I’ve been so caught up in the Beatles lately that a friend or two has called me out on not listening to anything else. That’s not entirely true; though there was a week when I listened to literally nothing but, I’ve also been hard at work critiquing CDs for the magazine I work at.
But I have been listening to the Beatles so much that analysis of songs worms its way into my daily conversations. Today I told a coworker that I’m working on my bachelor’s in Beatles. For the longest time I thought I was just catching up with the rest of the world. Then last night I watched Across the Universe and was (appropriately!) delighted by details like the Cavern’s appearance in an early Liverpool scene. That’s when it clicked. Virtually everyone likes the Beatles. But everyone is not going to recognize that arch over the stage.
And so tonight, when I want to ramble on about how great “Please Please Me” is, I’m turning to the Internet at large instead of emailing the same four people or calling my dad with my enthusiastic blather. I keep thinking that I’m the last person to jump on the Beatles bandwagon, but the truth is that there will always be someone new. Nearly 50 years after their first album, the music still grabs hold of un- or under-exposed listeners.
I bought Please Please Me (1963) and Let It Be (1970) two or three weeks ago, bringing my studio album collection near completion. (I’m still without With the Beatles. My birthday is July 5.) Throughout my career as a Beatles fan (a ridiculous statement, I know, since it’s been less than two years since I bought my first album), I’ve always preferred later Beatles. The deeper they got into their careers (and everything that went with that), the more engaging their music became. I’ve listened to Please Please Me seven times through, as compared to Let It Be nine times. It’s not a huge discrepancy, but it’s to be expected.
But I’ve listened to the single “Please Please Me” probably four times today alone. I tend to be pretty naïve when songs are about … sensitive subjects. I was out of college when my (younger!) sister explained a line in “Baby Got Back,” a song I’d heard more times than I cared to over the course of eight years.
That’s not the case here. I know exactly what John is saying. And that’s OK. The lyrics aren’t the point either, not for me, not on this song.
I tend to think of the Beatles’ early work as more innocent, with songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” jumping out. But this track destroys those, even though “She Loves You” will always hold a special place in my heart. “Please Please Me” feels so much more authentic to me, more gritty and true, and more so as I continue to read about the band. And I am obsessed with the guitar on this song. Absolutely obsessed.
If only I’d been alive in the 60s. If this song is still affecting people nearly 50 years after it was written, I can only imagine what I would have been like witnessing the band in action. I would have been the screaming, bawling girl on the front row.
Instead, I’m her circa 2009, sitting in front of a computer and daydreaming about a time before I was born.