Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Please Please Me"

My Beatles criticism project continued:

With guitar and drum announcing "da-DUM" we are thrown straight into a quick intro with a prominent theme played on harmonica twice. The first verse enters with John providing the lead vocals and Paul offering harmony vocals in a higher register.

The lyric beings with "Last night I said these words to my girl,' which immediately puts us into a specific frame of reference. Presumably we are to think that the protagonist is telling his buddies about his experiences of the night before. Also one might suppose that he would be telling his buddies not to just inform them of the complaints he had to make ("I know you never even try, girl") but to let them know of his ultimate success. There is no doubt that the singer is a braggart and engaging in some male "locker room" talk.

A lovely guitar riff introduces the chorus, which follows quickly after the short two line verses, with four sets of call and answer "Come On"s. As each call "Come On" is sung the answer rises in pitch and the tension increases. The resulting "Please please me oh yeah like I please you" acts as something of a release.

Throughout the verses and choruses Paul's bass thumps along merrily, Ringo's drums offer killer fills (particularly leading into the bridge) and the guitars offer what I can only call chunky chords...there seems to be a real weight behind them.

After the second verse and chorus, the bridge follows. In it our protagonist offers more of an explanation ("I dont mean to sound complaining...") for his bitching. The man gives and gives (or so he says) and he get's nothing but grief ("Oh yeah, why do you make me blue?") in return. When the song careens back into the verse/chorus structure you are left in little doubt that his little scene will produce the desired results.

Taken as a whole "Please Please Me" is something of a little miracle. The sheer energy and pure joy of it all is undeniable. Even 40+ years later it sounds like the start of something new. Each of the elements, from instrumentation and vocal arrangement, to the memorable melody line and harmonies, work perfectly. Just like the guy's complaining.

1 comment:

  1. Please Please Me

    The main inspirations of the song according to Lennon were

    (A) The double use of the word Please taken from A Bing Crosby song
    (B) Having a high note like Roy Orbison

    The Orbison feel was toned down, but the concept of the rising vocals were used very literally in the harmonic structure of the song.

    I don’t think the song really sound of bragging, but rather; the thoughts going through the guys head as he’s trying to pitch woo to his girl. Even the sparseness of the breaks give you a feeling that he’s trying to plot out his next move, as the moments unfold.

    I doubt Lennon thought this out so literally, it’s probably what came to him as it was being written. Great sign of things to come from these four youngsters from Liverpool, who call themselves the Beatles.

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