The Beatles – 50 years ago today ‘Love Me Do’ released.

50 years ago today The Beatle’s first record Love Me Do was released.

Click below to hear about The Beatles discussed on Exchange parts 1 and 2 [the morning after the assassination of John Lennon]. Next Friday another excerpt will be posted.

part 2

Love Me Do” is The Beatles’ first single, backed by “P.S. I Love You” and released on 5 October 1962. When the single was originally released in the United Kingdom, it peaked at number seventeen; in 1982 it was re-issued and reached number four. In the United States the single was a number one hit in 1964.

Contents

Composition and recordings

The song is an early Lennon–McCartney composition, principally written by Paul McCartney in 1958–1959 while playing truant from school at age 16.[1] John Lennon wrote the middle eight.[1][2][3] Their practice at the time was to scribble songs in a school notebook, dreaming of stardom, always writing “Another Lennon-McCartney Original” at the top of the page.[4] “Love Me Do” is intrinsically a song based around two simple chords: G7 and C, before moving to D for its middle eight. It first profiles Lennon playing a bluesy dry “dockside harmonica” riff [5], then features Lennon and McCartney on joint lead vocals, including Everly Brothers style harmonising during the beseeching “please” before McCartney sings the unaccompanied vocal line on the song’s title phrase. Lennon had previously sung the title sections, but this change in arrangement was made in the studio under the direction of producer George Martin when he realised that the harmonica part encroached on the vocal (Lennon needed to begin playing the harmonica again on the same beat as the “do” of “love me do”[6] although, according to Ian MacDonald, for the earlier 6 June audition the harmonica was overdubbed, allowing Lennon to sing the title phrase unhindered).[7] This is illustrative of the time constraints on this particular session – their first recording session proper; as for instance, when a similar situation later occurred on the “Please Please Me” single session, the harmonica was superimposed afterwards using tape-to-tape overdubbing.[8] Described by MacDonald as “standing out like a bare brick wall in a suburban sitting-room”, “Love Me Do” with its stark “blunt working class northerness” rang “the first faint chime of a revolutionary bell” compared to the standard tin pan alley productions occupying the charts at the time.[9]

“Love Me Do” was recorded by the Beatles on three different occasions with three different drummers:

  • The Beatles first recorded it on 6 June 1962 with Pete Best on drums, as part of their audition at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road in London. This version (previously thought to be lost) is available on Anthology 1.
  • By 4 September, Best had been replaced with Ringo Starr (producer George Martin did not approve of Best’s drumming; the decision to fire Best was not his, however), and on that day the Beatles with Starr recorded a version again at EMI Studios.
  • One week later, on 11 September, the Beatles returned to the same studio and they made a recording of “Love Me Do” with session drummer Andy White on drums, as Martin was unhappy with Starr’s performance on 4 September and he was relegated to playing tambourine. As the tambourine was not included on the 4 September recording, this is the easiest way to distinguish between the Starr and White recordings.

First issues of the single, however, did feature the Ringo Starr version, prompting Mark Lewisohn to later write: “Clearly, the 11 September version was not regarded as having been a significant improvement after all”.[10] It was also later included on the compilation albums Rarities (American version) and Past Masters, Volume One. The Andy White version of the track was included on the Beatles’ debut UK album, Please Please Me, The Beatles’ Hits EP, and all subsequent album releases on which “Love Me Do” was included. For the 1976 single re-issue and the 1982 “20th Anniversary” re-issue, the Andy White version was used. The CD single issued on 2 October 1992 contains both versions.[11] The Pete Best version remained unreleased until 1995, when it was included on the Anthology 1 album.

“Love Me Do”, featuring Starr drumming, was also recorded eight times at the BBC and played on the BBC radio programmes Here We Go, Talent Spot, Saturday Club, Side By Side, Pop Go The Beatles and Easy Beat between October 1962 and October 1963. The version of “Love Me Do” recorded on 10 July 1963 at the BBC and broadcast on the 23 July 1963 Pop Go the Beatles programme can be heard on the Beatles album Live at the BBC. The Beatles also performed the song live on the 20 February 1963 Parade of the Pops BBC radio broadcast.

In 1969, during the Get Back sessions, the Beatles played the song in a slower, more bluesy form than they had in earlier recordings. This version of “Love Me Do” is one of many recordings made during these sessions and subsequently appeared on some bootlegs. The song featured no harmonica by Lennon, and McCartney sang the majority of the song in the same vocal style he used for “Lady Madonna”.

Background

First recording session and use of harmonica

On 4 September 1962, Brian Epstein paid for the Beatles, along with their new drummer, Ringo Starr, to fly down from Liverpool to London.[12] After first checking into their Chelsea hotel, they arrived at EMI Studios early in the afternoon where they set up their equipment in Studio 3 and began rehearsing six songs including: “Please Please Me”, “Love Me Do” and a song originally composed for Adam Faith by Mitch Murray called “How Do You Do It?” which George Martin “was insisting, in the apparent absence of any stronger original material, would be the group’s first single”.[13][14] Lennon and McCartney had yet to impress Martin with their songwriting ability, and The Beatles had been signed as recording artists on the basis of their charismatic appeal: “It wasn’t a question of what they could do [as] they hadn’t written anything great at that time.”[15] “But what impressed me most was their personalities. Sparks flew off them when you talked to them”[16] During the course of an evening session that then followed (7:00 pm to 10:00 pm in Studio 2) they recorded “How Do You Do It” and “Love Me Do”. An attempt at “Please Please Me” was made, but at this stage it was quite different to its eventual treatment and it was dropped by Martin. This was a disappointment for the group as they had hoped it would be the B-side to “Love Me Do”.[17]

The Beatles were keen to record their own material, something which was almost unheard of at that time, and it is generally accepted that it is to George Martin’s credit that they were allowed to float their own ideas in the first instance. But Martin insisted that unless they could write something as commercial as “How Do You Do It?” then the Tin Pan Alley practice of having the group record songs by professional songwriters (which was standard procedure then, and is still common today) would be followed.[13] MacDonald points out, however: “It’s almost certainly true that there was no other producer on either side of the Atlantic then capable of handling the Beatles without damaging them – let alone of cultivating and catering to them with the gracious, open-minded adeptness for which George Martin is universally respected in the British pop industry.” Martin rejects however the view that he was the “genius” behind the group: “I was purely an interpreter. The genius was theirs: no doubt about that.”[18]

It was on the 4 September session that, according to McCartney, Martin suggested using a harmonica.[2] However, Lennon’s harmonica part was present on the Anthology 1 version of the song recorded during the 6 June audition with Pete Best on drums.[19] Also, Martin’s own recollection of this is different, saying: “I picked up on ‘Love Me Do’ because of the harmonica sound”, adding: “I loved wailing harmonica — it reminded me of the records I used to issue of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. I felt it had a definite appeal.”[20] Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee would be an influence on Bob Dylan, who, in turn, would later influence the Beatles.[21]

Lennon had learned to play a chromatic harmonica that his Uncle George (late husband of his Aunt Mimi) had given to him as a child. But the instrument being used at this time was one stolen by Lennon from a music shop in Arnhem, the Netherlands, in 1960, as the Beatles first journeyed to Hamburg by road.[22][20][23] Lennon would have had this with him at the EMI audition on 6 June as Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby”, with its harmonica intro, and a hit in the UK in March 1962, was one of the thirty three songs the Beatles had prepared (although only four were recorded: “Bésame Mucho”; “Love Me Do”; “P.S. I Love You” and “Ask Me Why”, of which only “Bésame Mucho” and “Love Me Do” survive and appear on Anthology 1). Brian Epstein had also booked American Bruce Channel to top a NEMS Enterprises promotion at New Brighton’s Tower Ballroom, in Wallasey on 21 June 1962, just a few weeks after “Hey Baby” had charted, and placed the Beatles a prestigious second on the bill. Lennon was so impressed that night with Channel’s harmonica player, Delbert McClinton[24], that he later approached him for advice on how to play the instrument.[25] Lennon makes reference also to Frank Ifield’s “I Remember You” and its harmonica intro, a huge number one hit in the U.K July 1962, saying: “The gimmick was the harmonica. There was a terrible thing called “I Remember You”, and we did those numbers; and we started using it on “Love Me Do” just for arrangements”.[26] The harmonica was to become a feature of the Beatles’ early hits such as “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” and “From Me to You” as well as various album tracks. Paul Mc­Cartney recalled, “John expected to be in jail one day and he’d be the guy who played the harmonica.” [4]

Martin came very close to issuing “How Do You Do It?” as the Beatles’ first single (it would also re-appear as a contender for their second single)[27] before settling instead on “Love Me Do”, as a mastered version of it was made ready for release and which still exists in EMI’s archives.[13] Martin commented later: “I looked very hard at ‘How Do You Do It?’, but in the end I went with ‘Love Me Do’, it was quite a good record.”[13] McCartney would remark: “We knew that the peer pressure back in Liverpool would not allow us to do ‘How Do You Do It’.”[28]

Remake and Andy White

Martin then decided that as “Love Me Do” was going to be the group’s debut release it needed to be re-recorded with a different drummer as he was unhappy with the 4 September drum sound[29] (Abbey Road’s Ken Townsend also recalls McCartney being dissatisfied with Starr’s timing – due probably to him being under-rehearsed).[30] Record producers at that time were used to hearing the bass drum “lock in” with the bass guitar as opposed to the much looser R&B feel that was just beginning to emerge, and so professional show band drummers were often used for recordings. Ron Richards, placed in charge of the 11 September re-recording session in George Martin’s absence, booked Andy White whom he had used in the past. Starr was expecting to play, and would have been very disappointed to be dropped for only his second Beatles recording session: Richards remembers “He just sat there quietly in the control box next to me. Then I asked him to play maracas on ‘P.S. I Love You’. Ringo is lovely – always easy going”.[29]Starr recalled: “He has apologised 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!”[31] “Love Me Do” was recorded with White playing drums and Starr on tambourine, but whether using a session drummer solved the problem is unclear, as session engineer Norman Smith was to comment: “It was a real headache trying to get a [good] drum sound, and when you listen to the record now you can hardly hear the drums at all.”[32] Ringo Starr’s version was mixed “bottom-light” to hide Starr’s bass drum.[33]

Early pressings of the single are the 4 September version—minus tambourine—with Starr playing drums. But later pressings of the single, and the version used for the Please Please Me album, are the 11 September re-record with Andy White on drums and Starr on tambourine. This difference has become fundamental in telling the two recordings of “Love Me Do” apart. Regarding the editing sessions that then followed all these various takes, Ron Richards remembers the whole thing being a bit fraught, saying: “Quite honestly, by the time it came out I was pretty sick of it. I didn’t think it would do anything.”[34]

Ron Richards

There are major discrepancies regarding the White session, and who produced it. In his book Summer of Love, Martin concedes that his version of events differs from some accounts, saying: “On the 6 June Beatles’ session (audition) I decided that Pete Best had to go [and said to Epstein] I don’t care what you do with Pete Best; but he’s not playing on any more recording sessions: I’m getting a session drummer in.”[35] When Starr turned up with the group for their first proper recording session on 4 September, Martin says that he was totally unaware that the Beatles had fired Best; and, not knowing “how good bad or indifferent” Starr was, was not prepared to “waste precious studio time finding out.”[35] Martin, therefore, appears to have this as the Andy White session in which Martin was present, and not 11 September. This definitely contradicts Mark Lewisohn’s account, as in his book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, he has Starr on drums on 4 September[13] and White for the 11 September re-make.[29] Lewisohn also says that Richards was in charge on 11 September, which means, if accurate, that Richards was sole producer of the White version of “Love Me Do”. Martin says, “My diary shows that I did not oversee any Beatles recording sessions on 11 September – only the one on 4 September.”[35] But, if Lewisohn’s account is correct and “the 4 September session really hadn’t proved good enough to satisfy George Martin”[29] it might seem odd that Martin was not then present to oversee the 11 September re-make.

In his memoirs, assistant engineer Geoff Emerick supports the Lewisohn version, recounting that Starr played drums at the 4 September session (Emerick’s second day at EMI), and that Martin, Smith and McCartney were all dissatisfied with (the under rehearsed) Starr’s timekeeping.[36] Emerick places White firmly at the second session, and describes the reactions of Mal Evans and Starr to the substitution.[37] Emerick also noted that Martin only came in very late in the 11 September session, after work on “Love Me Do” was complete.[37]

Miscellaneous

  • Another inconsistency exists relating to Pete Best’s sacking from the group. According to Bill Harry, (Beatles’ friend and the creator of Mersey Beat), George Martin knew immediately that Pete Best had been fired on 15 August, and not on 4 September when Ringo Starr first appeared at the EMI Studios. Pete Best and his mother, Mona Best, had been joint de facto managers of the Beatles until Brian Epstein had taken over, and when hearing of her son being dropped by the group, Mona Best wanted to know the reason. Unable to contact Brian Epstein, she telephoned George Martin who apparently told her: “I never suggested that Pete Best must go. All I said was that for the purposes of the Beatles’ first record I would rather use a session man. I never thought that Brian Epstein would let him go.”[38]
  • In his 2005 biography of the group, Bob Spitz wrote that Epstein tried to help make “Love Me Do” a hit in England by buying thousands of copies of the single for his Liverpool record store.[39] This story had been told previously in several other Beatles-related books, but is not verified. Lennon specifically denied the allegation on the 1969 Pop Chronicles documentary[40] and during an interview clip on the 2009 documentary The Beatles: On Record.[41]
  • There are only two Lennon & McCartney songs that John Lennon’s estate and Paul McCartney wholly own: “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”. This is because until Dick James had set up their own publishing company, Northern Songs, EMI had placed the Beatles’ first two (released) recordings with their own in-house publishers, Ardmore and Beechwood.[42] Brian Epstein however, was dissatisfied with the lack of promotion EMI gave the single, and through George Martin (who later declined an offer by Brian Epstein on ethical grounds of a percentage of Northern Songs)[43] was introduced to ex-singer Dick James, whom Martin had once produced. Later, McCartney was able to buy back ownership of these two titles which have always remained separate from Lennon and McCartney’s main catalogue of material.
  • #1 on US charts (30 May 1964), Top 100 for 14 weeks. When it entered the charts, it was due to sales of imported copies from Canada with Starr on drums.[44] On 27 April 1964 it was released in the US by Vee-Jay Records on the Tollie label[45] with White on drums.

From Wikipedia

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