"Please Please Me"
Memories of the early Beatles
2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Parlophone album, Please Please Me,
released on March 22, 1963, the first album by the then breakout band, The Beatles. What follows are a songwriter's memories when he first heard of The Beatles while stationed near Frankfurt, Germany and also his visit to Hamburg.
The music from the UK was exciting to listen to for someone like me who had been raised on American rock n' roll of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and others.
Of all the songs I wrote during the early 1960s, the one that pleases me the most is “The Soho Serenade.” I began the song in October of 1961 after hearing a Polydor 45 RPM record with two old standards: “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” on the A side and "The Saints (When The Saints Go Marching In)" on the B side. The songs were released on a Polydor record with a solo by Tony Sheridan,
From The Complete Beatles Chronicle
by Mark Lewisohn (1992/2004)
“My Bonnie” was a big hit in Frankfurt mainly because it was very good for the Twist dance then in vogue in Germany as well as in the States. But it was also a good solid up-tempo record. I was impressed by the backup group for “My Bonnie,” but didn't know their name at that time. The lead singer, Tony Sheridan, was very good and sounded very much like Elvis Presely or Jerry Lee Lewis, and his use of the "woo" shout on records like "When The Saints Go Marching In" (recorded in Hamburg in 1961) was a forerunner of the same shout used later by The Beatles in songs like "She Loves You."
Front entrance of The Star-Club in Hamburg
In August of 1962, I was on vacation on my way to Copenhagen and stopped off for a few days in Hamburg, Germany. One night with an Army buddy, we went to the Reeperbahn, the notorious district filled with strip clubs, prostitutes, drunks and rock n' roll venues. One of the best known was The Star -Club where the Beatles played in 1961 and 1962. As George Harrison said in a 1969 interview:
And probably, in my opinion anyway, we reached our stage peak in Hamburg. That was well before we were famous, and so the people who came to see us were drawn by our music, or whatever atmosphere we created...we got very tight as a band in Hamburg.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear them in Hamburg but did hear their name mentioned by a young German rock n' roll fan we talked to there. He said: "this group playing isn't as good as the Beatles." That was the first time I had heard their name, before they were famous.
Later on, in late 1962 and early 1963, I heard the first two Beatles hit records, "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me." These songs were played a lot over speakers at a favorite club I went to in Frankfurt. It was fascinating to hear their unusual vocal harmonies and the prominent use of the harmonica. As quoted in Chris Ingham's informative The Rough Guide To The Beatles (3rd edition), their brilliant record producer, George Martin, said this about "Love Me Do," recorded in September of 1962:
It was John's harmonica that gave it its appeal.
The same was true for for "Please Please Me" which I especially liked with the harmonica intro and those pleading lyrics of "come on, come on, come on, come on " followed by the suggestive line: "Please please me oh yeah like I please you." I thought this was more sophisticated songwriting than most rock n' roll groups were singing at that time.
I had listened to a lot of pop singers from the UK on Radio Luxembourg including Adam Faith and Cliff Richard. I even purchased the Epic LP album which had four songs by Cliff Richard and The Shadows from the film, SUMMER HOLIDAY (1963), which I saw at the local cinema on Rhein Main Air Base. I also heard one of the UK groups at The Rocket Club. They were called Sonny Stewart and The Dominos and they were a great sounding group.
First Pop Song
Because of my interest in the UK pop music scene, I decided to try writing a song and that's how my first complete song, “The Soho Serenade,” was written. The song had been directly inspired by the early "My Bonnie" record and also an English girl I was dating then by the name of Sadie. I dedicated the song to her. She was thrilled to receive this song and said she would try to find a singing group to perform my song when she returned to England. She never found that group. At least she never mentioned it in her many letters she wrote me after returning to England. I wonder whatever happened to Sadie. Maybe she got married and had a bunch of kids and forgot all about my song I had given her. In any case, as far as I know “The Soho Serenade” was never sung in London, the section of the city I wrote about.
When I returned to the U.S. after being discharged from the Army in 1963 I told my friends about the Beatles. All they could say was -- "never heard of them. Who are they?" I told them to just wait until the Beatles get some attention here in the U.S.
Then came their American live television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. I was there, not in the theater, but watching with millionsof others on TV as The Beatles captured the hearts of young and old.
At that time I was performing in a local variety show for handicapped people. One of the numbers we did was a tribute to the Beatles. I acted as Paul McCartney and sang "Till There Was You" to a tape of that song. I even used my own reel-to-reel tape recorder. Another song we sang was "She Loves You" and that always had the audience with big smiles on their faces since many of them were in wheelchairs and couldn't move their arms or legs.
It was also this year that the first movie with The Beatles was released, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. The song score was adapted and arranged by George Martin and nominated for an Academy Award.
That same year I prepared a lead sheet of "The Soho Serenade" and it was copyrighted in Washington, DC.
But it would take another year before I could get a demo record of that song, beautifully sung by Ethel Regan with a nice small combo accompanying her. After trying to get a recording company to release it, I just stopped trying to get it released commercially.
Now 50 years later, "The Soho Serenade," I decided it was time to release it the first time.
So, I'm finally sharing my song written thanks to the early Beatles back in the early 1960s and sing with them...
"Please, Please me, oh yeah, like I please you."
--Excerpted from songwriter Roger Lee Hall's memoir,
"Free As The Breeze" - A Songwriter's Songs and Sorrows
"The Soho Serenade" is available at this link:
Read more at
Story of a 1960s song
Hear the early 1960s recordings on these CDs...
The Beatles featuring Tony Sheridan
In The Beginning
Also this interesting DVD -
The Beatles with Tony Sheridan -
The Beginnings in Hamburg
Other multimedia CDs
by the same author...
Songs, Poems and Stories by Roger Hall
"Following the Stars"
Music & Memories of Hopalong Cassidy
"Shake, Rattle and Roll"
Electric Elvis and Bill Randle