Album that changed pop gets fresh twist
(and shout)

HALF a century on from the recording of their seminal debut album, the Beatles’ influence on pop music remains unparalleled.

The Beatles in 1963
The Beatles in 1963

So it was a fitting tribute when musicians the Fab Four have inspired over the decades gathered at Abbey Road to recapture the creation of Please Please Me on its 50th anniversary.

Artists including the Stereophonics and Mick Hucknall were invited by BBC Radio 2 to recreate the breakneck workrate at which the album was recorded on February 11, 1963, in one mammoth live broadcast.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Beatles famously took just 585 minutes to record the LP’s 10 tracks – and one song to spare for their next album – live in Abbey Road’s Studio 2, in a whirlwind of productivity that puts many of their contemporaries and successors to shame.

The songs – including Twist and Shout and Love Me Do as well as the title track -– were given a fresh spin as artists from across the musical spectrum covered them for the radio station’s 12 Hours to Please Me project.

Gabrielle Aplin was the first to step up to the mic to sing There’s A Place, followed by the Stereophonics’ version of I Saw Her Standing There.

Up next was Joss Stone, who was accompanied by a full string section as she performed A Taste of Honey in her socks, then Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds sang Do You Want to Know a Secret?

Later there were covers of Misery by Paul Carrack; Please Please Me by Chris Difford, Glen Tilbrook and Paul Jones; Anna by Mick Hucknall; Chains by I Am Kloot; Baby It’s You by Graham Coxon; and finally Twist and Shout by Beverley Knight.

The project also reunited four musicians who played alongside the Beatles at the Cavern Club the week before they recorded the album for a special one-off performance.

Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats, Sam Hardie of the Dominoes and Dave Lovelady of the Fourmost recaptured the sound of the era as they performed Boys before sharing their memories of the Liverpool music scene in the early Sixties.

The event was hosted by BBC DJs Stuart Maconie and Jo Whiley, who were joined by guests from the original session, including engineer Richard Langham and Beatles’ publicist Tony Barrow.

The original recording saw the band playing live renditions, save for a few false starts and mistakes, with little in the way of overdubs – how bands record layers of instruments today.

The final track of the day, Twist And Shout – held to the end because of fears it would wreck John Lennon’s already ailing voice to attempt it any earlier – was captured in one take.

“Trying for a second take, Lennon found he had nothing left and the session stopped there and then – but the atmosphere was still crackling,” wrote Ian MacDonald, the late chronicler of Beatles recordings. “Nothing of that intensity had ever been recorded in a British pop studio.”

The album could have been so different: producer and label boss George Martin had toyed with trying to capture their stage show by making a live album at the Cavern, but the plan was dropped.

Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr already had four usable tracks – singles Love Me Do and Please Please Me, plus the B-sides – and needed 10 more to make up an album, so a lot was earmarked for the session at Abbey Road.

And their hectic schedule – 30 performances in the 28 days of February, including a tour with Helen Shapiro, plus a radio 
and TV show – meant time was tight.

With Lennon nursing a 
cold with tea, milk, cigarettes and Zubes lozenges, the group set 
to work at 10am, nailing the 
first song, There’s A Place, in 13 takes.

I Saw Her Standing There followed and they continued rattling through the songs, 
with some proving trickier than others.

Hold Me Tight also took 13 takes but they were not satisfied and it was dumped, later to be revived for second album With The Beatles.

Although just two three-hour periods were booked for the recording, the band added a third which ended at 10.45pm, as Twist And Shout came to its conclusion.

“There can scarcely have been 585 more productive minutes in the history of recorded music,” said author Mark Lewisohn in The Complete Beatles Chronicle.

The record went straight to number one, where it remained for 30 weeks until their next album toppled it.

Bob Shennan, controller of Radio 2, 6 Music and Popular Music at the BBC, said: “It’s one album that changed the world of pop music and I think the 50th anniversary is a timely moment to remind everyone why.”

The project was filmed for a BBC4 programme, The Beatles’ Please Please Me – Re-making A Classic, which will be shown on Friday at 9pm.