Love Me Do
The Beatles insisted on recording a Lennon & McCartney original for their first single. George Martin was not convinced.
George Martin knew he had taken a risk signing The Beatles. For their first single, he wanted to play safe by recording something with obvious hit potential. He thought he had found it in a song by Mitch Murray, a young British songwriter.
I was convinced that How Do You Do It? was a hit song. Not a great piece of songwriting, not the most marvellous song I had ever heard in my life, but I thought it had that essential ingredient which would appeal to a lot of people. George Martin interviewed for Anthology 1
To his surprise, the novice band turned it down. ‘We couldn’t sing that in Liverpool,’ they told him. ‘We want to record one of our own songs.’
Martin now had a problem. He had already decided that the original songs they had played for him were ‘crap’. But The Beatles refused to play ball, stubbornly insisting that Lennon & McCartney were a better bet than Mitch Murray. And the song they suggested was not an obvious showstopper but a mid-tempo number which is arguably one of their least distinctive compositions.
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. John Lennon in David Sheff’s : All We Are Saying).
Ironically both parties would be vindicated. Hindsight suggests that George Martin’s original judgement about the commercial viability of HOW DO YOU DO IT was right. In March, 1963, Gerry & the Pacemakers took it to the top of the UK charts.
Lennon & McCartney didn’t do badly either.
Reluctantly, Martin allowed The Beatles to record LOVE ME DO — the song he considered the best of a bad bunch. The Beatles approved, knowing that the song was very popular live. Recording it, however, would prove problematic.
The first (test) session took place at Abbey Road in June 1962. It proved a very unhappy one for Pete Best — who was unfamiliar with the very precise demands of studio drumming. Best had played the song live countless times but could not keep time in the way required for the recording. This would prove fatal for his career as a Beatle.
By the time of the second session, in September, Best had been sacked and replaced by Ringo Starr — but again the result was not what Martin needed. A week later Ringo was relegated to playing the tambourine, while session drummer Andy White played drums.
LOVE ME DO was released on October 5, 1962. It performed very modestly in the UK chart, reaching number 17. Even this flattered the number of real sales, as Brian had bought had bought numerous copies from key record shops. An initial US release in February 1963 also had little impact.
Long term, however, The Beatles had made an important statement, establishing the credibility of the Lennon & McCartney songwriting partnership. LOVE ME DO would appear on few lists of favourite Beatles tracks but for a British group to have even a minor hit with their own composition was a major leap forward.
There were various re-releases but the first to use the Pete Best version did not appear until the release of Anthology 1 in 1995. Paul McCartney personally phoned Best to tell him the news that his brief recording career with The Beatles was finally paying dividends. Thirty years after the Abbey Road session, he was to become a millionaire.