The Beatles' Debut Album Turns 50
"The Beatles adopt a do-it-yourself approach from the very beginning. They write their own lyrics, design and eventually build their own instrumental backdrops and work out their own vocal arrangements. Their music is wild, pungent, hard-hitting, uinhibited… and personal."
The above gem comes from the liner notes to The Beatles' Please Please Me, which turned 50 this past weekend. There are so many things that The Beatles are remembered for, chief among them an unmatched catalog of songs. There have been way too many bands to count that started in The Beatles' wake, and it's likely that most of them write their own lyrics, as well as "design their own instrumental backdrops" (i.e. compose their own music) and work out their own vocal arrangements. But before the Fab Four, this wasn't the norm.
Later in the liner notes, Beatles press officer Tony Barrow writes, "Their own built-in tune-smith team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney has already tucked away enough self-penned numbers to maintain a steady output of all-original singles from now until 1975!" It's hard to read that bit without a feeling pang of regret.
Another thing that wasn't the norm back then: Spending years, months or even weeks in the studio making a pop album. Please Please Me was famously recorded in a 10-hour session. These days, it could take exponentially longer than 10 hours just to get a drum sound. So credit producer George Martin – these days, that's Sir George Martin to you – for producing a world-changing bit of music in less than half a day. Indeed, BBC Four recently shot 12 Hours To Please Me, a TV documentary in which a number of British acts (including Joss Stone, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Paul Carrack and Mick Hucknall of Simply Red) attempted to re-record all the songs on the album in 12 hours (they succeeded in this). Today, it's the premise for a reality show, but back then, it was simply what the budget allowed for. more on this story
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