It’s hard to believe, but the first hit by The Beatles is 60 years old! On August 18th, 1962, Ringo Starr played his first gig as a member of The Beatles. Then on September 4th, Ringo recorded “Love Me Do” with the band. The single was released October 5th, 1962 in England.
That first single didn’t set the world on fire, but it did make it to #17 in England. Importantly, it was a self-written song…credited to McCartney-Lennon (as you can see on the label). Producer George Martin had found the group a song he believed would be a big hit, “How Do You Do It”, but The Beatles insisted they wanted to do their own songs.
There are three released versions of ”Love Me Do”. The first was from when The Beatles auditioned for George Martin on June 6th, 1962. Pete Best was still the drummer (that version is on Anthology 1). Martin was not happy with Best’s drumming, and The Beatles replaced Best with Ringo Starr. Ringo recorded the song with The Beatles on September 4th, and that is the version that was eventually used for the British single (and can be found on the Past Masters collection). However, a week later, September 11th, a third version was done with session drummer Andy White. That’s the version released in America on the single and albums.
It wasn’t just the choice of songs and drumming that had to be sorted out. John Lennon sang lead, and also played harmonica. Since the harmonica part overlapped the vocal at one point, George Martin had Paul McCartney sing the “love me do” at the end of the “ple-e-e-ease” so John could start the harmonica on time. Paul said he was nervous, and you can hear it in his voice on the first version. In fact, the biggest difference in the third (American) version isn’t the drumming, it’s that Paul McCartney’s vocals are better.
By the way, George Martin was right about “How Do You Do It”. He produced the song with Gerry and The Pacemakers, and they beat The Beatles to #1 with it. You can hear The Beatles’ version of the song on Anthology 1.
Starting with their first single, The Beatles included good songs on the flip sides. “P.S. I Love You” has an excellent Paul McCartney melody. It would have been considered for the “A-Side”, but the title was the same as a 1930’s song, so it got the “B-Side”.
The three major Beatles singles Capitol turned down in 1963 are “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You”. The other two records, “Do You Want To Know A Secret” and “Twist And Shout”, were released after The Beatles broke in the U.S. in January of 1964. The original three Beatles singles also charted after “I Want To Hold Your Hand” ushered in Beatlemania in the states.
This mass release of singles resulted in The Beatles dominating the Billboard Hot 100, and having the top five hits in April of 1964.
It’s not considered one of The Beatles’ best songs, but “Love Me Do” launched their historic recording career. The bluesy harmonica, and the fact that nothing else sounded like it on the radio at the time, served as a great introduction to the group. The most amazing part is that The Beatles’ songs have remained popular for so many decades.