Love Me Do - Composition, Recordings and Releases

Composition, Recordings and Releases

The song is an early Lennon–McCartney composition, principally written by Paul McCartney in 1958–1959 while playing truant from school at age 16. John Lennon wrote the middle eight. 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 intrinsically a song based around two simple chords: G7 and C, before moving to D for its middle eight. It first profiles Lennon playing a bluesy dry "dockside harmonica" riff, then features Lennon and McCartney on joint lead vocals, including Everly Brothers style harmonising 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 realised 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" although, according to Ian MacDonald, for the earlier 6 June audition the harmonica was overdubbed, allowing Lennon to sing the title phrase unhindered). This is illustrative of the time constraints on this particular session - their first recording session proper; as for instance, when a similar situation later occurred on the "Please Please Me" single session, the harmonica was superimposed afterwards using tape-to-tape overdubbing. Described by MacDonald as "standing out like a bare brick wall in a suburban sitting-room", "Love Me Do" with its stark "blunt working class northerness" rang "the first faint chime of a revolutionary bell" compared to the standard tin pan alley productions occupying the charts at the time.

"Love Me Do" was recorded by the Beatles on three different occasions with three different drummers:

  • The Beatles first recorded it on 6 June 1962 with Pete Best on drums, as part of their audition at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road in London. This version (previously thought to be lost) is available on Anthology 1.
  • By 4 September, Best had been replaced with Ringo Starr (producer George Martin did not approve of Best's drumming; the decision to fire Best was not his, however), and on that day the Beatles with Starr recorded a version again at EMI Studios.
  • One week later, on 11 September, the Beatles returned to the same studio and they made a recording of "Love Me Do" with session drummer Andy White on drums, as Martin was unhappy with Starr's performance on 4 September and he was relegated to playing tambourine. As the tambourine was not included on the 4 September recording, this is the easiest way to distinguish between the Starr and White recordings.

First issues of the single, however, did feature 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". It was also later included on the compilation albums Rarities (American version) and Past Masters, Volume One. The Andy White version of the track was included on the Beatles' debut UK album, Please Please Me, The Beatles' Hits EP, and all subsequent album releases on which "Love Me Do" was included. For the 1976 single re-issue and the 1982 "20th Anniversary" re-issue, the Andy White version was used. 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 programmes 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 programme 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.

In 1969, during the Get Back sessions, the Beatles played the song in a slower, more bluesy form than they had in earlier recordings. This version of "Love Me Do" is one of many recordings made during these sessions and subsequently appeared on some bootlegs. The song featured no harmonica by Lennon, and McCartney sang the majority of the song in the same vocal style he used for "Lady Madonna".

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