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21st April 2023

The Beatles’ debut album isn’t one of their best, but could it be?

As the Fab Four’s debut turns 60, Jake Rowley proposes an alternative ‘Please Please Me’ comprising the best of their early material.
The Beatles’ debut album isn’t one of their best, but could it be?
The Beatles ‘Please Please Me’ – Official Album Art

Happy 60th birthday to Please Please Me, The Beatles’ debut album! Or, at least, their debut album in the UK.

However, The Beatles’ chronology is a messy affair, as the US Capitol label retitled, reorganised and repackaged every pre-Sgt.-Pepper Beatles album to cater for the American market. Consequently, Please Please Me and its UK follow-up, With the Beatles (both 1963), were chopped up and rearranged into Introducing… The Beatles (which itself had two versions), Meet the Beatles! and The Beatles’ Second Album in 1964.

Whilst it might be tempting to disregard the American albums as inferior facsimiles of their British counterparts, Meet and Second Album contain some brilliant tracks – including some of the hit singles from the era – that Please Please Me and With the Beatles omit in favour of lacklustre rock ‘n’ roll covers. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to create a kind of ultimate tracklist based on all the band’s pre-Hard Day’s Night (1964) material, to create the best possible version of Please Please Me without any of the label restrictions the band faced at the time.

For this imaginary album, I have kept to the unofficial rule of each album featuring George and Ringo on lead vocals at least once each. With that out of the way, let us set the needle in the groove and begin…


1. ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ | Please Please Me (UK), Introducing… The Beatles (US), Meet the Beatles! (US)

I mean, what else was going to kick off the album? Amongst all the great album openers the band have produced over the years – ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Come Together’, ‘Taxman’ – their first effort still stands up as one of their best. A high energy, rock ‘n’ roll banger, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ endures as one of their most popular should’ve-been-a-single album tracks. It was clearly well-liked by the folks at Capitol, too, who included it on both Introducing… and Meet the Beatles! in 1964.

2. ‘Please Please Me’ | single (UK/US), Please Please Me (UK), Introducing… The Beatles Version Two (US)

And the momentum rattles on forward with ‘Please Please Me’. A hit on both sides of the Atlantic, ‘Please Please Me’ is the embodiment of Beatlemania madness; at every “come on (come on!)” you can practically hear the sound of moptops swishing and girls screaming. John gives it everything with his vocal performance, but Ringo’s electrifying drumming deserves some praise here too – just watch him throwing himself around the kit on the live performance below.

3. ‘All I’ve Got to Do’ | With the Beatles (UK), Meet the Beatles! (US)

‘All I’ve Got to Do’ brings the intensity down, but its steady rhythmic drive helps retain a sense of forward motion. John’s gorgeous melody glides over a subdued instrumental, carrying what is surely With the Beatles’ finest moment.

4. ‘All My Loving’ | With the Beatles (UK), Meet the Beatles! (US)

Vocal duties swing back to Paul for this popular cut from With the Beatles – so popular that, despite only being released as a single in Canada, purchases of Canadian imports alone sufficed to propel the song into the Billboard Hot 100. Exploding into view after the mellow ‘All I’ve Got to Do’, it’s a transition that works nicely on With the Beatles, so we’re reusing it here.

5. ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’ | Please Please Me (UK), Introducing… The Beatles (US)

George has his first (but not only) vocal appearance on ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’, where the pretty but uncomplicated melody more than compensates for the title’s infuriating absence of a question mark. The bridge is admittedly fairly weak, but it nonetheless provides a welcome moment of calm before the relentless run of songs that follows.

It’s also worth noting that these first five tracks are all in the same key, bringing a sense of cohesion to the start of the album.

6. ‘From Me to You’ | single (UK/US)

‘From Me to You’ was perhaps the earliest evidence of Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting genius. While the basic components – harmonica lead, lyrics about being in love, a sub-two-minute runtime – didn’t exactly break new ground, the complex bridge section that seamlessly transitions back into the chorus demonstrated a maturity and attention to detail that the band would only build upon in the years to come. It was the Beatles’ first number-one single (or second, or third, depending on whom you ask) and a live favourite, yet surprisingly it didn’t make it to any of the UK or US albums from this era. This alternative tracklist seeks to rectify that.

7. ‘She Loves You’ | single (UK/US), The Beatles’ Second Album (US)

And the bangers keep coming with ‘She Loves You’. The Beatles’ best-selling single is unique for subverting the “I love you / you love me” dynamic typical of love songs, as instead the narrator acts as a middle-man trying to repair a damaged relationship. Its chorus might be as garish as any 2010s pop anthem, but its surprising C-minor chords and the intriguing closing 6th cluster (which here is left lingering at the end of side one) demonstrate Lennon and McCartney’s capacity to raise eyebrows at even this early stage in their career.


8. I Want to Hold Your Hand | single (UK/US), Meet the Beatles! (US)

‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ gave the Fab Four their first No. 1 in the US, so its inclusion is a no-brainer. The group actually recorded German versions of this song and ‘She Loves You’, but it’s the English version we’re including here.

9. ‘This Boy’ | B-side of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ (UK), Meet the Beatles! (US)

Quiet, understated, yet mesmerising in its harmonic complexity, the B-side to ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ is unfairly overlooked amongst the Beatles’ early material. This Motown-inspired chillout tune shows off a juicy three-part harmony between John, Paul and George before John is allowed to let rip in the middle-eight. Floating around a 6/8 groove, ‘This Boy’ provides a moment of reassuring tranquillity after a breathtaking run of singles.

Restored Single Artwork (I Want to Hold Your Hand / This Boy) : r/beatles
The Beatles ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand / This Boy’ Official Single Art

10. ‘Don’t Bother Me’ | With the Beatles (UK), Meet the Beatles! (US)

George Harrison’s first outing as a Beatles songwriter might not have the lyrical depth of “Something”, “Here Comes the Sun” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, but its miserable protagonist nonetheless foreshadows the dark corners George would explore in his later masterpieces. With a haunting chord progression and bossa-nova rhythms, it’s a very intriguing piece indeed, and not one to be written off as mere ‘humble beginnings’.

11. ‘I Wanna be Your Man’ | With the Beatles (UK), Meet the Beatles! (US)

‘I Wanna be Your Man’ is the obligatory Ringo track, and Lennon had some harsh words for the song in 1980: “It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were Ringo and the Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it: We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?” But while it might not be their most interesting song, it’s certainly one of their most fun. Nowhere else in their discography do the Beatles sound so positively joyous as they do here.

12. ‘Ask Me Why’ | Please Please Me (UK), B-side of ‘Please Please Me’ (UK/US), Introducing the Beatles Version Two (US)

By now, the album is winding down to its conclusion. ‘Ask Me Why’ may not stand out as a highlight on Please Please Me, but it fits in perfectly here, sandwiched between the high-energy rock of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ and ‘It Won’t Be Long’. It also ends on something of a musical question mark, one that is left begging to be answered…

13. ‘It Won’t Be Long’ | With the Beatles (UK), Meet the Beatles! (US)

Perhaps some might find it jarring to hear With the Beatles‘ opener so late in the album, but in this context John’s raucous refrain provides a stabilising answer to the unfinished ending of ‘Ask Me Why’. The backing vocals make this track an absolute treat, from the “yeah, yeah”s in the chorus to the echo-like countermelody in the bridge, while the descending chords at the end provide a fitting sense of finality.

14. ‘Twist and Shout’ | Please Please Me (UK), Introducing… The Beatles (US)

And finally, we close things out in the same fashion as the original Please Please Me. Despite not being an original Lennon-McCartney composition, the Beatles version has undoubtedly become the most iconic recording of this song. ‘Twist and Shout’ acts as a final push to get the listener on their feet, as John almost rips his vocal chords to shreds to give the singing performance of his life.

Of course, this new track order won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as some popular tracks (‘Love Me Do’, ‘There’s a Place’, ‘Till There Was You’) get left on the cutting room floor. Still, hopefully this alternative tracklist at least gives fans a new – perhaps even better – way of appreciating the Beatles’ fascinating early music.



Jake Rowley

Jake Rowley

Jake is a third year music (MusB) undergraduate at the University of Manchester, with intentions of doing a masters in musicology next year. His music interests are varied, but he particularly loves alternative rock and Britpop, and is a big fan of Radiohead, The Cure, Sonic Youth and The Beatles.Jake is also a moderator on the lyrics website Genius under the alias ‘Irrelevant Cabbage’.

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