Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Please Please Me

Richard Furnstein: "Please Please Me" is the superhero origins story. The lonely orphan teen who suffered a spider bite. The well meaning scientist who fell into a vat of nuclear goo. The Beatles were a methamphetamine enhanced bunch of bashers that were coming up small in the spotlight. Their first single offering--the ghastly "Love Me Do--traded in the leder-und-schwitzen antics of the Star Club for harmonica-drenched mid-tempo pap. In many ways, "Please Please Me" was clearly presented as the sequel to love me do: witness the return of Lennon's plaintive harmonica, the nursery rhyme teasing of Harrison's opening lead, and the pronoun driven lyrics. However, "Please Please Me" offers something more. Simply put, it's one for the crotches. John's is pleading for a bit of physical tit-for-tat in the lyrics while the pulsing "Come on/Come on/Come on" is the firestarter. Staid conservatory-trained producer George Martin proposed the hired song "How Do You Do?" as their second single, but dropped that hot bowl of garbage after John and Paul offered up the (at once) sexually frustrated and aggressive "Please Please Me."

Robert Bunter: You say that like sexual frustration and aggression are mutually exclusive. My friend, they are inextricably linked. That’s why I yelled at you that one time in high school! I think the reason this track works so nicely (you’re right, it’s the first piece of their recorded output that really strikes some sparks) is that it takes both of those intense emotions and amalgamates them into a pile of sweet harmonies and unorthodox-yet-undeniable chord changes. The singer is aggressive and sexually frustrated, but one gets the impression he won’t be for very long. “You don’t need me to show the way, love.” In other words, what do I have to do, paint a goddamn picture? But with a song this delightful, the object of his ardent entreaty is sure to capitulate. Interestingly, there is a bit of distance suggested – the opening line, “Last night I said these words to my girl” suggest a fourth-period locker-room bull session, maybe exaggerated for effect with the boys. It’s doubtful that the singer was actually yelling “Come on! Come on! Come on! Come on!” at the poor “bird” in the midst of their rendezvous.

Richard Furnstein: The "come on" build is clearly the key moment of this song. John (and his insistent buddies) are clearly trying to wear the poor girl down. They deliver their script with a mannish growl (I detect a Parisian odor to their pleas) and a hint of a smile. Then finally, the walls come down and the destination is in sight. The keening on "please pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease me, oh yeah!" tells you the rest of the story. Our heroes crave the ecstasy of release but it's never enough. They claim that they don't mean to complain about the situation during the bridge. There's always rain in his heart, the poor boy. How will he possibly heal his deep heart wounds? The answer is in the tides of pop music--you don't have to search long to find another chorus (release). The only thing missing here is the yelping passion of a rock and roll fade out, including some yelps and guttural noises from the young and doe-eyed Paul McCartney.

Robert Bunter: One of the key songwriting tricks in the Beatles’ grab bag (along with simple pronouns, harmonica solos and yelling “Yeah Yeah Yeah” or “OOOoooh!”) was the use of startling and innovative chord changes; this was a habit they never really lost, actually. “Please Please Me” was the debut appearance. The ascending chords after “Last night I said these words to my girl” were completely fresh and new; the only contemporary example I can think of that used that chord was the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up, Little Susie” in 1957. The “Come on” section uses some bold transitions, as well. But the capper is that magnificent five chord resolution that ends the single. It’s utterly invigorating, each step like a slap in the face. After I heard that, I knew that this band was going to change the world.

Simply put, it's one for the crotches.
Richard Furnstein: The early Beatles were experts at the dramatic resolution, completely avoiding the mindless fade-out that has long been a hallmark of popular music. Think about the emotional tidal wave that concludes "She Loves You." Even sub-baby food songs like "From Me To You" tended to wrap up things nicely. It's easy to connect this approach to their well-honed live act. I would argue that there is more to it. The resolution of their early hair-shaking mega hits always managed to ratchet up the excitement level in their already exploding pop songs. You replay songs like "She Loves You" and "Please Please Me" because these splendid magicians implore you to return again to the golden cave of self realization. John, Paul, George, and Ringo have the secret recipe for the foodstuff of life--come back any time to feast on their delights. Yeah? Yeah.

Robert Bunter: Yeah!

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