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“LOVE ME DO”
(Paul McCartney – John Lennon)
There have been many songs recorded by The Beatles that can be viewed as “hits” or “classics”, but only a handful that can truly be viewed as “legendary.” “Love Me Do” surely falls into this category. This was the first song professionally recorded and released under the “Beatles” name, which excludes any “Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers” recordings. It was also the first Lennon / McCartney song (or as indicated on the label, McCartney / Lennon) ever to be published and released. And it was the first song released (in Britain) with the complete Beatles line-up that we’ve come to know and love: Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.
There are varied opinions about the song, even among its composers, but the one thing that is beyond debate is the vibrancy and originality of the track. Upon first hearing the song on the radio in the United States in May 1964, being that we were already acquainted with The Beatles’ unique sound, we just viewed this as another great new contribution from the band. It was quite another picture in the UK. This was the first song heard of this new band by British radio listeners as a whole. Imagine what your impression would have been if this was the first song you ever heard by The Beatles. It might have been the same impression that Lennon’s Aunt Mimi had when she first heard a demonstration disc of the song. She told John, “If you think you’re going to make a fortune with that, you’ve got another thing coming!”
Nonetheless, the identifiable Beatle harmonies and simple-but-catchy lyrics make “Love Me Do” an irresistible favorite for lovers of oldies music. Hardly anyone at any age can keep themselves from singing along. And that is something that any aspiring songwriter only dreams of being able to create.
The writing of this “great philosophical song” (as Paul refers to it), takes us way back to 1958, as a 16 year old McCartney writes the main structure of the song, the verses, reportedly about his then girlfriend, Iris Caldwell. He had already met John by then (July 6th, 1957 was their first meeting) and it is generally believed that Lennon had a hand in putting together this early version of the song, which apparantly only consisted of verses at this point. Paul recalls the song being written in the front parlor of his childhood home at Forthlin Road, a 50/50 collaboration with John, neither one dominating the authorship. Lennon, however, refers to “Love Me Do” as “Paul’s song," at least at this early stage.
The lyrics they chose have a direct link with their love for the literary works of Lewis Carroll. The phrase, "Love, love me do" is straight from the Lewis Carroll era, such as "Alice, Stop daydreaming, do!" Lennon's obsession with Carroll continues to materialize throughout his Beatles songwriting career, such as in later works like "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "I Am The Walrus." In Mark Lewisohn's book "Tune In," the author suggests that the title "Love Me Do" may have "been inspired by the Elvis film 'Love Me Tender' (in Liverpool in 1957) or from music press ads for a record actually called 'Love Me Do' released in Britain in February 1957." Lewisohn admits that these influences are probably "subliminal at best," but it still makes for interesting speculation.
Back in 1958, the song was in the key of A major and played in a rhythm similar in style to their then hero Buddy Holly, so we can speculate the verses being performed by John and Paul on the back porch of Lennon's "Mendips" home with a tempo similar to Holly's "Maybe Baby."
Although Lennon and McCartney became very prolific as songwriters shortly after they met, filling a school excersize book with original songs they had written, their attention turned to perfecting cover songs they thought their audiences would enjoy once the popularity of The Beatles started to grow. However, when their manager Brian Epstein sent a telegram to The Beatles in Hamburg, Germany, on May 9th, 1962, stating that he had secured a recording contract for them with EMI, including encouragement to "rehearse new material," John and Paul took this to mean they needed to resume their songwriting. Considering "Love Me Do" as the best of their early songs, they decided to revamp the song in preperation for their June 6th, 1962, recording session.
Being that four years had passed since they originally composed "Love Me Do," they decided to interject some of their more recent influences. They lowered the key to G major and slowed the tempo somewhat to give it a more bluesy feel. McCartney is quoted as saying that the song was their attempt to "do the blues," although it came out "whiter, because it always does." The blues sound of Arthur Alexander was incorporated, as well as the harmonica of artists like James Ray, and Bruce Channel's recent hit "Hey! Baby." In 1963, John explained their revamping of "Love Me Do" to Melody Maker: "It was just after 'Hey! Baby' came out - we were hoping to be the first British group to use harmonica on record."
It was also at this point that John apparantly contributed the simple bridge to the song ("Someone to love, somebody new..."), him stating in 1971, "I think I had something to do with the middle." Lennon's contribution to the writership at this point is undoubtedly the reason why Paul remembers "Love Me Do" as a 50/50 collaboration. Revamping the song meant rehearsals, these being done while still in Hamburg in their place of lodging whenever they had some spare time. Their current drummer Pete Best remembers a suggestion he made for the arrangement: "The idea was to make the middle-eight different from the rest of the tune, and I said, 'OK, we put the skip beat in.'" Mark Lewisohn's book "Tune In" explains: "The 'skip beat' was a fluctuation in tempo, an acceleration to lead into the vocal bridge and again later, before the instrumental middle-eight. It was a strange idea, but must have sounded good enough in the moment for John and Paul to accept."
The Beatles with Pete Best, circa 1962
The first actual recording of the song was at EMI studios on June 6th, 1962. The Beatles (with Pete Best) arrived at EMI and set up their instruments in Studio Three for this two hour session (6 to 8 pm). The equipment they brought was not at all suitable for recording purposes. They had to strap up Lennon's amplifier to stop it from rattling, and had to do a soldering job on a Tannoy speaker to convert it for McCartney to play through since his amplifier couldn't be used at all.
With this accomplished, things were then under way as The Beatles showed producers George Martin and Ron Richards what they could do. (George Martin was not present at first, delegating "pop" recordings to producer Ron Richards.) It was standard practice for the producer to start off with what he felt was the most promising consideration for a single. Therefore, Ron Richards suggested they first perform “Besame Mucho” (their rendition of The Coasters version), which was the very first song contained on a suggested list that Beatles' manager Brian Epstein typed up specifically for this occasion. George Martin eventually rejected this song, claiming it was “too corny.” The band then went into another suggestion on Brian Epstein's list, one that The Beatles hoped would be chosen for the single, “Love Me Do.”
Although the number of takes they did this day is not known, more than one take had to have been performed. Tape operator Chris Neal recalls: "All of a sudden there was this raunchy noise which struck a chord in our heads. It was 'Love Me Do.' Norman (Smith) said to me, 'Oi, go down and pick up George (Martin) from the canteen and see what he thinks of this.'" When George Martin arrived in the control room, he was attracted by something they were doing. "I picked up on 'Love Me Do' mainly because of the harmonica sound. I loved raw harmonica and used to issue the records of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee." The harmonica John was using, by the way, was the chromatic model that he, reportedly, "shoplifted" in Arnhem, Holland during their first trip to Hamburg, Germany.
George Martin, however, started to make arrangement suggestions for the song. He noticed that John was singing the song's title solo during the climax of each verse but then switched to harmonica before he could sing the word "do." Paul relates: "George Martin said, 'Wait a minute, there's a crossover there. Someone else has got to sing 'love me do' because you're going to have a song called 'Love Me Waahhh.' So, Paul, will you sing 'love me do'?" God, I got the screaming heebie jeebies. We were doing it live and I was suddenly given this massive moment on our first thing, where everything stopped, no backing, the spotlight went to me and I went (in trembling tones) 'love me doooooo.' I can still hear the shake in my voice when I listen to it."
It is interesting to note that the harmonica continued to play a major role in their early recordings. Their next two singles (“Please Please Me” and “From Me To You”), as well as other tracks recorded during the early days, featured the instrument as overdubs. After 1963, however, John rarely used the harmonica again, although the instrument did make brief appearances in songs like “I’m A Loser” and even “Rocky Raccoon.”
After the “nerve-wracking” (as McCartney described it) experience of having a professional producer rearrange your song for you, Martin decided that he wasn’t very impressed with the song after all. He reportedly “hated the lyrics.” He then asked them what else they had, and they did two other originals that day, “P.S. I Love You” and “Ask Me Why.”
Another thing that Martin was not impressed with was Pete Best. As they had rehearsed in Hamburg back in May, Pete incorporated his "skip beat" into "Love Me Do" during this recording. The awkward timing change was very noticeable, something we can all now hear since this recording was released on the compilation album "Anthology 1." This is not to be evidence alone that Pete Best was not a talented drummer - one listen to the previous track "Besame Mucho" (also available on "Anthology 1") will show how impressive he could be. At any rate, what George Martin deduced from this day was that he needed to use a sessions drummer for The Beatles. This was the final nail in the coffin for Best, as they had been thinking of replacing him with Ringo for some time. Their next appointment in the studio would be without Pete Best.
Concerning John's harmonica work on the song, he took advantage of being in the company of Delbert McClinton, the harmonica player with Bruce Channel, during The Beatles' appearance with them on June 21st. Lennon reportedly got a fifteen minute lesson from McClinton on how to perform the "Hey Baby" harmonica riff in preparation for the group's next trip to the recording studio in September.
George Martin did not know anything about Pete Best being replaced when, on September 4th, 1962, The Beatles walked in to the recording studio with Ringo Starr. (George Harrison, in fact, came this day sporting a black eye that some sources say he received from being 'head-butted' by a Pete Best fan at the Cavern Club.) The three hour session (7 to 10 pm) was arranged precisely for recording both sides of their first single.
Before the session started, though, there was a rehearsal session (from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.) to determine which songs would be recorded that evening. Martin had insisted that a song which he found for them, “How Do You Do It,” would be the A-side of the first single, which he had introduced to The Beatles beforehand by sending a demo recording of the song to Liverpool for them to learn. It was decided from the rehearsal session that “Love Me Do” would be the best candidate for the flip side.
At some point during the evening recording session, which started at 7 pm, John made it known to George Martin that, although they worked up what they felt was a suitable arrangement, they disliked “How Do You Do It” with a passion. The Beatles felt that they “couldn’t take that song back to Liverpool” and that they’d be “laughed at.” Even though they felt the intimidation of being in a ‘big time’ recording studio, they stood their ground about wanting to record their own material. But Martin stood on stronger ground and insisted, saying that when they could write a better song than what he had chosen for them, he would let them release it as the A-side. So far, as far as he was concerned, their original compositions were suitable only for B-sides.
So, after at least two reluctant but spirited takes of “How Do You Do It,” George Martin considered the song complete and ready for mono mixing, which was done that evening. The next task at hand, starting at approximately 7:30 p.m., was to record the intended B-side, “Love Me Do,” which became a much more labored effort. This was a one-track recording, meaning mono only, George Martin deciding to focus on the rhythm track alone without vocals, which alone took 15 takes to perfect. Thereafter, as the rhythm track was copied from one tape machine to another, John and Paul superimposed their vocals. This also was a labored effort which took an unknown number of attempts. It took much longer than expected to get this song recorded, George Martin having to extend the session well past the usual 10 pm ending time to 11:15 pm.
It is interesting to note that, since the vocals ended up being superimposed later, Lennon could very well have sung lead on the song. In later years, there were instances when you would hear John’s harmonica while he was singing (such as “I’ll Get You” and “I Should Have Known Better”) as overdubbing progressively became standard practice in the studio. The best explanation is that, since they had already made the switch to McCartney singing lead back in June, they would stick with that plan. Some of their fans back home, including Johnny Gustafson (the bass player of the band The Big Three) protested to McCartney singing lead when the record was released, saying that they liked Lennon’s lead vocals better, as they were used to hearing live.
With Ringo being a relatively new member of the band, both McCartney and George Martin were reportedly not very happy with his drumming on the song. Paul relates that after the session was over, John, Paul and George Harrison were told privately by Martin that he would like to do the session for “Love Me Do” again with a hired session drummer. Although this was hard for the band to accept, they relented, and another session was to be booked a week later. Nonetheless, at the end of the day a mono mix was made of this song as well, although which take was deemed best is not known.
During the week-long interval between recording sessions, an interesting development took place.Music publisher Dick James did not like the rendition of "How Do You Do It" that The Beatles recorded and did not want it released on either side of their single, saving the song for someone else to record who could do the song justice. Also, music publishers Ardmore and Beechwood were poised for financial gain with any Lennon / McCartney songs that were released, so they were adding pressure for both sides of the first Beatles single to be original composiions. With all this in mind, George Martin relented to John Lennon's request for The Beatles to release their own songs. Therefore, with so much time invested in "Love Me Do," it was decided that the recording of this song done on September 4th, 1962 with Ringo on drums was to be The Beatles first A-side. This being decided, their next recording session on September 11th, 1962 in EMI Studio Two (4:45 to 6:30 pm) would be used to record the B-side of their first single. And since this was just to record a B-side, George Martin would let Ron Richards handle the production.
Ringo was never told of their decision to hire a session drummer. Therefore, when The Beatles arrived in the studio on this day, apparently he was the only one surprised to see session drummer Andy White there as well. At first, Ringo sat dejectedly in the control room with producer Ron Richards, thinking about how phoney the record business was because of their not allowing him to play with his band. Richards then asked him to play maracas on the first song recorded that day, “P.S. I Love You.” There apparently was some thought given to this song becoming the A-side, again relegating “Love Me Do” to the B-side. Ron Richards then realized that the title “P.S. I Love You” was already gracing a previously released song by Peggy Lee, so this quashed the idea of this title being The Beatles' first A-side.
As an alternative for consideration for the B-side of the single, The Beatles then launched into a recording of "Please Please Me" with Andy White on drums, this version now available on the compilation album "Anthology 1." It nearly made the grade for being the B-side to "Love Me Do," an acetate disc being cut as evidence of this. However, George Martin, who was then present in the studio, suggested they leave the song for another time because it was "too good a song to just throw away" on a B-side. Then, Ringo was “shattered” when he realized that his band was then asked to re-record “Love Me Do” with Andy White on drums. He felt they were doing a “Pete Best” on him and that, since he apparently was only good enough to play drums at their performances, he “might as well leave.” Ringo reluctantly played the tambourine and, starting at approximately 6 pm, they went through 18 takes of the song, this time live in the studio, vocals and all. The last take, take 18, was deemed the best and a mono mix was made at the end of the session.
In the end, it was decided that the original version of “Love Me Do” recorded on September 4th, 1962 with Ringo on drums would indeed be the A-side of their first British single after all, with "P.S. I Love You" as the B-side. Ringo was quite happy about that!
Almost three weeks after the single was released in the UK, The Beatles set out to promote the record by recording it for broadcast on BBC radio. On October 25th, 1962, they recorded the song at The Playhouse Theatre in Manchester between 8 and 8:45 pm before a live audience, this being broadcast on October 26th on the radio show "Here We Go" between 5 and 5:29. Then on November 27th, 1962 they recorded the song for the radio show “The Talent Spot” at BBC Paris Studio in London between 7 and 8 pm before a live audience, this airing on December 4th between 5 and 5:29 pm. Then on to 1963, with a recording on January 22nd at Playhouse Theatre in London between 4 and 5 pm for the prestigious radio show “Saturday Club,” which was produced by Jimmy Grant and was broadcast on January 26th between 10 am and noon. The purpose of this broadcast was to promote The Beatles' new single "Please Please Me," but their previous single "Love Me Do" was also thrown in for good measure. Then on February 20th, 1963, they recorded "Love Me Do" live at Playhouse Theatre in London for a simultaneous lunchtime broadcast between 12:31 and 1:30 pm for the radio show "Parade Of The Pops."
On February 25th, 1963, George Martin assembled his team in Studio One at EMI to produce mono and stereo mixes of the official recording of "Love Me Do" for their first album, “Please Please Me.” The version of “Love Me Do” that would appear on the album, it was decided, was the Andy White version recorded on September 11th, so the mono mix made on that day was sufficient for the mono release of the album. However, the stereo version of the album needed a stereo mix, and the song was originally recorded on only one track, so a stereo version of the song needed to be mixed somehow from the mono mix done on September 11th. To remedy this situation, George Martin prepared a “mock” stereo version of the song by placing the bass signals of the song on one channel and the treble frequencies on the other channel. This process gives the listener a higher definition stereo feel, but without the separation of true stereo, as most of the other tracks on the album have. This mix is what appears on all of the stereo US versions of the song.
The Beatles recorded "Love Me Do" five more times for BBC radio in 1963, the first being on April 4th for the program “Side By Side,” which was recorded at BBC Paris Studio in London between 11 am and 2 pm, produced by Bryant Marriott, and was broadcast on June 24th between 5 and 5:29 pm. A June 1st recording of the song for the second edition of their radio series “Pop Go The Beatles” occurred at BBC Paris Studio in London between 1:30 and 5:30 pm, the recording being produced by Terry Henebery and broadcast on June 11th between 5 and 5:29 pm. The sixth edition of “Pop Go The Beatles” included yet another recording of "Love Me Do," this being recorded on July 10th in Studio Two of Aeolian Hall in London and produced by Terry Henebery between 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, which was broadcast on July 23rd between 5 and 5:29 pm.
The thirteenth edition of "Pop Go The Beatles" also included a new recording of the song, which was produced by Terry Henebery and recorded on September 3rd in Studio Two of Aeolian Hall in London between 2 and 4:30 pm, this program being broadcast on September 10th between 5 and 5:29 pm. The final BBC recording of "Love Me Do" occurred on October 16th for the program “Easy Beat,” which was recorded at The Playhouse Theater in London between 9 and 10 pm before a live audience (the final BBC show permitted before an audience per Brian Epstein's insistance that they would only play venues with fixed seating), this program airing on October 20th between 10:31 and 11:30 am.
Interestingly, The Beatles did touch on "Love Me Do" one final time for a BBC recording on December 17th, 1963 at Playhouse Theatre in London between 3 and 6:30 pm for the show "Saturday Club," which aired on December 21st of that year between 10 am and 12 noon. Since this was the Christmas episode of this famous show, The Beatles recorded a 29-second selection entitled "Chrimble Mudley," which comprised a small vocal excerpt of their first five singles, the first being "Love Me Do," along with a bit of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," this recording being produced by Jimmy Grant and Bernie Andrews.
On May 30th, 1968, during the recording of the rhythm track for what became "Revolution 1," 'take 18' evolved into a long jam session that lasted over ten minutes. During this jam, Paul was inspired to sing a verse of "Love Me Do" which was caught on an open microphone, which prompted Ringo to perform a 'Beatles break' similar to the original recording. This 'take' was eventually released on the Super Deluxe 50th Anniversary edition of the "White Album" in 2018.
Interestingly enough, the last recording session that included the song was on January 28th, 1969. This occurred at Apple Studios as the “Get Back / Let It Be” project was nearing completion. George stated on this day, "Let's say we got a really good one of 'Love Me Do,'" this resulting in an impromptu rendition of the song that can be witnessed, in part, in Peter Jackson's 2021 "Get Back" series. They, of course, dropped the idea, despite encouragement from George Martin later that day.
On June 23rd, 1994, the three surviving Beatles met in George's private home studio at Friar Park at Henley On Thames, England, for a recording session that was filmed for possible inclusion in the "Anthology" television special. "They did a whole lot of rock and roll songs," television director Bob Smeator relates, although the vast majority of the recording and film footage has never been seen. A small snippet of the available footage shows what appears to be a newly recorded version of "Love Me Do," although this has not been officially verified.
One question remains, however, about the original 1962 recording of the song: Why was the first version of “Love Me Do” with Ringo on drums replaced with the second version with Andy White on drums for all future single releases in Britain (and the rest of the world)? The answer lies with George Martin. He apparently felt strongly enough about this matter to destroy the master tape of Ringo’s version of the song as he was preparing the British EP “The Beatles’ Hits,” which was released in September of 1963. He wanted to ensure that the superior version in his opinion, the Andy White version, would be the one to go down in history. Since the version with Ringo finally did resurface in 1980, his idea didn’t quite go as planned.
Official Beatle-related recordings of “Love Me Do” also include a session by Paul McCartney, sometime between September of 1987 and February of 1989, of a unique composition entitled “P.S. Love Me Do.” “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” were the only “Lennon/McCartney” songs in the entire catalog owned by MPL Communications (Paul’s music publishing company). This being the case, Paul combined both songs and, with his current studio band, created a rhythmic rendition which was recorded during the sessions for what became his album “Flowers In The Dirt.” While the song did not appear on the general release of this album, it was among the many bonus tracks that did appear on the 1990 Japanese Tour edition, which was entitled “Special Package.”
A live recording of “P.S. Love Me Do” was made on April 21st, 1990, in Rio de Janeiro, the results appearing on his “Birthday” EP released later that year.
Also, sometime between February of 1997 and February of 1998, Ringo and his current studio band recorded a new version of “Love Me Do” for his eleventh studio album “Vertical Man,” which was co-produced by Ringo and Mark Hudson. The song features Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler on backing vocals and harmonica. A live recording of Ringo’s version of the song was made as well, on May 13th, 1998, and was released on his album “VH1 Storytellers.”
Song Structure and Style
This song was also written in the 'verse/ verse/ bridge/ verse' style (or aaba) as were most other songs on the album. Despite its simplistic structure, there are some unique characteristics here. One is that each verse is completely identical; lyrics, harmonies, instrumentation and number of musical bars. Typically, subsequent verses would change at least lyrically, usually repeating the first verse only as the last verse in the sequence. Or, there would be an added element in the instrumentation, such as an added percussion, guitar part, etc. An added harmony may even be utilized to distinguish one verse from the other. In this case, the song, with its distinctive harmonies and stick-in-your head hook, would have to stand on its own. As time has shown, this was enough to make the song stand on its own.
Another rather unique characteristic is that the solo section of the song, which occurs between the third and final verse, is performed in the chord structure of the bridge. When you examine Beatles songs throughout their career that have a solo, you’ll notice that it usually appears utilizing the verse chords. “Love Me Do” is an early exception to this unwritten rule.
Both versions of the song are identical in structure and performance, the only difference being the appearance of a tambourine, played by Ringo. This is the easiest was to determine which version you are listening to. The version without the tambourine is the first version recorded on September 4th, 1962, featuring Ringo on drums. The version with the tambourine is the second version recorded on September 11th, 1962, featuring Andy White on drums and the despondent Ringo on tambourine.
As stated earlier, the song was written in an R&B style, with a possible skiffle influence since it was written during the time of the skiffle craze, and a slow skiffle beat is detected. The song opens with an eight bar introduction highlighted by Lennon’s harmonica riff, which becomes the identifying element of the song. The song then naturally progresses to the first verse with the distinctive vocal harmonies of Lennon and McCartney, John taking the lower (formerly lead) vocal line to McCartney’s higher (formerly backing) vocal line. Each verse has an unusual 13 bars, which includes a 2 and a half bar “please” with harmonies that cascade into a break, allowing for the usual ending of the verse with the title of the song used as the hook line. Notice that McCartney has to sing the song's title in the lower register sung by John throughout the rest of the song, which is evidence that it was usually sung by John prior to this. But, in order for the harmonica to come in on the one beat of the 10th bar as prescribed by George Martin, McCartney was now dubbed “lead singer” of the song.
After the identical second verse, Paul once again sings the lower register lead vocals of the 8 bar bridge while John plays a harmonica line. Paul then alternates to his former higher vocal line whenever John doesn’t have a harmonica in his mouth, allowing Lennon to sing his usual lower register vocal line. This happens twice, but ends in another break, allowing for a subtle transition back to a third identical verse.
The bridge chords then repeat, but this time as a harmonica solo from Lennon, which is quite reminiscent of the harmonica work on Bruce Channel’s hit “Hey Baby,” which inspired John’s performance. The bridge is extended another 4 bars and ends in another break, which acts as another transition back to the final identical verse. This verse then extends and repeats until being faded out, which was done at the mix session at the end of each day’s recording.
An issue needs to be settled regarding whether Lennon played guitar on the session, as some claim that he did. This can be determined by a few details being examined. The first detail is that the second version of the song (the one most are familiar with) was recorded completely live, vocals and all. It can be argued that he could have played his Gibson J160E guitar while having a harmonica brace around his neck, allowing both to be played throughout the song. But the question was: 'Did he wear a harmonica brace on the days the song was recorded?' He did have one during 1964 performances while performing songs such as “I’m A Loser.” One thing that is for certain is that it was impossible for Lennon to play both instruments live at the same time without a harmonica brace. It is improbable that he would have kept putting down his harmonica and picking up a guitar pick and then kept doing this repeatedly throughout the song.
To help settle this issue, we can observe actual photographs taken during the first session of this song. Lennon can clearly be seen with his acoustic guitar strapped on but holding his harmonica with both hands. He does not have a harmonica brace in the pictures. Although the vocals were overdubbed after the basic tracks were recorded for this version, there is no evidence to suggest that the harmonica was recorded simultaneously with the vocal overdubs. As for the second version with Andy White on drums, it appears highly unlikely that John performed both guitar and harmonica simultaneously since this version was recorded completely live.
Although pictures are not available of this second session, there is no evidence of Lennon even possessing a harmonica brace until much later. If you listen to the track “Love These Goon Shows!” on the “Live At The BBC” album, you will hear a description of how John couldn’t play the guitar and harmonica at the same time, which indicates that, at the time of recording the song in question (June 1st, 1963), he still did not possess a harmonica brace. Another indication is the video they made shortly afterward lip-syncing to “Love Me Do” (as seen on the Anthology video). John cups the harmonica in his hands when he’s not singing and, while he does have a guitar around his neck, only taps the guitar during his vocal work on the song. And, of course, there is not a harmonica brace in sight.
Add to this fact that a second guitar is not discernable in either version of the song, the evidence indicates that it was impossible for Lennon to have played guitar on “Love Me Do.”
Although Capitol records was given the chance to release the song in the US as early as 1962, Dave Dexter, the executive producer for A&R at the label, declined for one particular reason. "I didn't care for it at all because of the harmonica sound," he explained in the 1984 U.S. radio documentary "From Britain With Love." He continued: "I didn't care for the harmonica because I had grown up listening to the old blues records and blues harmonica players, and I simply didn't...I nixed the record instantly." Therefore, the one redeeming feature of the song, according to producer George Martin, was the one reason it didn't get released in America in 1962.
The first American release didn’t occur until January 10th, 1964, on the Vee Jay album “Introducing…The Beatles.” Since the British “Please Please Me” album contained the version with Andy White on the drums, this is the version that was sent to Vee Jay Records in the US. The song was only available in this form for three weeks because it was licensed to an EMI-owned publishing company, “Ardmore and Beechwood.” Capitol filed suit against Vee Jay for issuing the song, so they had to re-release this album without “Love Me Do.” They did this on January 27th, 1964, which gave a quick three week preview of the song to the lucky 80,000 (approximately), who purchased the first version of the album in January.
After a settlement was reached with EMI’s Beechwood Music in April of 1964, Vee Jay issued the song as a single on their newly formed Tollie label on April 27th, 1964, backed with “P.S. I Love You.” Once again, it was the version that they had, featuring Andy White on drums. Interestingly, Capitol Of Canada had originally released "Love Me Do" as a single, with Ringo on drums, back in February of 1963, only selling a total of 170 copies at that time. However, with Beatlemania in full swing in the US in the early months of 1964, this Canadian single was imported into America and began charting on the US Billboard singles chart at #81 on April 11th, 1964. Since the American Tollie version, with Andy White on drums, was released just over two weeks later, Billboard charted both singles jointly at #31 on April 18th of that year until the more readily available Tollie single topped the charts on May 2nd, 1964. This was a much higher position than in their home country, where it only peaked at number 17. The song's peak on the British charts was possibly due to Brian Epstein personally buying (reportedly) 10,000 copies of the record for his record shop, which he had been told was the amount needed to achieve a top 20 hit.
In August of 1964, shortly before their contract with The Beatles expired on October 15th, Vee Jay reissued the "Love Me Do" single on their "Oldies 45" label. Then, on March 22th, 1965, Capitol issued their “The Early Beatles” album, featuring most of the Vee Jay album from the previous year. Incidentally, mono copies of this album contained a "Type B" mix of the songs created by Capitol Records that, in the case of "Love Me Do," combined both channels of the fake stereo mix that Capitol created into one channel, thus creating a uniquely odd mono version that differs from George Martin's mono mix that appears on the above mentioned Vee Jay releases. This album then appeared on an individual CD on January 21st, 2014, this CD containing both the mono and stereo mixes on one disc. Capitol then saw fit to make the single available to US record buyers again as part of their short lived “Starline” budget label, releasing it on October 11th, 1965.
Sometime in 1967, Capitol released Beatles music on a brand new but short-lived format called "Playtapes." These tape cartridges did not have the capability to include entire albums, so two truncated four-song versions of "The Early Beatles" were released in this portable format, "Love Me Do" being on one of these. These "Playtapes" are highly collectable today.
No Beatles “greatest hit” package could exclude this historically classic song, so on April 2nd, 1973, the album “1962 – 1966” (better known as the “Red Album") was released by Apple Records, which has “Love Me Do” opening side one. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard charts, unable to out-chart the “Blue Album" which was released simultaneously.
March 21st, 1980, was the date the United States finally got to hear the first version of “Love Me Do” with Ringo playing the drums. It was released originally on the single in Britain, as well as in Canada, but since the master tape no longer existed, a clean recording made from an old mono 45 graced the Capitol album “Rarities.” This album peaked at number 21 on the Billboard charts.
On October 11th, 1982, Capitol released a composite compilation package entitled “20 Greatest Hits,” which marked the 20th anniversary of the British release of “Love Me Do.” The song was the second track on side one of the album, which peaked at number 50 on the US Billboard album chart.
In connection with this 20th anniversary, Capitol re-released the "Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You" single on November 19th, 1982. Interestingly, the label resurrected the familiar Capitol swirl design found on early US Beatles singles but mistakenly identified each song as being in stereo, although there are no existing stereo mixes for either of these songs. Promo copies of this release were also printed that feature "Love Me Do" on both sides.
Two and a half weeks later, on December 6th, 1982, a picture disc single of "Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You" was featured in the worldwide released vinyl box set "The Beatles Singles Collection." While this box set got re-released decades later, the picture disc was not included.
The first time the original British "Please Please Me" album was made available in the US was the "Original Master Recording" vinyl edition released through Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in January of 1987. This album included "Love Me Do" and was prepared utilizing half-speed mastering technology from the original master tape on loan from EMI. This version of the album was only available for a short time and is quite collectible today.
In the golden age of compact discs, the US market has easy access to both versions of the song. The more popular Andy White version can be found on the CD “Please Please Me” which was first released on CD on February 26th, 1987 and vinyl on July 21st, 1987. A remastered edition of this album was released on CD and on September 9th, 2009 and on vinyl on November 13th, 2012. The version with Ringo playing drums is found on “Past Masters, Volume One,” which was released on March 7th, 1988, and reached number 149 on the Billboard album charts. Both volumes of "Past Masters" were then combined as a two-album set on vinyl and released on October 24th, 1988, this being remastered and re-released on CD on September 9th, 2009 and on vinyl on November 12th, 2012.
On June 30th, 1992, the box set “Compact Disc EP Collection” was released, which featured the song due to its appearance on the original British EP “The Beatles’ Hits,” which was released on September 6th, 1963.
Also, on October 19th, 1992, Capitol re-released the "Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You" single as a Cema Series single for jukeboxes only. Inadvertently, about 250 to 300 copies were printed on red vinyl, these being distributed on March 10th, 1993 and becoming quite the collectors' item today. Interestingly, the version with Ringo on drums was contained on this special release.
But wait, there’s more! The “Live At The BBC” album, released on December 6th, 1994, contains the performance The Beatles made on the BBC radio show “Pop Go The Beatles,” which aired on July 23rd,1963. The album peaked at number three on the US Billboard chart. On November 11th, 2013, this album was remastered, re-packaged and re-released. Then came “Anthology 1” released on November 21st, 1995, which featured the historic and recently found “audition” of the song featuring Pete Best on drums. This compilation album was highly anticipated, corresponding with their ABC television specials, and peaked at number one on the US Billboard chart.
A newer release of the song (apart from the reissues of the original US albums in the 2006 CD set “The Capitol Albums, Volume 2”) is the amazingly successful compilation album “Beatles 1,” which not only peaked at number one on the US Billboard chart on its first week, but succeeded in selling over 31 million copies worldwide as of 2017 (over 11 million in the US alone). Released on November 13th, 2000, this is the biggest selling album of the decade as well as the fastest selling album of all time. This album features the Andy White version of the song, since it is universally considered the most known version. A remastered edition of this album was released in September of 2011, while a newly re-mixed version was released on November 6th, 2015.
September 9th, 2009 was the date that the box set “The Beatles In Mono” was released, featuring remastered versions of both the Andy White and Ringo mixes of the song.
On December 17th, 2013, iTunes released a 59 track compilation album entitled "Bootleg Recordings 1963" only available on their downloading platform. Three BBC performances of "Love Me Do" are included therein, these being the January 26th, 1963 performance for the program "Saturday Club," the October 20th, 1963 performance for "Easy Beat," and the September 10th, 1963 performance for the program "Pop Go The Beatles." The purpose of this release was to extend the copyright of these recordings under European Union law from 50 years (which would have expired at the end of 2013) to 70 years (until 2033), this being considered an official release. This compilation album was only available in the US on that date to those in the know for a number of hours for $39.99 in its entirety or to be purchased as individual tracks, but was later made available for purchase as well..
On November 9th, 2018, the Super Deluxe 50th Anniversary edition of the "White Album" was released, which includes 'take 18' of "Revolution 1" as recorded on May 30th, 1968. This 'take' includes Paul singing an ad lib version of "Love Me Do," as described above.
Not to be forgotten is the Ringo Starr June 15th, 1998 release “Vertical Man,” which features his remake of “Love Me Do.” While the album was not a monster smash, it reached a respectable #61 on the Billboard album charts in the US, the highest reaching Ringo album since the 70’s. Its success was possibly due to featuring Paul McCartney, George Harrison and even George Martin on various tracks. This album was quickly followed by his critically acclaimed October 19th, 1998 released “VH1 Storytellers” album, which also featured the song as broadcast on a Ringo Starr special on that cable network.
"The Quarry Men" at The Casbah Club,1959
“Love Me Do” is one of three songs which date back the furthest in The Beatles’ performance history. There is evidence that this song was in the repertoire of The Quarry Men (named after the Quarry Bank Grammar School Lennon attended) in 1959, which by then included John, Paul and George. They weren't too keen on performing original songs, but they did include "Love Me Do" at times, along with “One After 909” and an early version of “When I’m Sixty Four.” As the group evolved throughout the next three years into The Beatles, the song was subsequently dropped from their repertiore in favor of cover tunes that they felt a Liverpool or Hamburg audience would want to hear.
Great effort was made by all involved to get The Beatles some exposure for their first released single "Love Me Do." One great triumph was their first ever TV appearance, this being the Granada show "People And Places," shown coast-to-coast across the north of England on October 17th, 1962. Their five minute spot included the group performing their stage favorite "Some Other Guy" and then "Love Me Do," with brief banter with host Gay Byrne. Since this was a live broadcast, it wasn't filmed or videotaped by the studio, the only evidence of its existence are people's memories and an audio reel-to-reel tape made on the day of broadcast by 16-year-old fan Adrian Killen (the tape currently owned by Apple). Mark Lewisohn's book "Tune In" describes the perfromance as "confident and good and included a boisterous bridge where Ringo kept the guitars strongly on the beat and brought them back into the next verse."
The Beatles performed "Love Me Do" on British television four other times in 1962. Another appearance on "People And Places" was taped on October 29th and broadcast on November 2nd, this time featuring John Lennon sitting without an instrument as a lead singer would do while the other Beatles stood (Ringo included). Then on December 3rd, they mimed the song on the live program "Discs A Gogo," as well as another mimed live performance the following day, December 4th, on the London-area children's show "Tuesday Rendevzous." Finally, on December 17th, they returned once again for another live performance on "People And Places," their third appearance on this program within a two month period.
Since the song was their first national British hit, it became part of their permanent set list throughout the rest of 1962, both in their home performances and during their Hamburg visits at the end of the year. It also became a prerequisite for their national tours with Helen Shapiro, Tommy Roe/Chris Montez and then Roy Orbison throughout 1963. The last concert appearance of the song appears to have been on June 30th, 1964 at the ABC Cinema in Norfolk. British television saw the song performed in a Beatles medley on the show “Around The Beatles,” which was recorded at IBC studios on April 19th, 1964 for lip-syncing purposes, but broadcast on May 6th and then again on June 8th, 1964. This appears to be the only (albeit partial) performance of “Love Me Do” in 1964, seeing as their catalog of hit songs had progressed quite far by that time.
Paul McCartney also sporadically performed the song, in the above mentioned configuration “P.S. Love Me Do,” during his "World Tour," which ran from July 26th, 1989 (London, England) to July 29th, 1990 (Chicago, Illinois). He then finally decided to include the original version of "Love Me Do" in his set list during his "One On One" tour, which ran from April 13th, 2016 (Fresno, California) to December 16th, 2017 (Aukland, New Zealand). He did the same for his "Freshen Up" tour, which began on September 17th, 2018 (Quebec City, Canada) and ended on July 13th, 2019 (Los Angeles, California). He included the song once again during his 2022 "Got Back" tour, which ran from April 28th (Spokane, Washington) to June 25th (Piloton, England) of that year.
Paul also performed the song on June 9th, 2018 at the Philharmonic Pub in Liverpool for a special segment on "The Late Late Show with James Corden." A truncated version of this performance was aired on CBS television on June 21st of that year, followed by a prime-time special entitled "When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool," which was broadcast of August 20th.
Oddly enough, since Ringo had also recorded "Love Me Do" for his album "Vertical Man," he also performed it live with his "All Starr Band" from 1998 through 2000.
“Love Me Do,” understandably, was a pivotal point in The Beatles' career, as well as a milestone that affected them collectively and individually. George Harrison, for instance, felt his father's wrath when he was awoken by George’s screaming when the song was played late at night on Radio Luxembourg. Ringo, after being thoroughly disillusioned by the record industry, felt vindicated when the initial pressing of the record in Britain contained the version with him on the drums. All pressings thereafter contained the Andy White version. For the song's composers, it had an even greater impact. McCartney recalls that the song was evidence to him and John that they had “arrived,” and that it gave The Beatles “somewhere to go.”
The excitement of having a popular national hit song was a dream come true for the band. To be counted among their musical heroes currently on the radio waves, such as The Everly Brothers, Smokey Robinson, and The Shirelles, was an indescribable experience for them. Brain Epstein would call them with the precise times that the song would be played on the radio so they could stop what they were doing and listen. They would even celebrate every time the song moved up on the British charts.
It's impact in America was immediate, even without any promotion behind it. The Beatles never performed the song in any American concert or television appearances. They didn't need to.
They may have felt that they had pressed on so much further in their career by mid 1964 that they didn’t sense a need to promote their first British single in the states. The irresistible harmonica hook, the all-too-familiar harmonies, and the captivating melody line were enough to stick in the minds of American youth and skyrocket the song to the top of the US charts. "Love Me Do" has to this day become one of the most identifiable trademark recordings in The Beatles catalog.
“Love Me Do”
Written by: Paul McCartney / John Lennon
Song Written: 1958 and May 1962
Song Recorded: September 4, 1962 (Ringo on drums)
Song Recorded: September 11, 1962 (Andy White on drums)
First US Release Date: January 6, 1964
US Single Release: Tollie #9008
Highest Chart Position: #1 (1 week)
Key: G major
Producers: George Martin (Ringo Starr on drums),
Ron Richards (Andy White on drums)
Engineer: Norman Smith
Instrumentation (most likely):
Paul McCartney - Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
John Lennon – Harmonica (Hohner G Chromatic), Background Vocals
George Harrison – Rhythm Guitar (1957 Gretsch Duo Jet - Sept. 4th) (1962 Gibson J160E - Sept. 11th)
Ringo Starr – Drums (1960 Premier 58/54 Mahogany) (Sept.4th) Tambourine (Sept. 11th)
Andy White - Drums (Ludwig) (Sept. 11th version)
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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