Sixty years of Love Me Do
He had been trotting around to all the record companies in London and played them recordings of the Beatles, hoping to arouse interest in the group. But he got nowhere until he received unexpected help from a clerk at HMV Records in Oxford Street. Epstein had learned that in the offices he had visited in his search for a recording contract for the Beatles, they rarely had tape recorders – but they often had a record player. So he was at HMV on a special errand, as they had a service in which they could transfer tape recordings to discs. The shop’s disc cutter was Jim Foy, who was impressed by the recording and mentioned The Beatles to music publisher Sid Colman.
Colman ran Ardmore and Beechwood, a music publishing company, which, like HMV, was also a subsidiary of EMI. So when Colman heard the record, featuring “Hello Little Girl” and “Till There Was You” from the Decca audition, he urged EMI to sign them simply because he wanted the publishing rights for the original Lennon and McCartney compositions. George Martin heard the same record, “but he’d heard nothing in The Beatles artistically that encouraged him to sign them,” according to Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn. But Colman was able to persuade Len Wood, EMI’s managing director, to sign The Beatles, and Wood chose Martin to work with the band. The rest is history.
(see also David Bedford: Were the Beatles under contract when they recorded at EMI on June 6, 1962?)
October 5, 1962 was the release date of this, the first single from The Beatles, after the group had been to the EMI studios in Abbey Road on three occasions to attempt recording a few songs, “Love Me Do” among them. First with Pete Best behind the drums on June 6. It didn’t sound too good. George Martin happened to discover a thought lost demo disc with the best attempt on the song from that day, while preparing The Beatles Anthology, so it finally got released on Volume 1 in that album series. Pete got fired and Liverpool’s best drummer Ringo Starr entered the picture. The group recorded “Love Me Do” with Ringo on September 4. However, George Martin didn’t think much of the new drummer either, so he hired an external drummer, session man Andy White (27 July 1930 – 9 November 2015) when they made their third attempt September 11. Ringo was relegated to the tambourine, which he never forgot.
But Ringo shouldn’t have held that grudge because it was his version which was selected as the single for release on 5 October 1962. There is reason to believe that the record company did not fully believe that this would be a sustained success, at least they neither kept the two-track session tape recordings, nor did they keep the master tape which was in mono. Regarding the editing sessions that had followed all the various takes, engineer Ron Richards remembers the whole thing being a bit fraught, saying: “Quite honestly, by the time it came out I was pretty sick of it. I didn’t think it would do anything.” Some say that standard procedure at EMI Studios at the time was to erase the original two-track session tape for singles once they had been mixed down to the mono master tape. But in the case of two of the Beatles singles, the mono master tapes are also missing: “Love Me Do”/”P.S. I Love You” and “She Loves You”/”I’ll Get You”. As in general, The Beatles’ session tapes featuring several takes of songs still exist, we are not totally convinced that standard practice was to erase everything. However, at some point the master tape for “Love Me Do” was lost, and so when the song was to be included on the LP “Please Please Me” the following year, they couldn’t find the master tape and had to use the recording with Andy White on the album. That they had kept! Later releases of “Love Me Do” on singles in the UK also featured the Andy White version of the song, including the one released in the so-called “green series” in 1976.
The first time the version with Ringo appeared on LP was in 1980, on the U.S. “Rarities” album. This release concentrated on previously unreleased mixes which were missing from the U.S. Beatles albums on Capitol Records. The Ringo version of “Love Me Do” was included by playing back a Canadian first pressing of the single, which featured Ringo and recording it on to tape as source material. Capitol Records in Canada was quicker to acknowledge the Beatles’ talents than their U.S. division and released the single there on 4 February 1963. That edition, too, was made by taping a British single – so the version on “Rarities” was essentially three generations removed from the master tape.
Also in Norway, where the “Love Me Do”-single wasn’t released until 1964, the Ringo version was used – on account that the Norwegian EMI distributor Carl M Iversen had been using the same method: they had recorded a British demo record of the single as source material to press the Norwegian records. Even the spelling error “McArtney” from the British demo record made it over to the Norwegian single label.
Whenever Ringo’s version of “Love Me Do” appears anywhere, it’s always from a pristine first edition single, several copies have been used over the years as source.
For the 20th anniversary of “Love Me Do” in 1982, an anniversary edition was produced, still containing the Andy White edition of the song. But as this was the era of the maxi-single, a 12-inch version of the single had Ringo’s version included as a bonus track. Here too, a clean original pressing was used, but since a British original was used, it sounded better, and was one generation closer to the master tape than the Canadian-sourced “Rarities” edition.
For the fiftieth anniversary in 2012, yet another anniversary edition was released, this time in a sleeve mimicking the original 1962 standard factory EMI sleeve – although in cardboard and not the thin paper of the original. While they had been meaning to reproduce the original single, they made a couple of mistakes. First of all, they had used the wrong version of the song, the one with Andy White on drums. The two versions are very easy to tell apart as the White version has Ringo playing tambourine whereas on the Ringo version there’s no tambourine present at all. The second mistake was that the label on the B side had the wrong catalogue number. The correct catalogue number for “Love Me Do” / “PS I Love You” on Parlophone is R4949. On the B side of the 2012 anniversary single the number says R4714. That catalogue number actually belongs to Matt Monro’s 1960 single, “Portrait Of My Love” /”You’re The Top Of My Hit Parade”. They corrected the first mistake by pressing a second edition, but the error with the catalogue number was not corrected. If you are a completist, you will of course need them both.
As we can observe, “Love Me Do” has lived on, despite that it stopped at a modest no. 17 in the British charts at the time. Still, it was regarded as a hit, as long as it appeared in the “Top Twenty”. Brian Epstein was accused of buying a great number of the first edition of the single in order to secure its chart position. But Epstein always denied this, the reason for ordering so many copies was because the young people of Liverpool came in droves to his NEMS stores to buy the record. Just like Liverpool’s record buying audience had forced the British division of the Polydor to press a domestic edition of “My Bonnie”, which Epstein’s stores at first had to order from Germany.
On the 27th of April, 1964, Vee-Jay Records released the single in the USA on their Tollie label, the version with White on drums. It went all the way to the toppermost of the poppermost, “Love Me Do” had become a number 1 hit! It also went all the way to number 1 in both Australia and New Zealand.
When the single was re-released in Great Britain (with White) in 1982 for the 20th anniversary, it fared better than the first time, and landed at no 4 in the charts. At the time, a music video was made for the song, using footage of the Beatles miming to the song from a stage in the Little Theatre in Southport, for a documentary about Liverpool’s music scene, called “The Mersey Sound”. There are also scenes from Epstein’s record store.
Ringo Starr released a new recording of “Love Me Do” on his album, “Vertical Man” in 1998. Paul McCartney put together a medley of the A and B-side of the single, which he recorded in 1987 and played it live in Rio de Janeiro in 1990, filming the performance for it to be screened at a John Lennon tribute concert in Liverpool. He also released the studio recording on a special edition of his album “Flowers in the Dirt” under the title “P.S. Love Me Do”. Paul has also been playing “Love Me Do” on his latest concert tour, “Got Back”. Even Pete Best has recorded his own version of “Love Me Do” with his Pete Best Band.
The publishing rights to both sides of the single now belongs to Paul McCartney’s company, as a result of a deal while renegotiating his contract with EMI:
Paul: “Love Me Do” was completely co-written … It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea. We loved doing it, it was a very interesting thing to try and learn to do, to become songwriters. I think why we eventually got so strong was we wrote so much through our formative period. “Love Me Do” was our first hit, which ironically is one of the two songs that we control, because when we first signed to EMI they had a music publishing company called Ardmore and Beechwood which took the two songs, “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”, and in doing a deal somewhere along the way we were able to get them back.