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

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