On September 4th 1962 The Beatles recorded their first single, Love Me Do, at EMI Studios, Abbey Road.
They had first been to the Studios on June 6th 1962, for their first recording session, but nothing from that session was deemed fit to release as the Beatles first single, even though they did record a version of Love Me Do. It was also the first time George Martin and seen them in person, and he wasn’t keen on the drumming of Pete Best. George thought he wasn’t up to drumming on record, and would have a session drummer playing instead. This meant no sense to the Beatles, and decided to replace Pete with Ringo Starr.
In the morning on September 4th the group had flown down from Liverpool Airport. They checked into The Royal Court Hotel in Sloane Square, Chelsea, and arrived at Abbey Road shortly after midday.
Prior to the recording session The Beatles undertook a rehearsal, overseen by EMI’s Ron Richards, during which they repeatedly ran through six songs. Two of these – Love Me Do and How Do You Do It – were chosen to be recorded by the group. Ringo Starr has just replaced the sacked Pete Best, and was keen to impress. However, during this rehearsal, he tried too hard, and made a real hash of his drumming, which had big consequences for him later on.
The rehearsal lasted between 2pm and 5pm. During it they also played a slower, bluesy version of Please Please Me, which featured George Harrison playing the main motif throughout the song.
Between 5pm and 7pm George Martin took The Beatles and Neil Aspinall for spaghetti at the Alpino restaurant on Marylebone High Street, and impressed them with tales of his recording sessions with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.
The recording session began at 7pm. How Do You Do It had been selected by Martin to be The Beatles’ debut single. The group had been sent an acetate demo of the song, written by songwriter Mitch Murray, which had been recorded earlier in 1962 by Barry Mason and the Dave Clark Five at London’s Regent Sound Studios in Denmark Street.
The Beatles rearranged the song to suit their R&B leanings, replacing much of the carefree bounciness of the original demo. However, the Beatles hated the song, and wanted to do Love Me Do instead. You can tell from every note the Beatles played how much they didn’t want to record it.
Finally, the Beatles began work on Love Me Do, laying down the backing track in around 15 takes. After this the vocals were overdubbed. Paul McCartney was unexpectedly given the vocal spotlight in the chorus, after Martin told the group that John Lennon couldn’t play harmonica and sing at the same time.
Around 17 takes were recorded, and the session over-ran by an hour.
Also present during the September 4th recording session was photographer Dezo Hoffman, who took any pictures of the Beatles what became a very historic day. George Harrison is mainly seen in profile, as just before the session, George was given a black eye by a fan at the Cavern Club. However, in some pictures, George’s shiner is clearly visible!
Even after such a long day in the studio, George Martin still wasn’t happy, and the Beatles had to return to the Studio on September 11th to record Love Me Do all over again. This time, George Martin wasn’t going to take any chances with the drumming, and session musician Andy White played drums, while Ringo was given a tambourine to bang, something he never really forgave George Martin for! However, Ringo played tambourine so loudly, it’s hard to hear Andy Whites drumming!
So, there are 3 different versions of Love Me Do released, with 3 different drummers! The Pete Best version is on Anthology One, the Ringo version was on the first single release (funny how this version was chosen, and not the Andy White one!) and Andy White is on the version of the Please Please Me Album.
The different version have caused much confusion over the years. In 2012 EMI planned re-release Love Me Do on it’s 50th anniversary, with an exact replica of the recordings and cover. However, they used the Andy White version by mistake. Thousands of copies of the single had to be send back and thrown away, while the correct version was released! I kept my copy :>)
We go to Abbey Road on my London Beatles Walks – for more info see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com