Recording: How Do You Do It, Love Me Do

Studio Two/Three, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Following The Beatles’ first session for EMI on 6 June 1962, they returned for a second attempt at recording their debut single. This was Ringo Starr’s first recording session with the group.

In the morning the group had flown down from Liverpool Airport. They checked into a hotel in Chelsea, and arrived at Abbey Road shortly after midday.

Prior to the recording session The Beatles undertook a three-hour rehearsal in Studio Three, overseen by EMI’s Ron Richards, during which they repeatedly ran through six songs. Two of these – ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘How Do You Do It’ – were chosen to be recorded by the group. The others were likely to have been ‘Tip Of My Tongue’, ‘Ask Me Why’, ‘PS I Love You’, and ‘Please Please Me’.

The rehearsal lasted between 2pm and 5pm. They played a slower, bluesy version of ‘Please Please Me’, which featured George Harrison playing the main motif throughout the song.

At that stage ‘Please Please Me’ was a very dreary song. It was like a Roy Orbison number, very slow, bluesy vocals. It was obvious to me that it badly needed pepping up. I told them to bring it in next time and we’d have another go at it.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Between 5pm and 7pm George Martin took The Beatles and Neil Aspinall for spaghetti at the Alpino restaurant on Marylebone High Street, and impressed them with tales of his recording sessions with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

‘How Do You Do It’ had been selected by Martin to be The Beatles’ debut single. The group had been sent an acetate demo of the song, written by songwriter Mitch Murray, which had been recorded earlier in 1962 by Barry Mason and the Dave Clark Five at London’s Regent Sound Studios.

Murray had hoped the song would be recorded and released by Adam Faith. Instead, The Beatles rearranged the song to suit their R&B leanings, replacing much of the carefree bounciness of the original demo. When Gerry and the Pacemakers eventually took the song to number one in 1963, they based their recording on The Beatles’ arrangement.

[George Martin] knew it was a number one hit so he gave us it on a demo, a little white acetate. We took it back to Liverpool and said, ‘What are we gonna do with this? This is what he wants us to do, he’s our producer, we’ll have to do it, we’ll have to learn it.’ So we did, but we didn’t like it and we came back to George and said ‘Well it may be a number one but we just don’t want this kind of song, we don’t want to go out with that kind of reputation. It’s a different thing we’re going for, it’s something new.’ I suppose we were quite forceful really, for people in our position. And he understood. George later took our demo and played it to Gerry [and the Pacemakers] and said ‘They don’t want it, it’s a major hit, you do it’ and Gerry leapt at the chance. He kept it very similar in tempo to our version which was quite changed from the original demo because it was our arrangement, basically.

The recording session began in Studio Two at 7pm. Although they dutifully recorded an unknown number of takes of ‘How Do You Do It’, The Beatles were reluctant to have a non-original song as their debut single. The Beatles’ reluctance was noted by Martin, who agreed to give their original compositions a chance.

The recording remained unreleased until it appeared on 1995’s Anthology 1. For what it was worth, music publisher Dick James considered The Beatles’ version to be inferior to the demo.

The Beatles then began work on ‘Love Me Do’, laying down the backing track in around 15 takes. After this the vocals were overdubbed. Paul McCartney was unexpectedly given the vocal spotlight in the chorus, after Martin told the group that John Lennon couldn’t play harmonica and sing at the same time.

God, I got the screaming heebegeebies. I mean he suddenly changed this whole arrangement that we’d been doing forever, and John was to miss out that line: he’d sing “Pleeeeease”, put his mouth-organ to his mouth, I’d sing “love me do” and John would come in “Waahhh wahhhh wahhhhhh”. We were doing it live, there was no real overdubbing, so I was suddenly given this massive moment, on our first record, no backing, where everything stopped, the spotlight was on me and I went [in shaky singing voice] “Love me doooo”. And I can still hear the shake in my voice when I listen to that record! I was terrified. When we went back up to Liverpool I remember talking to Johnny Gustafson of the Big Three and he said “You should have let John sing that line”! John did sing it better than me, he had a lower voice and was a little more bluesy at singing that line.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The session was due to finish at 10pm, but overran until 11.15. After The Beatles had left both songs were mixed and pressed onto acetate for George Martin and Brian Epstein to listen to the following day.

Last updated: 14 July 2022
The Beatles live: Queen's Hall, Widnes
The Beatles live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
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