Happy 52nd Birthday to the First Beatles Single

Courtesy of mtv.co.uk
Courtesy of mtv.co.uk

On this day in history, the Beatles released their very first single. The 1962 hit, “Love Me Do,” was one of the earliest shots fired in the British invasion. The song was a No. 1 hit in the United States in 1964, and helped launch the mop-topped heartthrobs into unparalleled renown. When it comes to the impact of the Beatles, the first single should probably be neatly filed away next to Neil Armstrong’s footprint and Edison’s light bulb. But “Love Me Do” came from messy beginnings, and there is a lot of strange trivia surrounding its creation. Here are a few things you may not know about the classic.

Paul Wrote it at Age 16 While Skipping School “Love Me Do” was one of the earliest Lennon-McCartney collaborations, but it was principally written by Paul between 1958 and 1959. He was only 16 when he started piecing it together, and they were both truant from school at the time. John Lennon ended up contributing the middle eight, but still described it in later years as “Paul’s song.” “He had the song around, in Hamburg, even, way, way before we were songwriters,” said Lennon. Dreaming of stardom, the pair continued their ritual and scribbled the composition in a school notebook with “Another Lennon-McCartney Original” written at the top of the page. But when John’s Aunt Mimi first heard “Love Me Do,” she told him, “Well, if you think you’re going to make a fortune with that, you’ve got another thing coming.”

Lennon Played it on a Stolen Harmonica As a child, Lennon had learned to play a chromatic harmonica given to him by his Uncle George. But this was not the harmonica that graced the recordings of “Love Me Do.” The one used in the song was stolen by Lennon from an Arnhem music shop in the Netherlands, near the German border. He swiped the instrument in 1960 during the Beatles’ first trip to Hamburg. The pocketed harmonica was also the one used in “Please Please Me” and “From Me to You,” among other early tracks. Paul McCartney recalled, “John expected to be in jail one day and he’d be the guy who played the harmonica.”

Ringo Was Not the Drummer The first recorded version of “Love Me Do” was an EMI Artist Test on June 6th, 1962, and appears on Anthology 1. This version actually featured the Beatles’ original drummer, Pete Best. For the first proper recording session on September 4th, 1962, Best was replaced by Ringo Starr. Producer George Martin did not think Best’s drumming was steady enough for studio work, and it was common practice at the time to have a trained studio drummer sit in on recording sessions. After 15 takes with Starr, the Beatles returned to the studio a week later and recorded it again with session drummer Andy White. In this version, which ended up becoming the popular one, Ringo Starr was demoted to tambourine.

The Original Tapes are Still Missing It is highly doubtful that the original September 4th master tapes even exist today. At Abbey Road Studios, it was standard procedure to erase the original two-track session tapes for singles, once they had been mixed down and made into the backup copies used to press the records. But it was soon discovered that the backup copies were never made. So for many years, the only existing copies of this session were the red label, 45 rpm Parlophone vinyl records pressed in 1962. It was one of these original records that was dusted off and used as the “best available source” for the song’s inclusion on the Capitol compilation, LP Rarities. Four original Beatles recordings were erroneously lost this way, including “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” “She Loves You,” and “I’ll Get You.”

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