In the studio

The Beatles recorded ‘Love Me Do’ over three sessions. The first was at their EMI audition on 6 June 1962, featuring Pete Best on drums.

They returned to the song during the 4 September session, where it was considered for release along with ‘How Do You Do It’. The group tackled it again on 11 September, after which it was deemed good enough for release as a single.

Although Ringo Starr had played drums on 4 September, George Martin brought in a session drummer, Andy White, for the subsequent recording, and Starr was relegated to tambourine.

On my first visit in September we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did ‘Please Please Me’. I remember that, because while we were recording it I was playing the bass drum with a maraca in one hand and a tambourine in the other. I think it’s because of that that George Martin used Andy White, the ‘professional’, when we went down a week later to record ‘Love Me Do’. The guy was previously booked, anyway, because of Pete Best. George didn’t want to take any more chances and I was caught in the middle.

I was devastated that George Martin had his doubts about me. I came down ready to roll and heard, ‘We’ve got a professional drummer.’ He has apologised several times since, has old George, but it was devastating – I hated the bugger for years; I still don’t let him off the hook!

Ringo Starr

The presence of the tambourine is the easiest way to distinguish the two recordings. Initial copies of the single had Starr on drums, though the Andy White version became the preferred version from the release of the Beatles Hits EP on 6 September 1963. To consolidate the decision EMI destroyed the master tapes of the 4 September recording.

It is White’s version which appears on the Please Please Me album, though Starr’s drumming can be heard on Past Masters. The recording featuring Pete Best appeared on Anthology 1 in 1995.

George got his way and Ringo didn’t drum on the first single. He only played tambourine.

I don’t think Ringo ever got over that. He had to go back up to Liverpool and everyone asked, ‘How did it go in the Smoke?’ We’d say, ‘B-side’s good,’ but Ringo couldn’t admit to liking the a-side, not being on it.

The relegation of Starr wasn’t the only change made by George Martin to the song.

George Martin said, ‘Can anyone play harmonica? It would be rather nice. Couldn’t think of some sort of bluesy thing, could you, John?’ John played a chromatic harmonica, not a Sonny Boy Williamson blues harmonica, more Max Geldray from the Goon Show

The lyrics crossed over the harmonica solo so I suddenly got thrown the big open line, ‘Love me do’, where everything stopped. Until that session John had always done it; I didn’t even know how to sing it. I’d never done it before. George Martin just said, ‘You take that line, John take the harmonica, you cross over, we’ll do it live’…

I can still hear the nervousness in my voice! We were downstairs in number two studio and I remember looking up to the big window afterwards and George Martin was saying, ‘Jolly good.’

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for Love Me Do

Paul McCartney’s handwritten lyrics for Love Me Do

Chart success

The ‘Love Me Do’ single reached number 17 in the UK charts, with sales mainly concentrated in and around Liverpool.

There were enough fans of The Beatles around because we were playing all over the Wirral, Cheshire, Manchester and Liverpool. We were quite popular, so the sales were real.

First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over. It was the best buzz of all time. We knew it was going to be on Radio Luxembourg at something like 7.30 on Thursday night. I was in my house in Speke and we all listened in. That was great, but after having got to 17, I don’t recall what happened to it. It probably went away and died, but what it meant was that the next time we went to EMI, they were more friendly: ‘Oh, hello lads. Come in.’

There were persistent rumours that Brian Epstein had bulk-bought around 10,000 copies to increase its chart ranking, but these remain unproven.

The best thing was it came into the charts in two days and everybody thought it was a fiddle, because our manager’s stores sent in these returns and everybody down south though, ‘Ah-ha, he’s buying them himself or he’s just fiddling the charts.’ But he wasn’t.

A true stereo remix of ‘Love Me Do’ was the b-side of The Beatles’ final single, ‘Now And Then’, released in November 2023.

‘Love Me Do’ had been de-mixed using Peter Jackson’s MAL (machine-assisted learning) AI, named after The Beatles’ road manager Mal Evans. The technology was first used in the 2021 documentary Get Back.

Previous song: ‘Please Please Me’
Next song: ‘PS I Love You’
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