Day 154: “Love Me Do”

When was it recorded?   Jun. 6 and Sept. 4 & 11, 1962

When was it first released, and on which album?   Oct. 5, 1962 as a single (and later on “Please Please Me”)

Who wrote it?   McCartney (with noteworthy contribution from Lennon)

Have I heard this song before?  Too many times to count

What my research dug up:

Here it is, the jumping-off point – The Beatles’ very first single.

Apparently it all began in 1958 when Paul was 16.

“’Love Me Do’ is Paul’s song. He wrote it when he was a teenager. Let me think. I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn’t swear to it. I do know he had the song around, in Hamburg, even, way, way before we were songwriters.” — John Lennon, 1980 (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)

Paul, of course, remembers things differently (hence my use of both my Paul-alone and Lennon-McCartney-collaboration tags above).

“‘Love Me Do’ was completely co-written. It might have been my original idea but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was. It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea. We loved doing it, it was a very interesting thing to try and learn to do, to become songwriters.” — Paul McCartney (Many Years From Now, Barry Miles)

Alan Pollack writes, “[I]t’s tempting at first blush to dismiss this one as too simple and even unappealing. After all, we have what must be very nearly the skimpiest Lennon/McCartney lyric ever, a gawky post-skiffle beat which threatens to break into a polka in a couple of places, and a vocal duet that would appear to be ripped off from the Everly Brothers. But just beneath the surface, you find not only that certain bristling intensity in their voices, but also a great deal of idiosyncratic originality in the compositional details. …The most intriguing aspect to this intuitive innovation of the early Beatles is the question of how much of it was motivated by intentional originality and how much a by-product of less-than-entirely-adept emulation of their derivative influences.”

For those who don’t know, The Everly Brothers were American musicians noted for their fusion of country-western and rock-and-roll styles. Active from 1957 to 2005, Phil and Don are also remembered for their close harmony singing (as Pollack noted). Odds are you know at least one of their (majorly influential) hits. Here they are performing in 1960 while on tour in the UK.

Quoth Wikipedia, “’Love Me Do’ was recorded by the Beatles on three different occasions with three different drummers at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road in London.” The first version was recorded during their Jun. 6, 1962 audition for EMI. Pete Best is on the drums; this version was long thought destroyed but eventually appeared on “Anthology 1.”

By Sept. 4, Ringo had replaced Pete. According to Wikipedia, the Beatles recorded 15 takes of “Love Me Do” at another EMI session along with five other songs, including “How Do You Do It?” I talked about this on Day 97, but George Martin wanted “How Do You Do It?” to be the Beatles’ first single. In his notes on “Love Me Do,” Pollack wrote, “Point-for-point, ‘How Do You Do It’ clearly wins out as a less risky, more ‘conservative’ choice in terms that may explain both the lackluster albeit well mannered performance given it by the Boys as well as their ultimate rejection of it by them.”

The Beatles returned for another recording session one week later. Since it had been decided “Love Me Do” would be released as a single, George Martin decided the drum part needed to be better. Scottish musician Andy White was brought in to drum for the recording. Ringo (in his second recording session with the Beatles ever) got to sit in the sound booth and play the tambourine. (According to the Beatles Bible, “The presence of the tambourine is the easiest way to distinguish the two recordings.”)

“I was devastated that George Martin had his doubts about me. I came down ready to roll and heard, ‘We’ve got a professional drummer.’ He has apologized several times since, has old George, but it was devastating – I hated the bugger for years; I still don’t let him off the hook!” — Ringo Starr (Anthology)

According to Wikipedia, 18 takes of the song were recorded with the final take used as the master (which has since been either lost or destroyed… oops).

“First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over. It was the best buzz of all time. We knew it was going to be on Radio Luxembourg at something like 7:30 on Thursday night. I was in my house in Speke and we all listened in.” — George Harrison (Anthology)

“Love Me Do” was first released as a single in the UK on Oct. 5, 1962. It peaked at #17. The single was released in the US two years later, where it hit #1 on the charts. A 1982 re-released bumped the single’s best UK chart position to #4.

Early pressings of the single (particularly a number of Canadian copies) accidentally used the Ringo version of “Love Me Do” instead of the Andy White version. The Ringo-backed “Love Me Do” finally appeared in wide release on “Past Masters Vol. 1.”

Quoth Pollack, “I’d venture to say that as a commercial recording, the Andy White version is the one performed with greater polish and confidence, and recorded with better presence and clarity. Yet, for a unique early snapshot of the Boys at work, the Ringo-drumming version… is definitely the one to be preferred because of power with which it speaks to both your ears and heart. With your ears, you can more easily hear the handclaps in the bridge of this version, though without the tambourine, the overall texture sounds a tad thin.”

The Beatles performed “Love Me Do” eight times of BBC Radio programs between Oct. 1962 and Oct. 1963. A version recorded Jul. 10, 1963 for “Pop Go the Beatles” (aired Jul. 23) appeared on the compilation “Live at the BBC.”

The Beatles also played around with the song during their ill fated 1969 Get Back sessions.

Funny how things can change in seven years.

Quoth Pollack, “[‘Love Me Do’] may not have been the best song they ever wrote, but it was the Prime Step for them; it was their first shot at immortality.” Paul certainly agreed.

“In Hamburg we clicked. At the Cavern we clicked. But if you want to know when we ‘knew’ we’d arrived, it was getting in the charts with ‘Love Me Do.’ That was the one. It gave us somewhere to go.” – Paul McCartney (Anthology)



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