‘Love Me Do’: The Beatles’ Long Climb To The Top
The Beatles’ debut single was a qualified success in the UK, but had quite a chequered path that eventually took it to No. 1 in America.
On the evening of September 3, 1962, The Beatles were playing in the industrial north of England, at the Queens Hall in Widnes. The following morning John, Paul, George, and Ringo flew to London; the former drummer with Rory Storm and the Hurricane had only been with the other three Beatles for two weeks, having replaced Pete Best. From Heathrow Airport the band was driven to northwest London, to EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, where, smartly dressed in shirts and ties, they were to record what was planned to be their first single for the Parlophone label.
They recorded “Love Me Do” and “How Do You Do It?,” the latter written by Mitch Murray and also briefly in contention for release. A week later, having played the Cavern Club and other gigs in and around Liverpool, The Beatles were back at Abbey Road to re-record “Love Me Do.” This time, George Martin had brought in Andy White, a session drummer; Ringo played tambourine.
The three-hour session on September 11 proved a success and as well as “Love Me Do” they recorded “P.S. I Love You.” Just under a month later, on October 5, The Beatles’ first single was released. This version of “Love Me Do” was the one from September 4, featuring Ringo on drums, and it ended up making No. 17 on the UK charts.
Capitol Records of Canada issued the same version in February 1963, but it failed to excite too many buyers. According to Paul White, the Capitol Records Canada executive in charge of selling The Beatles, it was an inauspicious start. “For my efforts, ‘Love Me Do’ sold 170 copies,” he remembered. “I tried for another record, ‘Please Please Me,’ and that sold about 280. The third record, ‘From Me to You,’ sold 300, and then ‘She Loves You’ was released and went berserk. ‘Love Me Do’ ended up selling close to 100,000 copies.”
Following The Beatles’ success on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, the Capitol Canada single made the Billboard chart at No.81 on April 11, 1964. In the aftermath of the popularity of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in early 1964, Tollie, a subsidiary of Vee Jay (the company that issued the first American singles by The Beatles after EMI’s subsidiary capital declined to release them), put out “Love Me Do” on April 27, 1964.
A week later, the Billboard chart listed both the Capitol Canada and Tollie singles jointly at No. 31; a month after that, starting on May 31, “Love Me Do” spent its solitary week at the top of the Billboard bestseller list. Ironically, this was the recording with Andy White on drums, as Tollie had dubbed their single from the first version on the album, Introducing The Beatles, which had been issued in January 1964.
It’s this one week at No.1 which qualifies “Love Me Do” for The Beatles 1 album and the video that appears on that release is taken from a performance at the Little Theatre, Southport for a BBC TV documentary, The Mersey Sound. While “Love Me Do” wasn’t broadcast in its entirety, additional footage was added to create a new clip featured on the DVD and Blu-ray releases; it’s the one that has Ringo playing drums.
“Love Me Do” is on the Please Please Me album, which can be bought here.