Hey, it’s the 54th anniversary of the day the Beatles’ first British album, Please Please Me, hit Number 1 on the charts in England! It stayed in that top slot for 30 weeks (the most ever by an act in the UK), and probably would have stayed there a lot longer if hadn’t been dethroned by (drum roll, please)… the group’s second album, With the Beatles, on December 7. Yes, Beatlemania was in full-swing in England long before their American debut LP, Meet the Beatles, was released in late January 1964, in advance of their historic first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

UK-born guitar phenom Laurence Juber was just ten when Please Please Me came out, but he recalls that he first took up guitar the week that the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was released (late November 1963), so his connection to the Fab Four goes back literally to the beginning of his career. By the mid-’70s Juber had become an in-demand session guitarist in London; indeed one of his first recordings was made for a project produced by Beatles producer George Martin. Then, in 1978, Juber stepped into the lead guitar slot in Paul McCartney’s band Wings, recording and performing with them through 1980 (the band broke up in 1981).

Evidently, his affection for the Beatles has not waned one iota: This past March Juber released his third CD of dazzling solo fingerstyle arrangements of Beatles songs, LJ Can’t Stop Playing the Beatles! All three are terrific and worth checking out. The first of those discs, LJ Plays the Beatles (2000), is the only one to include a song from Please Please Me, the rockin’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” written on acoustic guitar by McCartney (with some later minor lyric input from John Lennon). As on the Beatles’ album debut, that song kicks off Juber’s first Beatles CD. Here’s a version of Juber playing the song last year, on a podcast.  The volume is a littler low, so crank it up! —Blair Jackson

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