“P.S. I Love You” was only the second original song (after “Love Me Do”) that The Beatles recorded with Parlophone. It’s definitely not among my top 100 Beatles songs but it is interesting to listen to it thinking of all of the great songs to come (ie: are there any hints in this song of the great tunes they would write later on?)
I think one of the main hints can be heard in their willingness to play in different styles. Consider how much different this song sounds than “Love Me Do.” This one has a sort of “cha-cha” beat and overall sounds much more like a “pop standard” of the time compared to “Love Me Do” which was more of a new sound.
Another hint can be heard in the broad range of McCartney’s melody. It’s the first sign of the great melodic songs he would write later. It’s definitely no “Yesterday,” but perhaps there’s a small kernal of that here. Admittedly, that’s a bit of a stretch.
The song also includes some somewhat unusual chords (unlike “Love Me Do” which only included the most basic I, IV, V chords) which could be seen as an early indication of the musical adventures The Beatles would take their listeners on in the coming years.
Basically I don’t think of this song as much on it’s own. It’s just something to listen to for those of us interested in understanding the context of The Beatles later (much better) music.
It’s in the key of D. It starts out on a G chord (the IV chord) and goes down to a D (the I chord) through a somewhat unusual (for pop music) C#dim (this is the VII chord in the key of D.) This helps to give the intro a slightly “jazzy” feel.
During the verse, the Bb chord on the “You” in the “P.S. I Love YOU” refrain helps to give it a lot of it’s flavor. Bb is a flat VI chord in the key of D. These (the C#dim and the Bb) are the somewhat unusual chords I was referring to above. The verse chord progression is D, Em, D, A, Bm, A, Bb, C, & D. The C is a flat VII in the key of D. Listen closely for this Bb to C to D progression at the end of each verse (on the the “you, you, you” each word is accompanied with a chord change.) It’s a pretty cool way to get back to the I chord.
This Bb, C, D progression is emphasized particularly at the end of the song where it’s repeated on “you, you, you” twice and then finally on “I love you.”
Something that gives the song much of it’s character is the way the harmony vocals come in during the first three verses (for example on “Treasure” & “Words” on the first verse.) They come in on the first beat of each measure. But when the verse comes through the 4th (and final) time, the harmony vocals are sang throughout.
Another interesting element of this song is that the verses are 10 measures long. In contrast the bridge (“As I write this letter, Send my love to you…”) is much more “regular” with 8 measures and only I, IV, V chords. The bridge is a variation on the intro (it takes out the C#dim transition chord and adds vocal harmonies and then a response vocal on the second bridge “You know I want you to…”) This helps to add variety to the song, so the same basic musical material is used three times with a different variation each time.
The bass guitar also stands out in this song. I think this is because there’s nothing that could be called a “lead guitar” part to take focus off of it and there’s also no heavy drums to drown it out. This allows the bass guitar to really come through the mix quite clearly. The bass guitar part we hear is very simple, but I think it’s effective.
What The Beatles Said About It
McCartney: “a theme song based on a letter… It was pretty much mine. I don’t think John had much of a hand in it. There are certain themes that are easier than others to hang a song on, and a letter is one of them… It’s not based in reality, nor did I write it to my girlfriend from Hamburg, which some people think.”
Lennon: “That’s Paul’s song. He was trying to write a ‘Soldier Boy’ like the Shirelles. He wrote that in Germany, or when we were going to and from Hamburg. I might have contributed something. I can’t remember anything in particular. It was mainly his song.”
As the quotes above indicate, Paul McCartney wrote it.
Who Played What?
McCartney: lead vocal, bass guitar.
Lennon: acoustic rhythm guitar, harmony vocal.
Harrison: harmony vocal, guitar? (I hear only one guitar?)
This was the second, and final, song where session drummer Andy White sat in for Ringo on the drum set. Ringo did play maracas.
It was recorded after “Love Me Do” on September 11 (this explains Andy White on the drums.) George Martin was actually not at the recording for this song (or the September 11th recording of “Love Me Do,” it was supervised instead by Ron Richards (who is best known for discovering The Hollies.)
In the US different chart rankings were given for each side of a single based on radio airplay. While the A-Side “Love Me Do” went to #1 in 1964, this song (which was the B-Side) went to #10. In the UK, only the single as a whole gets ranking so the A-Side gets the credit (it went to #17 as The Beatles first UK single.)
#168 most listened to Beatles song (over the last 6 months.) As it’s not included on any CD compilations (unlike “Love Me Do” which is included on many different CDs) it only gets it’s plays from it’s inclusion Please Please Me. This ranking makes it one of the least listened to Beatles songs.
Buy The Remastered Please Please Me CD Online
Previous Song In This Series: “Love Me Do”