio station played an hours-long audio documentary about the band on Saturday that I listened to.]
“‘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.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
Roy Orbison and Joe Melson wrote “Only the Lonely,” with Orbison releasing it as a single in May 1960. While the “operatic rock ballad” peaked at #2 in the US, it reached #1 in the UK.
The Bing Crosby song John referred to in his anecdote was “Please.” I had trouble finding concrete information on it, other than what I gleaned from YouTube video “About” sections. According to AllMusic, Ralph Rainger and and Leo Robbin penned the track.
The Beatles first worked on “Please Please Me” Sept. 4, 1962 during a studio rehearsal for “Love Me Do.” They did not record any takes on this occasion, though. According to the Beatles Bible, “George Martin disliked the slow tempo and Roy Orbison-style arrangement, so The Beatles worked up a faster version for their next session.”
Quoth the Beatles Bible again, “Although The Beatles attempted to record Please Please Me on 11 September… George Martin saw room for improvement and opted not to release it on The Beatles’ debut single.” This demo was lost for a number of years before turning up on 1994’s “Anthology 1.”
The Beatles finally recorded a useful version of “Please Please Me” on Nov. 26 in 18 takes.
According to Wikipedia, “The single was released in the UK on 11 January 1963 and reached No. 1 on the New Musical Express (the most recognized chart at the time) on 22 February, as well as the Melody Maker where it was Number 1 for two weeks. However, it only reached No. 2 on the Record Retailer chart, which subsequently evolved into the UK Singles Chart and because of this it was not included on the multi-million selling Beatles compilation, ‘1.’” Originally, the single faired poorly in America, but when re-released before peak-Beatlemania (Jan. 3, 1964 to be specific), it reached #3 on the charts.
Wikipedia also notes that “Please Please Me” was released “during one of the worst winters in British history and …most of the population were snowed-in at home watching the Beatles perform the song on the Saturday night TV show, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars.’” “Please Please Me” was the only song the Beatles performed during their first national TV appearance – you can guess how great sales were after said show.
The Beatles performed “Please Please Me” 12 times for BBC radio between Jan. 16 and Oct. 13, 1963. One version, recorded Jul. 16 that aired Aug. 13 on “Pop Go the Beatles,” appeared on last year’s compilation, “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2.”
(And yet, I never found a confirmation or denial from a band member that this song was about oral sex… I must say I’m slightly disappointed.)