Nov 04


Popular22 comments • 2,885 views

#150, 13th April 1963

The first Merseybeat number one and what’s changed? Not much – “How Do You Do It?” is a brisk slip of a song that could have been a hit for any of the beat boom stars since 1960 or so. The only real novelty is Gerry Marsden’s scouse accent, especially on the middle eight (“like an arrow…”) – I love hearing strong British voices singing pop songs, and the 60s is obviously a heyday for them. There’s some strong piano work towards the end of the record, but otherwise there’s not much to “How Do You Do It?”. It’s a witty enough take on frustration with all the impact (and all the repeat value, alas) of a DIY advert.



  1. 1
    bramble on 7 Sep 2006 #

    Piece of trivia -the piano work was Les McGuire who later joined the Royal Navy and was last heard of in the Falklands war

  2. 2
    wichita lineman on 8 Jun 2008 #

    The Beatles were offered this first and forced to record it under duress. They deliberately fouled it up (which must have taken some guts in the august space of Abbey Road), so it got handed to grinnin’ Gerry.

  3. 3
    dch on 1 Oct 2009 #

    Can you please resolve the issue as to whether in fact it was ‘Please Please me’ which was the first Mersey no 1 and not Gerry.

    In Dusty Springfield’s late 80s hit ‘Nothing has been Proved’ from the film ‘Scandal’ one line reads ‘Please Please Me ‘s Number One.’ and I recall that the NME had it at No 1, though not Melody Maker.

    What’s the consensus?

  4. 4
    Erithian on 1 Oct 2009 #

    Unsurprisingly, this question has cropped up many a time in the history of Popular, so for you and any other Times-inspired newbies (a warm welcome, btw) here’s an explanation posted by Marcello Carlin in the “School’s Out” thread of all places:

    “Since Record Retailer was the principal industry magazine its Top 50 was, strictly speaking, the official industry chart but the chart was never widely circulated outside the industry and was not used for practical purposes in the media, or indeed most of the industry itself – George Martin and the Beatles, for instance, have always regarded “Please Please Me” as their legitimate first number one.”

    [So pop fans who were there at the time will remember it as a number one, but most sources you’ll find, from Guinness to the Official Charts Company, don’t have it down as such since they, and indeed Popular, use the Record Retailer list.]

    “In the sixties there were four main singles charts – the NME, Melody Maker, Record Retailer and the BBC. The BBC one tended to be a compilation or reckoning of the other three – based on points IIRC, so you might not want to trust them too much – but the NME one was generally regarded as the definitive list since it had the greatest number of chart return shops and a weekly Friday-Thursday compilation schedule which corresponded with record release dates of the time, since singles in those days were released on Fridays rather than Mondays. This for instance is why Beatles singles didn’t tend to enter at number one in the Record Retailer list since they based their chart on a Monday-to-Saturday schedule – i.e. only two days’ sales for new releases. Also, the NME chart allowed EPs, so several of their number ones (e.g. 1965’s Kinda Kinks, lead track “Well Respected Man” which reportedly outsold everything else that year bar “Tears”) do not register in Guinness at all.

    “Intriguingly, “Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane” did make number one in NME but everywhere else stayed second to Engelbert and thus that has passed into historical lore.

    “By 1968 there was pressure, largely from the BBC as well as certain quarters of the industry, for the chart to be standardised, and the contract was won by BMRB with effect from February 1969. Most of the 350 chart return shops in Britain registered with BMRB, with the consequence that, although NME and MM continued with their own charts, they suffered a steep decrease in sources and so became less authoritative.”

    Oh, and I refreshed the page while about to post this and saw the new design turn up like magic! Like it :)

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 1 Oct 2009 #

    Please Please Me – the album – was a number one in the ‘official’ chart for 30 weeks, which covers Dusty’s ass. Oddly, Frank Ifield’s Wayward Wind, which kept Please Please Me off the top, wasn’t a no.1 at all in the NME chart, even though it was 3 weeks at the top in Record Retailer.

    I’d be intrigued to know where Marcello got that stat about Well Respected Man.

  6. 6
    enitharmon on 1 Oct 2009 #

    #3 I wouldn’ have too starry-eyed a view of what Marcello says if I were you. I was there, before Marcello (or Tom or any of the others taking BRMB/Guinness as the last word on the subject) was born, and I definitely believe having been there trumps having heard it from some wannabe journalist who had to make do with hacking for the NME instead.

    The definitive chart in 1963 was that announced at Sunday teatime by Alan Freeman on the BBC Light Programme, and I can reassure you that Please Please Me was indeed the first Beatles number one.

    Marcello, of course, isn’t so rigorous about the BMRB chart as gospel when he’s obsessed with a perceived injustice done in 1976 to a well-known icon of the thick and untalented.

  7. 7
    Tom on 1 Oct 2009 #

    It’s just like old times!!

  8. 8
    enitharmon on 1 Oct 2009 #

    Are you trying to make a point, Tom?

    Oh yeah – Rosie’s too thick and uncool to have anything worthwhile to say.

  9. 9
    Tom on 1 Oct 2009 #

    This qn is in the FAQ btw: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular-faq/

    It was #1 but not on the official list, which we’re using, is the short answer. It would’ve got a 9, I think.

  10. 10
    Erithian on 1 Oct 2009 #

    Rosie, please don’t go picking a fight now!! As I see it Marcello is carefully explaining WHY the Record Retailer chart, although it’s commonly used now as the authoritative list for UK number ones, doesn’t tally with the experience of those who were there at the time. It’s the clearest explanation I’ve seen and helped me understand the subject when I first asked him 2½ years ago – and now that one of our new readers picked up from that Times article has asked much the same question, it’s worth repeating.

    In effect you’re vigorously agreeing with him – “Please Please Me” was number one in three out of the four charts in existence at the time, including the one you and millions of others saw as definitive, and it’s an accident of history that the odd chart out is the one whose archive subsequently became canonical.

    You and I have both had our differences with MC before, but it’s in the past and deserves to stay there – please don’t let’s get personal again!

  11. 11
    enitharmon on 1 Oct 2009 #

    And my explanation that the BBC chart WAS the definitive when I was there and Marcello is just a bloated-egoed nobody who wasn’t even born till a year after PPM hit the top? How clear do I have to be? Why does everybody hang onto every bloated word of the tiresome old egotist?

  12. 12
    Tom on 1 Oct 2009 #

    I don’t think everyone hangs on Marcello’s every word! Sometimes the conversation picks up on his posts, sometimes it flows around them – same as everyone else’s contributions. As Erithian says, his explanation was a clear one and quoting it saves everyone else the work.

    If not being there is a reason to ignore an opinion, would you prefer I delete every entry pre-March 1973? ;) Marcello is acting here as a historian – if he’s got a fact wrong, correct him, but I don’t think he has.

    PS – while I’m always happy for a good argument on here, personal flaming isn’t on, so no more of the “tiresome old egotist” – especially as yr whole beef is he’s not old ENOUGH!!

  13. 13
    Mark G on 7 Jul 2011 #


    Anyways, I have a Beatles BBC sessions bootleg where Gerry introduced “From me to you” with a hearty “hope this gives them their first number one like what I have got” type intro, obviously recorded during the five minutes Gerry was bigger than the Beatles…

  14. 14
    punctum on 26 Sep 2011 #

    It’s probably time to get this all sorted out. I’ve only just stumbled upon this article from the end of 2007 (shame on you DJP!) and it would indeed appear from the evidence presented that the Record Retailer list was the least important and least noticed of the various sixties singles charts. Balanced against this, however, is the inconvenient fact that no one set of charts could really be confirmed as “official”; the NME and MM lists (and the BBC compilation list) all had their faults but it would seem that these three were in the lead as far as both the public and the industry were concerned, with the NME chart being perhaps regarded as the most “important.”

    I do agree, however, that inconsistencies continued well into the BMRB’s contract; in particular, if you look at the NME and BMRB album charts over the seventies they seem compiled from two entirely different sets of shops; the soundalike/K-Tel/TV-advertised records register in the NME chart but do not necessarily top them (or even go anywhere near the top) whereas NME-only number one albums included many important records; for instance in 1973 if I had been following the NME list I would have written directly about Dark Side Of The Moon as well as both red and blue Beatles albums. The options for me here as a number one album blogger are clearly to go insane and try and cover everything or just take the easy (Guinness) way.

    Anyway, see what you think about the article:


  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 26 Sep 2011 #

    Good find, DJP. It confirms that Record Retailer really shouldn’t have been used by Guinness. Have Jo and Tim Rice or Paul Gambaccini ever explained what made them plump for RR over NME, or BBC?

    Couple of things… does anyone have BBC lists? They get referred to often enough that presumably someone somewhere has them on file.

    And what are Dave McAleer’s “unofficial” record charts from 1950 and ’51? A scoot around his site brings up lines like “Hottest new singles in the UK included ‘Mule Train’ by both Tennessee Ernie Ford and Vaughn Monroe (which topped the unofficial UK record chart)”. Anyone know? I’ve never come across anything other than sheet music charts.

  16. 16
    hardtogethits on 26 Sep 2011 #

    Yes great find DJP. Building on the questions, my comments in the 2nd para here are hazier and vague than I’d like. The “IIRC” preface applies to all of the 2nd para – but if I’ve made it all up, I’ve a more vivid imagination than ever I thought.

    IIRC, at some point in the last year or so, I was listening to Paul Gambaccini’s fantastic Saturday night show. Gambaccini had cause to honour the Beatles “1” album, I think in his feature on the Top 100 selling albums of all time in the US (according to RIAA). He seemed genuinely contrite that “Please Please Me” hadn’t been included on “1” on the basis of a decision that he and his colleagues had made 35(ish) years previously; I think what made it worse for him was that the decision had been made of earlier editorial necessity rather than any strongly-held belief. I thought he came as close as possible to saying “we probably wouldn’t have made the same decision again today” without actually saying it, and I think there was still a sense pervading of “we had to go with one chart, not all of them”. (I also think he said he or Tim Rice had apologised to George Martin. That might have been in my dream that followed listening to the show, though.)

    What puzzled me was how PPM would have fit on “1”. Isn’t it full-to-busting anyway?

    I’m going to see if I can find any explanation made by one of Gambaccini, Rice, Rice, Read (GRRR), I’m intrigued too.

    Funny, but FWIW I think if he and Read, Rice and Rice had been fairer back then, and referenced all the charts the book might have been a bit more niche, the book and the authors might have lost some of their authority and neither the authors nor the book would have gone on to be held in quite the high esteem that they were.

  17. 17
    AndyPandy on 26 Sep 2011 #

    I found that very interesting and enlightening – I’d of thought about as close to a definitive story as is possible.

    While I realise the relative unimportance of pop charts in the grand scheme of things it is also true that even today they still thought significant enough to feature occasionally in the news. Surely it would therefore be worthwhile for the music business (what’s left of it anyway!) to use common sense/statistical maths to once and for all come up with a truly canonical British chart history*. And once and for all getting rid of some of the farcical anomalies/rewritings of history that Gambaccini etc summoned into existence.

    *I’m sure as far as Number 1’s are concerned this is very dooable and as for records that didn’t make the top maybe include the highest position each record achieved regardless of what chart it made it in.

  18. 18
    Mark G on 27 Sep 2011 #

    It also means that Elvis is ahead of the Beatles with regard to Number One Hit records.

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 24 Jan 2015 #

    Wiki has an appropriate quote from Gerry Marsden:
    ‘The Beatles and ourselves (The Pacemakers) – we let go, when we get on-stage. I’m not being detrimental, but in the south, I think the groups have let themselves get a bit too formal. On Merseyside, it’s beat, beat, beat all the way. We go on and really have a ball.’
    It’s a pretty slight song but the band hammer away at it with energy and conviction that is missing from Toe Tapper. I can hear elements of skiffle in the music and Gerry Marsden sounds convincing in his mood of horny bewilderment

  20. 20
    RokinRobinOfLocksley on 5 Apr 2018 #

    There is quite a bit of mis-information here regarding Please Please Me and the Record Retailer chart. Marcello Carlin is mostly right in what he posted, but that is not the whole story. Record Retailer was not an industry chart when it started in 1960. Rather, it was a music paper/magazine of 30 independent record shops not tied to any record label, and that’s all it was. It never represented the full UK record industry, that is a falsehood put forward by the Official Charts Company decades after the fact to give weight to their erroneous decision in choosing Record Retailer to represent the 60s historical charts. Record Retailer was the least accurate chart of the 5 record charts of the 60s, it sampled the fewest number of record shops, disagreed with the other charts most often in terms of record peak position, was the most volatile in terms of record position movements, and basically no one followed it. Read this article by UK chart expert/historian/guru Alan Smith and find out the true story of 50s & 60s UK charts. Don’t believe the decades after the fact lie put out by the Official Charts Co. Their was no official chart before Feb 1969, and to choose the least accurate chart to represent the 60s is a travesty of historical justice.

    Alan Smith: https://www.ukmix.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=103263

  21. 21
    AMZ1981 on 7 Apr 2018 #

    Arriving rather late to this debate but I think the reason Guinness ran with the Record Retailer chart was that it was they were seeking to create a record of all chart singles (rather than just number one singles) and using the fullest chart available allowed them to capture more data. I’m not sure whether they were aware when they started that there was such a market for chart trivia and that their book would become the canon for the official list of chart toppers. They could have adjusted for better remembered chart toppers such as Please Please Me or stitched the tail of the Record Retailer chart on to the NME chart but that might possibly have been more dangerous.

    It’s worth remembering that the NME chart continued into this century and when I first got into the charts as an eleven year old I ended up listening to the commercial radio network chart (presented by Kid Jensen) by mistake. That chart was widespread enough to throw up some anomalies even then (the one I remember was Why Can’t I Wake Up With You by Take That giving them their first chart topper).

    Of course by the time we get to the late 1990s the charts change and we’ve already had to consider some makeweight one week wonders while ignoring some slow burning (in chart terms) classics. In any event as far as Popular is concerned the comments sections allows us to give notable non chart toppers their due.

  22. 22
    Gareth Parker on 8 Jun 2021 #

    Not a bad single from Gerry and the boys imo. 6/10.

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