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“LOVE ME DO”

(Paul McCartney – John Lennon)

There have been a great deal of 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 as we’ve come to know and love: Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.

There are varied opinions about the song, even by the 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 to be able to create.

Songwriting History 

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 were 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 decided to lower the key to G major and slow 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." .

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The Beatles with Pete Best, circa 1962

Recording History

Session One:  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 suitable for recording purposes at all.  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) although senior producer George Martin reportedly thought the song was “too corny.”  The band then went into the song which they 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”) feature the instrument as overdubs, as well as other tracks recorded during the early days.  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 preperation for the groups' next trip to the recording studio in September.

Session Two:  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 in 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.  And it was decided from the rehearsal session that “Love Me Do” would be the 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, a mono mix was made of this song as well at the end of the day, although the take that was deemed best is not known.

Session Three:  During the week 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 squashed 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!

Stereo Mixing:  On February 25th, 1963, George Martin assembled his team in Studio one at EMI to produce mono and stereo mixes 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.  

Session Four:  Interestingly enough, the last recording session that included the song was on January 28th, 1969.  This occurred at Apple Studios as the then titled “Get Back” project was nearing completion.  An impromptu rendition of “Love Me Do” found its’ way onto tape but, because of the “rough” sound quality of the recording, it never materialized on any Beatles release.

Session Five:  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 it finally did resurface in 1980, his plan 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 that 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 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 songs’ 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's improbably that he would have kept putting down his harmonica and picking up a guitar pick and 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.”  

American Releases

Although Capitol records was given the chance to release the song 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 quality of the song according to producer George Martin was the one reason it didn't get released in America in 1962.

So, 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 the 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 between 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.  This single went to number one on the Billboard pop charts, which was a much higher position than in their home country, where it only peaked at number 17.  The songs’ British peak on the charts was probably 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, which became the third US release of the song.  The fourth came on March 22th, 1965, when Capitol issued their “The Early Beatles” album, featuring most of the Vee Jay album from the previous year.  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 good 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.  This made the fifth release of the song in the US.

Sometime in 1967, Capitol released Beatles music on a brand new but short-lived format called "Playtapes."  These tape cartidges 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 of the album.  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, which makes it the seventh US release of the song.

(As a sidenote, Capitol of Canada imported copies of their "Love Me Do single with Ringo on drums into the US in early 1964 before the American Tollie single was released.  This version did place in all three American charts just prior to the American release, so a small amount of US Beatlemaniacs did get a chance to hear Ringo's version in early 1964.)

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 and is the eighth US release of the song.  The album peaked at number 50 on Billboard.

In connection with this 20th anniversary, Capitol released a promo single for radio play in 1982 featuring "Love Me Do" on both sides on the disc, which is somewhat hard to find today.  

To this day, 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 in this form on February 26th, 1987.  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 on September 9th, 2009 into one volume simply entitled "Past Masters."

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 March 10th, 1993, Capitol re-released the "Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You" single as a Cema Series single for jukeboxes only.  This 45, most copies of which were on red vinyl, is becoming quite the collectors' item today. 

But then, 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 Billboard.  This makes release number 11 in the US.  On November 11th, 2013, this album was re-mastered, re-packaged and re-released.  Then comes “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 Billboard.  

A newer release of the song (apart from the reissues of the original US albums in the CD set “The Capitol Albums, Volume 2”) is the amazingly successful compilation album “Beatles 1,” which not only peaked at number one on Billboard on its’ first week, but succeeded in selling over 28 million copies worldwide (10 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 and is the 13th official release of the song in the US.  A re-mastered version of this album was released in 2011.

September 9th, 2009 was the date that the box set “The Beatles In Mono” was released, featuring re-mastered versions of both the Andy White and Ringo mixes of the song.

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 respectfully reached #61 on the Billboard album charts in the US, the highest reaching Ringo album since the 70’s, possibly due to its 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 that also featured the song, as broadcast on a Ringo Starr special on that cable network.

 

"The Quarry Men" at The Casbah Club,1959

Live Performances

“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 performance (albeit a partial performance) of “Love Me Do” in 1964, seeing that their hit catalog of songs progressed quite far by that time.

Their BBC radio performances of the song began on October 25th, 1962, only three weeks after the record was released in Britain.  This was for the show “Here We Go” which aired on October 26th.  Then on November 27th, they performed the song for “The Talent Spot,” which aired on December 4th.  Then on to 1963, with a performance on “Saturday Club” on January 22nd, airing on January 26th.  A live performance for “Parade Of The Pops” occurred on February 20th.  Then we go to an April 4th recording for “Side By Side,” which aired on June 24th.  A June 1st performance of the song for the “Pop Go The Beatles” program aired on June 11th.  Another “Pop Go The Beatles” performance was recorded on July 10th and aired on July 23rd.  And a third “Pop Go The Beatles” performance of the song occurred on September 3rd, which aired on September 10th.  October 16th saw the last BBC recording of the song for “Easy Beat,” which aired on October 20th.

Paul McCartney also sporadically performed the song, in the above mentioned configuration “P.S. Love Me Do,” during his 1989/1990 World Tour.

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.

 

Conclusion

“Love Me Do,” understandably, was a pivotal point in The Beatles career, as well as a milestone that was reached that affected them collectively and individually.  George Harrison, for instance, felt the wrath of his fathers’ anger when he was woken by George’s screaming when the song was played late at night on Radio Luxenbourg.  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 songs’ 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.   

The impact in America was immediate, even without any promotion to back the song.  The Beatles never even performed the song in any American concerts 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.  Nevertheless, 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.  To this day, the song has become one of the most identifiable trademark recordings in The Beatles catalog.


Song Summary

Love Me Do

Written by:  Paul McCartney / John Lennon

  • Song Written: 1958 and May 1962
  • Song Recorded:  September 4, 1962 (Ringo on drums)
  • Song RecordedSeptember 11, 1962 (Andy White on drums)
  • First US Release Date: January 6, 1964
  • First US Album Release: Vee Jay #VJLP 1062 Introducing…The Beatles
  • US Single Release: Tollie #9008
  • Highest Chart Position:  #1 (1 week)
  • British Album Release: Parlophone #PCS3042 "Please Please Me
  • Length: 2:22
  • 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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