Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Beatles Love Me Do

"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, 1982

The Beatles' debut single, 'Love Me Do' was released in the UK on October 5, 1962. The song was an early Lennon-McCartney composition, principally written by Paul McCartney in 1958–59 while playing truant from school.

"Paul wrote the main structure of this when he was 16, or even earlier. I think I had something to do with the middle."
-- John Lennon, 1972

" '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

" '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."
-- Paul McCartney, 1998

'Love Me Do' was recorded by The Beatles on eight different occasions with three different drummers:

  • The Beatles first recorded it on June 6, 1962 with Pete Best on drums, as part of their audition at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road, London.
  • By September 4, 1962, Best had been replaced with Ringo Starr (producer George Martin did not approve of Best's drumming), and on that day The Beatles with Starr recorded a version again at EMI Studios.
  • One week later, on September 11, 1962, The Beatles returned to the same studio and they made a recording with session drummer Andy White on drums while Starr played tambourine. As the tambourine was not included on the September 4th recording, this is the easiest way to distinguish between the Starr and White recordings.

"For me that was more important than anything else. That first piece of plastic. You can't believe how great that was. It was so wonderful. We were on a record!"
-- Ringo Starr, 1976

It is White's version which appears on the Please Please Me album, though Ringo's drumming can be heard on Past Masters. The recording featuring Pete Best appeared on Anthology 1 in 1995.

"George [Martin] got his way and Ringo didn't drum on the first single. He only played tambourine.

I don't think Ringo ever got over that. He had to go back up to Liverpool and everyone asked, 'How did it go in the Smoke?' We'd say, 'B-side's good,' but Ringo couldn't admit to liking the a-side, not being on it."
-- Paul McCartney, 1995

The relegation of Ringo wasn't the only change made by George Martin to the song. It was on the September 4, 1962 session that, according to McCartney, Martin suggested using a harmonica. Lennon had learned to play a chromatic harmonica that his Uncle George had given to him as a child. Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones asked Lennon in April of 1963 if Lennon was using a blues harp on 'Love Me Do', and Lennon replied: "A harmonica...y'know, with a button!" and told Jones he used a chromatic.

"George Martin said, 'Can anyone play harmonica? It would be rather nice. Couldn't think of some sort of bluesy thing, could you, John?' John played a chromatic harmonica, not a Sonny Boy Williamson blues harmonica, more Max Geldray from the Goon Show...

The lyrics crossed over the harmonica solo so I suddenly got thrown the big open line, 'Love me do', where everything stopped. Until that session John had always done it; I didn't even know how to sing it. I'd never done it before. George Martin just said, 'You take that line, John take the harmonica, you cross over, we'll do it live'...

I can still hear the nervousness in my voice! We were downstairs in number two studio and I remember looking up to the big window afterwards and George Martin was saying, 'Jolly good.'"
-- Paul McCartney, 1998

The single reached number 17 in the UK charts, with sales mainly concentrated in and around Liverpool. There were persistent rumors that Brian Epstein had bulk-bought around 10,000 copies to increase its chart ranking, but these remain unproven.

"The best thing was it came into the charts in two days and everybody thought it was a fiddle, because our manager's stores sent in these returns and everybody down south thought, 'Ah-ha, he's buying them himself or he's just fiddling the charts.' But he wasn't."
-- John Lennon, 1963

"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 a Thursday night. I was in my house in Speke and we all listened in. That was great, but after having got to 17, I don't recall what happened to it. It probably went away and died, but what it meant was that the next time we went to EMI, they were more friendly: 'Oh, hello lads. Come in.'"
-- George Harrison, 1995

Pictures are from many sources.
Words are from :

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Beatles in Hamburg

The Beatles might have hailed from Liverpool, but the band that changed the world got its big break in Hamburg.
Star Club

Stuart Sutcliffe

When John Lennon was once asked what it was like growing up in Liverpool, he quipped: 'I didn´t grow up in Liverpool. I grew up in Hamburg.'

That´s because though The Beatles formed in Liverpool, they learned their licks in the backstreet clubs of the gritty northern German port city.

John Lennon

Pete Best the drummer

This August marks the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four´s debut 48-night stint at Indra, a strip club on Große Freiheit, a notorious side street that runs off the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's infamous red-light boulevard.

Five decades after The Beatles's German sojourn, you can still recreate your own magical mystery tour around the iconic hotspots of the Hanseatic city where the world´s greatest pop group came of age.

Stuart Sutcliffe

When the Beatles rolled into the shabby dockland neighbourhood of St Pauli in a small van early in the morning of August 17, 1960, Hamburg´s post-war resurgence was just beginning.

That same night, the then Fab Five of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, a raggle-taggle gang of leather-jacketed, pompadoured Scousers played their first gig at the Indra, a self-styled `music and vaudeville´ club. This tiny venue, at Große Freiheit 64, is still going strong today.

Fuelled by a heady mix of youthful enthusiasm, raw talent and Preludin pills, the nascent Beatles hurtled through an eclectic assortment of rock, pop, and R & B covers at high volume and breakneck speed. The boys bunked in a windowless cell behind the screen of a local cinema, the now defunct Bambi Kino, at nearby Paul-Roosen Strasse 33.

After two months of incessant gigging at the Indra, five hours a night for 30 marks each, owner Bruno Koschmider promoted The Beatles to his flagship club, the Kaiserkeller, a short stroll down Große Freiheit towards the neon lights of the Reeperbahn.

The band shared the bill with rival Liverpool group, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, whose drummer happened to be Ringo Starr. Today the Kaiserkeller is an alternative rock club housed within the Große Freiheit 36 music venue. Across the street is Gretel und Alfons (#29), a cosy old-school bar where The Beatles found regular sanctuary from the myriad sex shops and strip clubs, and where McCartney ran up a huge bar tab only to return in 1989 to pay it off, with interest.

A broken bottle´s throw away is the site of the Star Club (Große Freiheit 39), where The Beatles shared the bill with fellow Liverpudlians Gerry & the Pacemakers and big-name US acts like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. It went up in smoke in 1983 and only a gravestone-shaped plaque remains etched with the names of other Star Club legends such as Gene Vincent and Jimi Hendrix.

Prior to their stint at the famous Star Club the fledgling Beatles had graduated, in the words of McCartney to ´the big club where we aspired to go,´ The Top Ten, situated in a basement in the heart of the Reeperbahn (#136). Formerly the Hippodrome, a subterranean circus, today a disco, it was here the band really found their feet with an echo-laden, reverb-friendly sound system, perfect for The Beatles´ raucous performances, and slightly less dingy sleeping arrangements, in an attic above the club itself.

Upon leaving their former lodgings at the Bambi Kino, McCartney and drummer Pete Best played a prank on owner Koschmider. They hung a lit condom outside their room, were duly accused of arson, arrested and banged up overnight at the Davidwache police station at Spielbudenplatz 31. Deportation swiftly followed. The 17-year-old George Harrison had already been sent packing back to Liverpool for being underage.

CCTV cameras sit aloft the modern extension of Davidwache Polizei today, trained on Herberstraße, the infamously seedy, block-long bordello. Its imposing walled entrance bar views of the brothels, declaring them off limits to men under 18 and to women of all ages. This didn´t stop a 19-year-old John Lennon and his 17-year-old partner in crime Gerry Marsden, of Gerry & the Pacemakers, paying the brothel a visit, before legging it at the sight of prostitute who, according to Marsden, ´looked like a bus with a bra on.´

Paul and George

George Harrison

Round the corner is Paul Hundertmark´s Western Store where the Beatles assembled their trademark Hamburg look: cowboy boots, drainpipe jeans and Gene Vincent-style leather jackets. You can still go and get yourself kitted out in Beatles clobber at Paul´s store at Hundertmark 9. Then head for Wohlwillstrasse 22 and re-create the publicity shot taken by local snapper Jürgen Vollmer, who became a fast friend of the band, in 1960. John Lennon posed in the doorway of Jäger-Passage 1 as three blurry figures walked past him in the foreground. Those figures are McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe. The photograph was unearthed years later and became the iconic front cover of Lennon´s 1975 Rock `n´ Roll album.

Stuart Stutcliffe

The Beatles spent most of their early years performing in clubs along the Reeperbahn and Große Freiheit streets in Hamburg's infamous red-light district. During that period they also played at clubs in their native Liverpool. Alan Williams, a Liverpool club owner, had arranged the Hamburg gig for his fellow Liverpudlians.

In August 1960, too short on money to afford the train, the Beatles hitched a ride in a van with Williams. (At that time Stuart Sutcliffe was the fifth member of the band, but he had dropped out by the summer of 1961.)

The first Beatles appearances in Germany began at the Indra Club (Große Freiheit 64). By the time most of the Beatles had been deported back to England in November 1960, they had also worked their way up to the tonier Kaiserkeller (Große Freiheit 38) and the Top Ten Club

(Reeperbahn 136).

George Harrison was kicked out of Germany because he was underage (17) and in violation of German child protection laws. Paul McCartney and Pete Best were deported after being charged with arson. All of the Beatles' problems arose out of a contract dispute with the rather unsavory German club operator Bruno Koschmider.

After Lennon and Sutcliffe also returned to England in late 1960, the Beatles beg

an making many appearances in England, most notably at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where they had some 300 performances. But soon they would return to Germany.

“I grew up in Hamburg, not Liverpool.” - John Lennon