Please, Please, Please

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"Please, Please, Please"
PleasePleasePlease.jpg
Single by James Brown and the Famous Flames
from the album Please Please Please
B-side "Why Do You Do Me"
Released March 1956 (1956-03)
Format Seven-inch 45 rpm record
Recorded February 4, 1956
Studio King, Cincinnati, Ohio,
Genre Rhythm and blues
Length 2:43
Label Federal
Songwriter(s)
  • James Brown
  • Johnny Terry
Producer(s) Ralph Bass

"Please, Please, Please" is a rhythm and blues song performed by James Brown and the Famous Flames. Written by Brown and Johnny Terry and released as a single on Federal Records in 1956, it reached number six on the R&B charts. The group's debut recording and first chart hit, it has come to be recognized as their signature song.

Background[edit]

In 1952, James Brown was released from a youth detention center in Toccoa, Georgia after Bobby Byrd and his family sponsored him. Brown's warden agreed to the release on the condition that Brown not return to Augusta. After his release, Brown briefly pursued a career in sports before starting his musical career as a gospel vocalist with the group the Ever-Ready Gospel Singers. When a member of Bobby Byrd's vocal group, the Avons, died in 1954, Byrd asked Brown to join his group. A year later, after performing as the Five Royals, they became the Flames, playing all over Georgia and South Carolina.[1][2]

According to Etta James, Brown and his group came up with the idea for their first song, because Brown "used to carry around an old tattered napkin with him, because Little Richard had written the words, 'please, please, please' on it and James was determined to make a song out of it".[3]

Reception[edit]

"Please, Please, Please" was released on March 4, 1956. Though it sold slowly at first, the record reached the top ten of the R&B charts by late summer, eventually peaking at number six, selling between one and three million copies.[4][5]

In 2011, "Please, Please, Please" was ranked number 143 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[6]

Live performances[edit]

The initial performances of the song were subpar though the group itself was received well. It took a number of years until the Flames developed a routine for the performance. Starting in 1959, Brown would perform the song to the point of feigned exhaustion, when he would drop to his knees and collapse on the stage. Meanwhile, a fellow Flame (sometimes Bobby Byrd and at other times Bobby Bennett) would drop either a blanket or big towel around Brown's back and help him offstage. Before completely exiting, Brown would rip the towel off and return to his microphone, adding to the excitement of his audience.

Influenced by Little Richard and professional wrestler Gorgeous George, who both wore capes, Brown began wearing capes in his act.[7]

Personnel[edit]

with the Flames:

  • Bobby Byrd – background vocals
  • Johnny Terry – background vocals
  • Sylvester Keels – background vocals
  • Nash Knox – background vocals
  • Nafloyd Scott – guitar

plus:

  • Wilbert "Lee Diamond" Smith – tenor saxophone
  • Ray Felder – tenor saxophone
  • Lucas "Fats" Gonder – piano
  • Clarence Mack – bass
  • Edison Gore – drums[8]

Filmed performances[edit]

  • Brown and The Famous Flames performed Please, Please, Please as part of their set in The T.A.M.I. Show.
  • In the movie Blues Brothers 2000 Brown performs the song after the closing credits.
  • In Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights, an actor in the role of Brown performs the song in a theater along Baltimore's Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • a live version of the song appears in the film The Commitments
  • James Brown & The Famous Flames also sang and performed the overdubbed version of Please Please Please on a 1964 telecast of Dick Clark's Where The Action Is on ABC .[9]

Other versions and recordings[edit]

In 1964, during a contract dispute between Brown and King Records head Syd Nathan, the label reissued the original 1956 performance of "Please, Please, Please" with overdubbed crowd noise in an attempt to pass it off as a live recording. The reissue reached number 95 on the Billboard Hot 100.[10]

Brown also re-recorded the song several times later in his career. On his 1972 album Get on the Good Foot, he did an upbeat long version, which lasted over twelve minutes. 1974's Hell included a salsa version of the song that featured Brown speaking in Spanish. For Brown's 1976 album Hot, he recorded a more solemn, ballad rendition, which featured male background vocalists in the quiet storm style of Barry White's music.

"Please, Please, Please" has been covered by many performers, including Tina Turner, the Residents, and the Who on My Generation (1965).

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Famous Flames Biography". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  2. ^ "The Famous Flames". Cleveland.com. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  3. ^ Merlis, Bob; Seay, Davin; James, Etta (1997), p. foreword. Heart and Soul – A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930–1975.
  4. ^ White, Cliff (1991). Discography. In Star Time (p. 55) [CD liner notes]. London: Polydor Records.
  5. ^ Britannica Educational Publishing (2009-10-01). The 100 Most Influential Musicians of All Time, p. 251. The Rosen Publishing Group. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
  6. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  7. ^ White 2003, pp. 68–70.
  8. ^ Leeds, Alan, and Harry Weinger (1991). "Star Time: Song by Song". In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  9. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTnm9q8taGI
  10. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.


External links[edit]