“Love Me Do”: The Beatles First Record

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

I didn't know it myself, but October 5, 1962 was a hugely significant date in the history of pop culture. It was on this date that the first official Beatles record was released, and also, the first James Bond film Dr. No with the great Sean Connery, was released. Has there ever been a more incredible date in the history of pop culture?

Okay, I like James Bond fine, but I am a layman with 007 and his history, so I’ll write this article about the Beatles, my very favorite pop culture subject.

"Love Me Do" wasn't "technically" the Fab Four's first record. They had made some cheapie recordings in Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany, where they were a very popular club band in the early '60's, before they became famous.

They made a few recordings as a backing band for a singer named Tony Sheridan, and were billed as “The Beat Brothers" on these records. The then-strange name “The Beatles" was translated in German to "peedles,” meaning the male sex organ, so the "Beatles" name was left off the record label for obvious reasons- “The Beat Brothers" used in its stead.

"Love Me Do" was, by most accounts, a Paul McCartney song, one of his earliest. Oddly though, Paul was later to credit it as "50-50,” him and John Lennon together. Even odder, George Martin, the Beatles producer erroneously credits it as "a John song."

The song was originally supposed to be sung by John, but as John had to play harmonica on it, it was given over to Paul. Paul claims he can still hear the nerves in his voice as he listens to "Love Me Do" to this day.

"Love Me Do" was recorded by the Beatles in their first recording studio visit at Abbey Road Studio on June 6, 1962, with their pre-Ringo drummer, Pete Best. Poor Pete, his drumming was pretty crummy that day and this was to be a huge factor in him getting the sack in August of '62 and Ringo stepping into history.

On September 4th, 1962, the four Beatles (now complete with Ringo) together as a group for less than a month, happily (albeit extremely nervously) trooped into Abbey Road Studios to record "Love Me Do" once again, this time with Ringo.

"Love Me Do" took 15 takes to get right that historic day (or so they thought at the time). Unused to headphones, also stiff with nerves- these factors contributed to the then-excessive number of tries. Not getting it quite right, the boys were invited back to Abbey Road to try again a week later.

Ringo happily reported to his next Beatle recording session on September 11th of '62, and was coldly and patronizingly handed a tambourine to play. A much-used session drummer named Andy White was brought in to fill in on the drums.

According to Abbey Road's general manager Ken Townshend, the song's composer (Paul) was as dissatisfied as producer George Martin with Ringo's September 4th approach to "Love Me Do.” Paul was to put a different spin on this story when interviewed 25 years later and stated that Ringo had failed to "lock in" his bass drum with Paul's bass guitar, necessitating the fill-in drumming of White.

Ringo was heartsick and thought "they were doing a Pete Best on me.” Of course, his worries were needless, as Ringo was to be the perfect fit in the Fab Four, but the poor guy didn't know that then.

Ringo and Andy both played drums on various takes and versions of the song that day. The final released version of "Love Me Do" features Ringo playing on the single, but Andy White drumming on the version used on the Beatles first album Please Please Me, released a few months later.

Beatles producer George Martin was later to apologize to Ringo for the Andy White replacement thing. Ringo later admitted that it took him years to completely forgive Martin for his lack of trust and confidence.

John Lennon played a shoplifted harmonica on "Love Me Do.” While the Beatles were traveling through Holland several months earlier, Lennon the mischief-maker had pocketed the shiny, new instrument from a local music shop, much to the shock and surprise of his bandmates. (Over the years, several Beatles fans have located this Holland music shop and "re-paid" the establishment's owner for Lennon's thievery.)

"Love Me Do" was released on October 5, 1962. It slowly climbed the record charts (the Beatles celebrating wildly with every chart advance) until it peaked at number 17 in December. This was to be record's high point.

Rumors swirled around at the time, in and around Liverpool, that Beatles manager Brian Epstein had bought 10,000 copies of "Love Me Do" himself, to boost the record's sales and status. This strange rumor has never, to this day, been proven or disproved.

George Harrison was never to forget the thrill of hearing "Love Me Do" on the radio for the first time and "going shivery" all over. Although George was to conquer the world as a member of the Beatles, he always said hearing "Love Me Do" on the radio was "the biggest buzz ever."

(YouTube link)

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Usually whichever of the Lennon/McCartney team wrote most or all of the song took the lead vocal except for when they specifically wrote for George or Ringo. With John being the original choice to sing lead it makes me think he was the main contributor of the song, especially with the harmonica being the main ingredient. So maybe Sir George Martin was correct in saying it was Johns. Great info Eddie!
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