When was the “Love Me Do” master tape lost?
To recap: Two versions of the Beatles’ recording of “Love Me Do” for EMI are common (and then there’s the Pete Best one on Anthology 1 from June 6th). One of them had Ringo on drums. The other one had Andy White on drums, and Ringo on a tambourine. Whenever you hear “Love Me Do”, listen for the tambourine. If you can hear it, you’ll know it’s the version with Andy White on drums. If there’s no tambourine present, you’re listening to the one with Ringo Starr on drums. The Ringo version was the first release, it’s the original 1962 Parlophone single 45 – R4949.
The initial pressings for the Parlophone “Love Me Do” singles had red labels with silver print. The catalog number for these pressings is listed on the right side of the label (at the 3 o’clock position) as 45-R 4949. The “45-R” designation identifies it as a 45rpm single and not a 78rpm disc, which were still in use in the U.K. at this time. By 1963 EMI no longer manufactured 78rpm records, and this designation was not longer needed. This is why later pressings of the the “Love Me Do” single only have R 4949 as the catalog number.
A promotional single was pressed prior to the release to the public, and it had a misspelling which was corrected before the general release of the single.
|McCartney was spelt McArtney on the demo record|
When the album “Please Please Me” was released in March, 1963, the song “Love Me Do” was included. However, for the album, producer George Martin elected to use the Andy White version of the song. Or maybe he had to…. More about that later.
If you hear Ringo Starr tell this story in interviews, he is always telling it wrong, he thinks he’s on the album and White’s on the single, but he’s got it backwards. It has later come to light that the master tape of the Ringo version of “Love Me Do” went missing, and it still hasn’t been found. Later releases of the Ringo version of the song have all used an original single as source, including the most recent one on the 2009 Beatles remasters collection.
In America, EMI’s subsidiary Capitol records declined the offer to release “Love Me Do,” but Canada released it on their Capitol of Canada label on February 4, 1963 (Capitol of Canada 72076). It would not be until the first few months of 1964, when “Beatlemania” awoke in the U.S., that Americans would become aware of the song. When the Canadian single started charting as an import in America, Vee Jay records issued it as a single on their Tollie subsidiary label on April 27, 1964 (Tollie T-9008). By May 30, 1964, the single topped the U.S. Billboard charts. The Canadian single was the version with Ringo on drums. The Canadians were sent a UK single (probably the misspelled promo) to use as master for their pressing.
The same is true for the Norwegian pressing from 1964, where even the misspelling carried over from the UK promo label to the official Norwegian label.
Based on all these pieces of evidence, I have come to the conclusion that the original Love Me Do master tape featuring Ringo on drums is likely to have been destroyed as early as in 1962. This explains why George Martin had to use the Andy White version on the album in 1963. Someone probably thought that the single was never going to be reissued, and ditched the master – or more likely used the tape to record something or other over it. Now, go ahead and prove me wrong!
To top it off, here’s Andy White (81 at the time) drumming on “Love Me Do” all over again in a 2010 video recording: