On this date in 1962 “Love Me Do,” the Beatles’ first single (backed by “P.S. I Love You”), was released in Britain, peaking in the charts at No. 17. The song was written several years before it was recorded, and prior to the existence of the Beatles. It was primarily written by Paul McCartney in 1958–1959 while playing truant from school at age 16 and later credited to Lennon–McCartney; John Lennon contributed the middle eight. Lennon later said,
Paul wrote the main structure of this when he was 16, or even earlier. I think I had something to do with the middle … ‘Love Me Do’ is Paul’s song. He wrote it when he was a teenager. Let me think. I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn’t swear to it. I do know he had the song around, in Hamburg, even, way, way before we were songwriters.
McCartney differed somewhat:
‘Love Me Do’ was completely co-written. It might have been my original idea but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was. It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea. We loved doing it, it was a very interesting thing to try and learn to do, to become songwriters. I think why we eventually got so strong was we wrote so much through our formative period. ‘Love Me Do’ was our first hit, which ironically is one of the two songs that we control, because when we first signed to EMI they had a publishing company called Ardmore and Beechwood which took the two songs, ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’, and in doing a deal somewhere along the way we were able to get them back.
Their practice at the time was to scribble songs in a school notebook, dreaming of stardom, always writing “Another Lennon–McCartney Original” at the top of the page. ‘Love Me Do’ is based on two simple chords: G7 and C, before moving to D for its middle eight. It begins with Lennon playing a bluesy dry “dockside harmonica” riff, then features Lennon and McCartney on joint lead vocals, including Everly Brothers-style harmonizing during the beseeching “please” before McCartney sings the unaccompanied vocal line on the song’s title phrase. Lennon had previously sung the title sections, but this change in arrangement was made in the studio under the direction of producer George Martin when he realized that the harmonica part encroached on the vocal (Lennon needed to begin playing the harmonica again on the same beat as the “do” of “love me do”).
‘Love Me Do’ was recorded by the Beatles on three different occasions with three different drummers at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road in London:
- EMI Artist Test on 6 June 1962 with Pete Best on drums. This version (previously thought to be lost) is available on Anthology 1.
- First proper recording session 4 September 1962. In August, Best had been replaced with Ringo Starr. Producer George Martin did not approve of Best’s drumming for studio work. It was the norm at that time to have a specialist studio drummer who knew the ways of studio work. The decision to fire Best was not Martin’s. The Beatles with Starr recorded a version at EMI Studios. They recorded Love Me Do in 15 takes. This version with Starr is available on Past Masters.
- Second recording session 11 September 1962. A week later, The Beatles returned to the same studio and they made a recording of ‘Love Me Do’ with session drummer Andy White on drums. Starr was relegated to playing tambourine. As tambourine is not present on the 4 September recording, this is the easiest way to distinguish between the Starr and White recordings.
First issues of the single, released on Parlophone in the UK on 5 October 1962, featured the Ringo Starr version, prompting Mark Lewisohn to later write: “Clearly, the 11 September version was not regarded as having been a significant improvement after all.”
The Andy White version of the track was included on The Beatles’ debut UK album, Please Please Me, The Beatles’ Hits EP, and subsequent album releases on which “Love Me Do” was included (except as noted below), as well as on the first US single release in April 1964. For the 1976 single re-issue and the 1982 “20th Anniversary” re-issue, the Andy White version was again used. The Ringo Starr version was included on the albums Rarities (American version) and Past Masters, Volume One. The CD single issued on 2 October 1992 contains both versions. The Pete Best version remained unreleased until 1995, when it was included on the Anthology 1 album.
‘Love Me Do,’ featuring Starr drumming, was also recorded eight times at the BBC and played on the BBC radio programs Here We Go, Talent Spot, Saturday Club, Side By Side, Pop Go The Beatles, and Easy Beat between October 1962 and October 1963. The version of ‘Love Me Do’ recorded on 10 July 1963 at the BBC and broadcast on the 23 July 1963 Pop Go the Beatles program can be heard on The Beatles’ album Live at the BBC. The Beatles also performed the song live on the 20 February 1963 Parade of the Pops BBC radio broadcast.
On 4 September 1962, Brian Epstein paid for the Beatles—with Ringo Starr as new drummer—to fly down from Liverpool to London. After first checking into their Chelsea hotel, they arrived at EMI Studios early in the afternoon where they set up their equipment in Studio 3 and began rehearsing six songs including: “Please Please Me”, “Love Me Do” and a song originally composed for Adam Faith by Mitch Murray called “How Do You Do It?” which George Martin “was insisting, in the apparent absence of any stronger original material, would be the group’s first single.” Lennon and McCartney had yet to impress Martin with their songwriting ability, and the Beatles had been signed as recording artists on the basis of their charismatic appeal: “It wasn’t a question of what they could do as they hadn’t written anything great at that time. But what impressed me most was their personalities. Sparks flew off them when you talked to them.” During the course of an evening session that then followed (7:00 pm to 10:00 pm in Studio 2) they recorded “How Do You Do It” and “Love Me Do.” An attempt at “Please Please Me” was made, but at this stage it was quite different from its eventual treatment and it was dropped by Martin. This was a disappointment for the group as they had hoped it would be the B-side to “Love Me Do.”
The Beatles were keen to record their own material, something which was almost unheard of at that time, and it is generally accepted that it is to George Martin’s credit that they were allowed to float their own ideas. But Martin insisted that unless they could write something as commercial as “How Do You Do It?” then the Tin Pan Alley practice of having the group record songs by professional songwriters (which was standard procedure then, and is still common today) would be followed. Ian MacDonald points out, however: “It’s almost certainly true that there was no other producer on either side of the Atlantic then capable of handling the Beatles without damaging them—let alone of cultivating and catering to them with the gracious, open-minded adeptness for which George Martin is universally respected in the British pop industry.” Martin rejects however the view that he was the “genius” behind the group: “I was purely an interpreter. The genius was theirs: no doubt about that.”
Martin came very close to issuing “How Do You Do It?” as the Beatles’ first single (it would also re-appear as a contender for their second single) before settling instead on “Love Me Do”, as a mastered version of it was made ready for release and which still exists in EMI’s archives. Martin commented later: “I looked very hard at ‘How Do You Do It?’, but in the end I went with ‘Love Me Do’, it was quite a good record.” McCartney remarked later, “We knew that the peer pressure back in Liverpool would not allow us to do ‘How Do You Do It’.” This is a reminder that back then the Beatles were very much a Liverpool group with their fan base in their home town. They remained popular favorites at the Cavern for some time before they achieved national recognition in Britain due to relentless radio and concert promotion by Brian Epstein.
I was not aware of the Beatles until they surfaced on South Australian television in 1963. By then Epstein was pushing for an international audience and they eventually came to Adelaide in 1964. I had no idea who they were when they first came on television, but my mum and sisters did. I was 12 and not interested in pop music at all. But we all gathered around the telly one evening to see this new pop marvel. The video set was a crude mockup of the Liverpool Cavern and they appeared in their, now legendary, Beatle suits, boots, and haircuts. I can’t say that I was impressed by the music, but I did like the hair style, and next time I went to the barber’s I asked to have mine cut like theirs – a scandal. It’s laughable now to look at them and realize that they were considered to be long-haired hooligans back then. They look so clean cut. But at that time boys of my generation always had a military “short back and sides,” that is, a little outcrop of hair on top (hidden by an army beret or cap) and razored over the rest. I felt very mod, and somewhat rebellious, when I first appeared at school with a “mop top.” Those were the days.
The obvious choice for a recipe today is lobscouse, or simply scouse, because the dish is a perennial favorite in Liverpool to the point that people from Liverpool are still known as “scousers.” Nineteenth-century sailors made lobscouse by boiling salted meat, onions and pepper, with ship’s biscuit used to thicken the dish, and it became common as a cheap dish in ports such as Liverpool. The shore version of scouse is a stew that is not especially distinctive, and quite similar to Lancashire hotpot and Irish stew, usually of mutton, lamb (often neck) or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots and onions. In Liverpool it is often served with pickles of some sort, onions, beetroot, or cabbage, and bread. This version is a mix of beef and mutton which is quite common. This is my own version, and since I am not from Liverpool I cannot claim that it is truly authentic. But I am sure my scouser friends will approve. Note that there are 6 pounds of vegetables to 1 pound of meat. This is meant to be a very cheap meal. I have no doubt that the Beatles ate a ton of it as growing lads.
½ lb stewing steak, cut into large cubes
½lb lamb breast (or neck), cut into large cubes
1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
4 lb of potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper to taste
Heat some vegetable oil over high heat in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot and brown the meat. Add enough beef stock to cover and simmer gently, covered, for an hour or more. Keep simmering until the meat is tender.
Add the vegetables and more stock as needed so that the stew is fully covered. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Timing here is dependent on how soft you want the vegetables. I err on the al dente side.
Serve in deep bowls with pickled onions and beetroot, and crusty bread.