The Pop History Dig

“Please Please Me”
1962-1964

The Beatles’ first No. 1 hit in the U.K., “Please Please Me,” came in February 1963 on Parlophone records.
The Beatles’ first No. 1 hit in the U.K., “Please Please Me,” came in February 1963 on Parlophone records.
     The song that really helped kick start the Beatles’ rocket ride to international fame and fortune in the early 1960s was “Please Please Me.”  In the U.K. fifty years ago, in February 1963, “Please Please Me” was the song that first sent the Beatles’ music to the top of the music charts — their first No. 1 hit. It was also the song that energized “Beatlemania” in the U.K. – the screaming crowds that began besieging the Beatles at their stage appearances, generating media attention far and wide.  “Please Please Me,” in fact, was the tipping point – the take-off song that changed everything.  Within a year of this song’s release, the Beatles would be a worldwide phenomenon, their music selling practically everywhere.

     True, the Beatles’ first hit song was “Love Me Do,” which rose to No.17 on the U.K. charts in November 1962.  But “Please Please Me,” their second single, was the Beatles’ first popular “hard rocking” song; the song that captured their youthful exuberance and musical drive.  It was also the song that first offered that unique “Beatles’ sound”– an appealing mix of young male vocals in sync with driving guitars.  “Please Please Me” captured that sound in an aggressive and engaging way.  It was feel good music that was fresh, open, and hopeful.  The public ate it up. 

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“Please Please Me”-1963

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     John Lennon sang lead and played harmonica on the song, George Harrison played lead guitar, Paul McCartney was on bass, and drummer Ringo Starr delivered the back beat.  McCartney and Harrison also supplied the harmony and background vocals.  It was a sound the world hadn’t quite heard before – and a sound, as time would tell, that would turn music to gold.

1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
     Initially, however, “Please Please Me,” as originally written by John Lennon, didn’t have the chops to make it as a No. 1 hit – at least not in the eyes of George Martin, the person then in control of the Beatles’ fate in their first London recording sessions.  In fact, “Please Please Me” almost didn’t make it at all.

     In the U.S., meanwhile, this song also had something of a tortured history.  Although it was released in America in early 1963 as it had been in Britain, it went largely unnoticed.  “Please Please Me” would not fully emerge as a U.S. hit until more than a year later, in March 1964, when it would join four other Beatles’ songs to occupy the top five positions on the U.S. Billboard charts.  But the story of “Please Please Me” in America captures some of the confusion, bungled business opportunities, and the general whirlwind that came with the Beatles euphoria in those crazy early days.  More on that in a moment.

Sheet music cover for the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” issued by Dick James Music, Ltd., London.
Sheet music cover for the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” issued by Dick James Music, Ltd., London.
     “Please Please Me” was a John Lennon composition.  Lennon described the inspiration for the song as coming from a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby influences.  He wrote the song at his aunt Mimi’s house, having been listening at the time to some Roy Orbison tunes.  Lennon was also taken with a line from Bing Crosby’s 1932 song, “Please” – the line being, “Please lend your little ears to my pleas…”  Lennon said he loved “the double use of the word ‘please’.” 

     Paul McCartney pointed back to Orbison’s style.  “If you imagine [Please Please Me] much slower,” McCartney said of the song, “which is how John wrote it, it’s got everything.  The big high notes, all the hallmarks of a Roy Orbison song.”

     In 1962 Lennon’s song was offered initially at the Beatles’ first London studio session in its slower form.  George Martin, the studio engineer and manager of EMI’s Parlophone label, and the guy who had signed the Beatles in 1962, did not like Lennon’s song when he first heard it.  He found it too slow and reportedly called it “a dirge” at one point.  He suggested the song’s tempo be sped up and that the Beatles try a different arrangement.  Reportedly, Martin also played a sped-up taped version of the song from an earlier recording that served as something of an “ah-ha” moment for the group.  But Martin wanted the Beatles to record another song at their next session at Abbey Road studios on November 26th, 1962, one the Beatles had not written themselves.

Early Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” released in the U.S. 1963, is distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
Early Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” released in the U.S. 1963, is distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
     However, the Beatles prevailed on Martin to let them take another crack at “Please Please Me.”  They had taken Martin’s suggestions on the song, sped it up, and added Lennon’s harmonica to the arrangement.  “We lifted the tempo, and suddenly there was that fast Beatles’ spirit,” McCartney later recalled.  The song was now much better.  Still, it went through a series of more than a dozen studio takes before Martin was satisfied – and this time, he liked what he heard.  “Gentlemen,” he is reported to have said from the recording booth to the group after the new version was completed, “I think you’ve got your first Number One.”  After the Beatles’ first national TV appearance on U.K.’s Thank Your Lucky Stars show on January 19, 1963– which featured “Please, Please Me” – the song began its rise on the U.K. singles charts, hitting No. 1 on February 22nd, 1963.

     In the U.S., meanwhile, George Martin had sent a copy of “Please Please Me” to EMI’s U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, in January 1963, urging executives there to distribute Beatles’ songs in the U.S.  They declined, saying famously: “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.”  Atlantic Records was also offered a chance to distribute “Please Please Me” in the U.S., but they also declined.  At that point, other record labels began looking at the Beatles’1963 songs for U.S. release.  One of these labels was Vee-Jay out of Chicago, an African American-owned label founded in the 1950s specializing in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
     On January 25, 1963, Vee-Jay obtained a U.S. contract to release a limited number of Beatles records for short time period.  Sometime in February 1963, “Please Please Me,” w/ “Ask Me Why” on the B side,  was released as a single on the Vee-Jay label.  The song was played on Chicago’s WLS radio station where it rose to No. 35 on WLS music survey in March 1963.  But “Please Please Me” did not chart nationally on Billboard at the time.  The record, in fact, was a commercial flop at that point, selling fewer than 7,500 copies.

     Back in Britain in 1963, “Please Please Me” was doing so well that Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein pulled the Beatles off their tour schedule to record their first album, naming it Please Please Me to capitalize on the popularity of the single.  Some 14 songs – including “I Saw Her Standing There” as the lead track – were compiled for that album in one day after nine hours of recording over three sessions.  The new Please Please Me album was released in late March 1963.  Within four weeks it would be No.1 on the U.K. albums chart, remaining in that position for 30 weeks.  New Beatles’ singles were also released in the U.K. through 1963, and these resulted in three more No. 1 hits: “From Me to You” w/ “Thank You Girl” in April 1963; “She Loves You,” w/ “I’ll Get You” in August 1963 ( which achieved the fastest sales of any record in the U.K. up to that time, selling 750,000 copies in less than four weeks); and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” w/ “This Boy” in November 1963, which had 1 million advance U.K. orders.

April 1963: Beatles with George Martin at EMI House in central London receiving their first silver disc for sales of more than 250,000 copies of “Please, Please Me.”
April 1963: Beatles with George Martin at EMI House in central London receiving their first silver disc for sales of more than 250,000 copies of “Please, Please Me.”
     In the U.S., meanwhile, Brian Epstein in November 1963 phoned Capitol Records president, Alan Livingston, about the label’s refusal to distribute Beatles songs in America.  Epstein played the Beatles’ latest U.K. hit song for Livingston over the phone — “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – and also mentioned to Livingston that the group was scheduled for February 1964 TV appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Livingston agreed to begin spending some serious money distributing and promoting Beatles’ songs in the U.S.  On December 4th, 1963, Capitol announced it would begin selling “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in mid-January 1964.  But after a few radio DJ’s in America began playing the song, Capitol undertook a rush production schedule to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” then targeting release for the day after Christmas, December 1963.

Vee-Jay’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
Vee-Jay’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
     On January 3, 1964, Jack Paar, host of the late night U.S. TV talk show, “The Jack Paar Show,” aired a filmed segment of a Beatles’ performance of “She Loves You” from England.  It was the first complete Beatles song aired on American TV, and for many Americans, the first time they had seen or heard the Beatles.  Meanwhile, Capitol Records’ early release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” proved wildly successful.  By January 10, 1964, two weeks after the release, the single has sold 1 million copies – a staggering number at that time for an unknown music group from overseas.

     Vee-Jay records, for its part, seeing the rising tide for all things Beatles, decided to take another shot at “Please Please Me,” and in mid-January 1964 re-issued the single, this time, with “From Me To You” on the “B” side.  Some of Vee-Jay’s promotional record sleeves for the single featured headlines printed on the jacket that read: “The Record That Started Beatlemania,” and other text description noting the Beatles’ clip on The Jack Paar Show, their upcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearances, and press coverage in Time, Life and Newsweek magazines.  “This Is The Record That Started It All,” said the Vee-Jay record sleeve.  By January 25, “Please Please Me” finally entered the American Billboard chart at No. 69, soon rising to No. 1.  Vee-Jay would sell at least 1.1 million copies of “Please Please Me” in its second offering, and would also sell at least four other Beatles’ singles, as well as the Beatles’ first U.S. album, Introducing…The Beatles, which came out ten days before Capitol’s Meet the Beatles!, also in January 1964.

Cover sleeve for the re-issued single of the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” in America by Vee-Jay Records.
Cover sleeve for the re-issued single of the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” in America by Vee-Jay Records.
     “Please Please Me,” however, was just the beginning of the Beatles’ phenomenal rise in America during 1964.  After their first national TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 8th when more than 70 million tuned in, their songs dominated the American music charts.  In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100.  In fact, between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S.  Fifteen of their recordings in 1964 – nine singles and six albums – each sold one million or more copies, representing total Beatles’ record sales that year of more than 25 million copies.

     “Please Please Me” may not be regarded as the Beatles’ best song ever by music critics or many of their fans, but it is certainly among the most important for launching their career, energizing their early style, and showing how adaptable and creative they could be when faced with criticism in the studio.  In a special Rolling Stone magazine supplement of November 2010 reviewing the Beatles’ 100 greatest songs, “Please Please Me” is ranked at No. 20.  Today, the song is still sold and downloaded by fans via Amazon.com, Apple’s iTunes music store, and other music sellers.  For other stories on the Beatles at this website see “Beatles History: Eight Stories,” a sub-directory page with other Beatles’ story choices.  Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle


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Date Posted: 1 February 2013
Last Update: 4 February 2013
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Please Please Me, 1962-1964,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 1, 2013.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

April 1963 poster for concert in Northwich, England with the Beatles at the top of the bill not long after “Please Please Me” hit the top of the charts. Small print above their name reads “Hit recorders of ‘Please Please Me’.”  Poster was later sold at Christies in London, 2012.
April 1963 poster for concert in Northwich, England with the Beatles at the top of the bill not long after “Please Please Me” hit the top of the charts. Small print above their name reads “Hit recorders of ‘Please Please Me’.” Poster was later sold at Christies in London, 2012.
The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, released in the U.K. late March 1963, hit No. 1 in April and held that position for 30 weeks.
The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, released in the U.K. late March 1963, hit No. 1 in April and held that position for 30 weeks.

“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.

Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n Roll, New York: Random House, revised edition, 1992, pp. 209-222.

Frederick Lewis, “Britons Succumb to ‘Beatlemania’,” New York Times Magazine, December 1, 1963.

Lawrence Malkin, “Liverpudlian Frenzy; British Beatles Sing Up a Teen-Age Storm,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1963, p. G-4.

Jack Gould, “TV: It’s the Beatles (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah); Paar Presents British Singers on Film,” New York Times, Saturday, January 4, 1964, Business, p 47.

CBS, Inc., Press Release, “The Beatles to Make Three Appearances on Sullivan Show,” February 3, 1964.

Richie Unterberger, Beatles Song Review, “Please Please Me,” AllMusic.com.

“Please Please Me” (song), Wikipedia.org.

“The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs,” Rolling Stone, November 2010.

Bill Harry, The Beatles Encyclopedia: Revised and Updated. London: Virgin Publishing, 2000.

“Introducing… The Beatles,” Wikipedia.org.

Dennis McLellan, “Alan W. Livingston Dies at 91; Former President of Capitol Records,” Los Angles Times, March 14, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Beatles’ Closed-Circuit Gig, March 1964″(Beatles’ first U.S. concert appearance in Washington, DC & related U.S. theater showings), PopHistoryDig.com, July 9, 2008.

Jack Doyle, “Dear Prudence, 1967-1968″(Beatles’ retreat in India & song trove developed thereafter), PopHistoryDig.com, July 27, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Beatles in America, 1963-1964″ (frenetic early years of Beatles’ popularity & music success) PopHistoryDig.com, September 20, 2009.

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“Love Me Do”
1962-2012

Beatles shown on a Parlophone record sleeve for “Love Me Do” –  billed as “a great new group from Liverpool.”
Beatles shown on a Parlophone record sleeve for “Love Me Do” – billed as “a great new group from Liverpool.”
     On October 5th, 1962 – more than 50 years ago – the Beatles’ first major hit song was released, “Love Me Do.”  It was recorded by the famous group during some of their first sessions at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London during June and September 1962.  EMI was then regarded as one of the most prestigious recording companies in the U.K., and the Beatles, through the persistent efforts of their manager, Brian Epstein, were fortunate to even have had a chance with EMI.  “Love Me Do” was also among the first of the “Lennon-McCartney” hit songs – those written jointly by Beatles’ singer-songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  In this case, “Love Me Do” had originated in 1958 from Paul’s schoolboy song scribblings – something both he and Lennon did in their dreaming about musical stardom.

     Some years later, John Lennon would say that “Love Me Do” was “Paul’s song.”  Lennon explained that McCartney had written it when he was about 15-16 years old, adding, “I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn’t swear to it…”  Lennon did say, however, that the song had been around awhile, and the Beatles had used it in their early performing – “in Hamburg even, way, way before we were songwriters.”  McCartney, was more generous about Lennon’s involvement with the song, saying that “Love Me Do” was “completely co-written.  It might have been my original idea, but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was.  It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea.”

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“Love Me Do” – 1962 (UK), 1964(US)

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     In any case, the song would rise on the British music charts during October and November 1962, reaching No. 17, making it the Beatles’ first Top 20 hit.  However, the song wouldn’t arrive in the America until 1964.  But for the Beatles, that wasn’t even a consideration at the time.  They were just thrilled to have their first major recording.

Beatles’ 1962 hit “Love Me Do” shown on Parlophone 45 rpm record label, EMI, produced by George Martin.
Beatles’ 1962 hit “Love Me Do” shown on Parlophone 45 rpm record label, EMI, produced by George Martin.
     “For me that was more important than anything else,” Ringo Starr would say of their breakthrough hit.  “That first piece of plastic.  You can’t believe how great that was.  It was so wonderful.  We were on a record!”  John Lennon put it this way: “In Hamburg we clicked.  At the Cavern we clicked.  But if you want to know when we ‘knew’ we’d arrived, it was getting in the charts with ‘Love Me Do’.  That was the one.  It gave us somewhere to go.”  George Harrison recalled it as the song that opened the doors:

“First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over.  It was the best buzz of all time.  We knew it was going to be on Radio Luxembourg at something like 7:30 on a Thursday night.  I was in my house in Speke and we all listened in.  That was great, but after having got to 17 [on the charts] I don’t recall what happened to it.  It probably went away and died, but what it meant was that the next time we went to EMI, they were more friendly:  ‘Oh, hello lads.  Come in.’”

Brian Epstein, Beatles manager & Liverpool record store owner.
Brian Epstein, Beatles manager & Liverpool record store owner.
     “Love Me Do” – with “P.S. I Love You” on the B side – became the Beatles debut single in the U.K.  The song’s production had the guiding hand of George Martin, then manager of one of four record labels at EMI, his being Parlophone, on which “Love Me Do” first appeared, as shown above.  Martin, however, had not produced much pop music, though he had done well with some show tunes and comedy recordings, and had also worked with artists such as Shirley Bassey.

     The Beatles wanted to record their own material, something which was almost unheard of at that time.  George Martin would help them do that, but not initially, as Martin had been schooled in the “Tin Pan Alley” tradition where outside professional writers provided the songs for performers.  “Tin Pan Alley” refers both to an actual area of New York city where a concentration of professional writers and music publishers worked, and also to that particular style of music business and production, found in other major cities as well.

     George Martin had first met with Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, in February 1962, after putting him off repeatedly.  Martin listened to a tape the Beatles had recorded at Decca, one of several recording labels which had turned down the group.  Martin found the Beatles’ tape “rather unpromising,” but he liked the sound of Lennon and McCartney’s vocals.  After another meeting with Epstein in May at the Abbey Road studios, Martin was impressed with Epstein’s enthusiasm and verbally agreed to sign the unknown Beatles without having met them or seen them play live.  Turns out, EMI wasn’t gambling much on that commitment, as the terms offered  were decidedly in EMI’s favor.

1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
     A first audition came in June 1962, with the arriving Beatles described as being “in awe” of the studio.  That audition yielded a tape that Martin – who had not been at the session – listened to at the session’s end.  He found their original songs lacking, and also lectured them about what it would take to make it, during which they listened politely and were silent.  Acknowledging he was a bit harsh on them, Martin then asked if there was anything troubling them, or if  there was something they were not happy with, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.”  That remark, reportedly, became a turning point for Martin, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay as well, which made Martin think they should be signed for their wit alone.  He would later say that it was the Beatles’ “cheeky charm” that won him over.

     Martin would also later acknowledge that Brian Epstein was key to the Beatles’ signing at EMI and their early success.  “Individually [the Beatles] may have written and published a few songs,” Martin would say of the Beatles without Epstein’s early help.  And they would have been very popular in Liverpool.  But without Epstein, Martin believed, they wouldn’t have risen to worldwide fame.  “His faith [in the Beatles] never wavered.”  Epstein, who was also from Liverpool, had discovered the Beatles through his work at the family business, North End Music Stores (NEMS), which he had turned into a top regional record retailer, and later, through NEMS Enterprises, managed other artists as well.  Tragically, Epstein died of a an accidental barbiturate sleeping pill-and-achohol combination in August 1967 at the age of 43.

The Beatles at work, EMI studios, Abbey Road, London, England, Tuesday, 4 September 1962. From left: Ringo, George, John and Paul.  Photo: Dezo Hoffmann.
The Beatles at work, EMI studios, Abbey Road, London, England, Tuesday, 4 September 1962. From left: Ringo, George, John and Paul. Photo: Dezo Hoffmann.

     At the time of the Beatles’ first sessions at Abbey Road, Martin wanted the group to record “How Do You Do It?,” a song written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callender – a song that had been offered to British teen star, Adam Faith, but rejected.  The Beatles rehearsed the song, but weren’t thrilled about recording it.  However, Martin told them unless they could write something as commercial as “How Do You Do It?,” the Tin Pan Alley formula of using outside material would prevail.  So the Beatles recorded it along with a few of their own songs.

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“P.S. I Love You” – 1962

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     Although Martin would be proven right about “How Do You Do It ?” – which later became a hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers – in the end he allowed the Beatles’ own material to go out on their first single, with “Love Me Do” being the primary tune.  The Beatles also wanted “Please, Please Me” to be the “B” side of that single, but “P.S. I Love You” was used instead – a somewhat overlooked song in Beatles history.  “P.S. I Love You” – also a Lennon-McCartney composition – was composed with female listeners in mind.  The Beatles had used the song as part of their Cavern Club set list and it had become a fan favorite.  The tune includes some innovative mixing and interspersing of background vocals

 

Harmonica Sound

U.K. poster for June 21,1962 concert with Bruce Channel and The Beatles.
U.K. poster for June 21,1962 concert with Bruce Channel and The Beatles.
     A part of the sound that distinguished “Love Me Do,” however, and one that would become a part of the Beatles’ early trademark on several of their early songs, was the harmonica – played by John Lennon.  Some accounts credit George Martin with urging that the harmonica be used in the song, while others report that it was the harmonica sound that had attracted Martin to the song, and was already part of how the Beatles had been performing it in the clubs.  Lennon had learned to play the harmonica after his Uncle George gave him one as a young boy.

     But in 1962, around the time the Beatles were recording “Love Me Do,” there were two popular songs out with harmonica parts that had caught Lennon’s attention – “Hey Baby” by U.S. singer Bruce Channel (No. 1 U.S. March 1962) and “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield (No. 1, U.K. July 1962).  Brian Epstein, in fact, also handled a booking for Bruce Channel at a NEMS concert in Wallasey, England on June 21, 1962, just a few weeks after Channel’s “Hey Baby” had charted.  The Beatles would be on that bill as well, at second billing, a prestigious slot at the time.  But Lennon was quite taken with Channel’s harmonica player, Delbert McClinton, and during their joint billing, Lennon asked McClinton for advice on how to play the instrument.  At any rate, the harmonica sound would become a featured and background instrument on other Beatles songs including: “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Chains,” “There’s a Place,” “Thank You Girl,” “I’ll Get You,” “Little Child,” I’m A Loser,” “The Fool On The Hill” and “Rocky Raccoon.”

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“Hey Baby”- Bruce Channel

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     “Love Me Do,” meanwhile, was not promoted by EMI.  Brian Epstein, however, did what he could to generate interest, both in the song and on the news that the Beatles had signed with EMI.  In one press release for the single that was sent out, there were several exaggerated claims about the Beatles’ rising popularity, and also an amusing passage from John Lennon describing how the Beatles determined their name:  “…It came to us in a vision.  A man descended unto us astride a flaming pie and spake these words unto us saying ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an ‘A’.  Thus it did come to pass thus.”

 

Chart Rise

Top half of U.K. “Mersey Beat” front page, January 1962, giving notice to the Beatles.
Top half of U.K. “Mersey Beat” front page, January 1962, giving notice to the Beatles.
     “Love Me Do” rose on the U.K. music charts within days of its release, with sales initially concentrated in and around Liverpool, the Beatles’ hometown, and where they had also received the attention of a music newspaper named Mersey Beat, published by Bill Harry.  Liverpool was also home to the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who owned record stores there.  In fact, rumors have persisted over the years that Epstein had bulk- ordered some 10,000 copies or more of the song to increase its chart ranking.  Yet some of the Beatles, including John Lennon, denied that happened.  Bill Harry of Mersey Beat also wrote a piece in his paper explaining how chart computations were made and why he found the charge without merit.

     “Love Me Do” did well on regional U.K. music charts, including a No. 1 showing at Mersey Beat.  It also appeared on other U.K. charts, including New Musical Express (NME), Record Mirror, and DiscMelody Maker was also an important chart in the U.K, and one of the longest-running.  “Love Me Do” entered that chart on November 27, 1962 at No. 48, eventually rising to No. 21, remaining on that chart life of sixteen weeks. U.K. music critic Ian Mac- Donald found that “Love Me Do,” with its working- class sound, “rang the first faint chime of a revolu- tionary bell” compared to Tin Pan Alley fare. On December 20, 1962, “Love Me Do” peaked at No. 17 on the Record Retailer chart.  The Record Retailer was the trade publication the U.K. record industry regarded its official publication, and its music chart was compiled by the British Market Research Bureau and used by the BBC.

     Meanwhile, back in the recording studio, on November 26, 1962 the Beatles and George Martin re-recorded “Please Please Me,” a John Lennon tune.  Lennon and McCartney had besieged Martin to record and release another of their original songs.  Martin agreed, and appears to have played an important role in changing the song for the better, as he had them speed up what initially had been a slow ballad.  “Please, Please Me,” released in January 1963, hit No. 1 on some of the British music charts February 22, 1963. 

     Other hit singles followed.  “From Me To You,” for example, hit No. 1 on May 2 1963, holding there for seven weeks.  The Beatles’ first U.K. album – titled Please Please Me – came out in April 1963 and within a month was the No.1 album, remaining in that position for 30 weeks.  A second U.K. album – With the Beatles – came next.  From then on, there came a string of more No. 1 U.K. Beatles’ singles – at least eleven more by one count – and more No. 1 albums as well.

Martin Creasey’s 2011 book on the Beatles’ UK tours.
Martin Creasey’s 2011 book on the Beatles’ UK tours.
     “Beatlemania” by this time was in full gale throughout the U.K. In November 1963, the Beatles performed at the Odeon Cinema in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. On the following day, The Daily Mirror newspaper used the headline: “Beatlemania!,” exclaiming, “It’s happening everywhere. . . even in sedate Cheltenham.”

     The Beatles’ popularity in the U.S., however, would lag behind the U.K. somewhat, owing in part to EMI’s own American subsidiary, Capitol Records, whose executives declined to take on Beatles songs in early 1963, saying, “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.”  Lesser known labels, including Vee Jay and Swan then began picking up the Beatles’1963 songs for limited U.S. release, as well as Capitol’s Canadian arm.  Still, even with these, there was not much American notice of Beatles music in 1963, although a few U.S. news stories and some TV coverage had appeared about their success in the U.K.  But that was about to change in a big way as Brian Epstein had negotiated some Beatles’ TV appearances with Ed Sullivan for the following February.  By December 1963, meanwhile, EMI’s U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, began to see the light and released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the American market.  See “Beatles in America” story at this website for a more detailed 1963-1964 timeline.

 

1964 U.S. single of "Love Me Do"/ "P.S I Love You" on Tollie Records.
1964 U.S. single of "Love Me Do"/ "P.S I Love You" on Tollie Records.
1964
“Love Me Do” – U.S.

     By the time “Love Me Do” formally entered the U.S. market as a single in late April 1964, the song was almost an afterthought.  By then, America was in full Beatles swoon, as the group had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show three times, performed live in Washington, D.C. and New York city, and had at least 14 of their songs among the Top 100 on the Billboard music chart.  When “Love Me Do” began to enter the U.S. charts in the spring of 1964, it was due initially to sales of imported copies from Canada.  On April 27th, 1964 the single “Love Me Do”/ “P.S I Love You” was formally released in the U.S. by Vee-Jay’s Tollie Records subsidiary.  A month later, by May 30th, “Love Me Do” was the No. 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard music chart, remaining in the Top 100 for 14 weeks.

 

1982: Beatles on record sleeve cover of 20 anniversary edition of “Love Me Do.”
1982: Beatles on record sleeve cover of 20 anniversary edition of “Love Me Do.”
1982
20 Years Later

     In 1982, at the 20th anniversary of “Love Me Do,” the song was re-issued in the U. K. in a special 12-inch edition, featuring both versions of the song recorded on September 4th and September 11th, 1962.  With the re-issue, “Love Me Do” rose to No. 4 on the music charts, making an even better showing than it did 20 years earlier.  In the Netherlands, a 20th anniversary EP was issued featuring “Love Me Do” along with two other early ’60s Beatles’ hits – “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.”  The Beatles by 1982, however, were no longer together, having broken up in 1970.  John Lennon was dead by then as well, shot by a deranged fan in New York city in December 1980.  Paul, George and Ringo were each involved in solo careers and/or working with other artists.  Beatles music, however, was still doing well.  Music technology was beginning to change by 1982, as compact discs were then just emerging, though not yet widely available.  Beatles music would not be released on CD until the late 1980s, due in part to litigation between the Beatles and EMI.

 

2012
50 Years Later

Cover art for the 2012 E-book, “Love Me Do,” by Bill Harry, published by  Miniver Press.
Cover art for the 2012 E-book, “Love Me Do,” by Bill Harry, published by Miniver Press.
     At the 50th anniversary of the “Love Me Do” single, Miniver Press published an E-book about the behind-the-scenes making of the song, written by Bill Harry, editor and publisher of several Beatles books, a Beatles encyclopedia, and the former Mersey Beat newspaper.  Harry was a long time friend of the Beatles, and in the E-book he reveals an inside account of the song’s making and its release in October 1962, including: how Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr on drums after the first recording session; the role George Martin played in the recording sessions and his influence on the Beatles; the behind-the scenes persistence, skill and efforts of Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, on behalf of the group; details on the U.K. charting of “Love Me Do;” and several other accounts.  Also on the 50th anniversary, there were special celebrations in the U.K. marking the ocassion, including a commemoration of the song and the “Fab Four” in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool, England.

     “Love Me Do” of 1962 was,  in any case, the opening salvo in a worldwide Beatles music revolution that  would spark changes not only in music, but also in fashion, film and cultural mores affecting millions of people, and generating billions in business activity.

     For additional Beatles stories at this website see “Beatles History: Ten Stories,” a directory page with links to those stories and additional background on the group’s rise and its members. Other stories on the history of popular music and its impact on society can be found at the Annals of Music category page or visit the Home Page for additional choices. Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 7 October 2012
Last Update: 24 May 2013
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Love Me Do: 1962-2012”
PopHistoryDig.com, October 7, 2012.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Beatles photo, November 1963, Associated Press.
Beatles photo, November 1963, Associated Press.
Capitol Records 45 rpm of “Love Me Do” via Canada.
Capitol Records 45 rpm of “Love Me Do” via Canada.
John Lennon & Paul McCartney working on their music at Abbey Road studios, London, September 1962.
John Lennon & Paul McCartney working on their music at Abbey Road studios, London, September 1962.
EMI ad for the Beatles’ first song, “Love Me Do,” placed in “The Record Retailer and Music Industry News” trade magazine, September 27, 1962.
EMI ad for the Beatles’ first song, “Love Me Do,” placed in “The Record Retailer and Music Industry News” trade magazine, September 27, 1962.

Bill Harry, Love Me Do: Behind The Scenes at The Recording of the Beatles’ First Single, September 2012, Minivera Press.

“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.

Katie Hickox, “George Martin Signed The Beatles For Peanuts,” What Goes On News (BeatlesNews.com), July 12, 2008.

“Love Me Do,”Wikipedia.org.

“The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs,” Rolling Stone, November 2010.

Photos of Beatles at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, England, Tuesday, 4 September 1962 — Photographer: Dezo Hoffmann, BeatleSource.com.

“Love Me Do,” RateYourMusic.com, Oct. 2012.

“The Beatles’ Recording Sessions,” Wiki- pedia.org.

Brian Epstein, “Beatles Record At EMI,” Mersey Beat, September 20, 1962 (with note from editor Bill Harry).

Bill Harry, “The Beatles Mythology Two: Epstein & The ‘Love Me Do’ Moun- tain,”Triumphpc.com.

Bill Harry, The Beatles Encyclopedia: Revised and Updated. London: Virgin Publishing, 2000.

“Mersey Beat,”Wikipedia.org.

“Beatles:Love Me Do,” YouTube.com, Uploaded by tukkerenflits, October 3, 2007.

“P.S. I Love You (song),” Wikipedia.org.

“The Beatles Love Me Do,” When I’m 64, Sunday, September 25, 2011.

“George Martin,” Wikipedia.org.

Bob Spitz, The Beatles: The Biography, Little, Brown & Co., 2005.

“Hey Baby,” Wikipedia.org.

“Parlophone 45 Labels,” TheBeatles-Collection.com.

George Martin, All You Need Is Ears, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Jack Doyle, “Beatles’ Closed-Circuit Gig, March 1964″( Beatles’ first U.S. concert appearance in Washington, DC & related U.S. theater showings), PopHistory Dig.com, July 9, 2008.

Jack Doyle, “Dear Prudence, 1967-1968″(Beatles retreat in India & song trove developed thereafter), PopHistory Dig.com, July 27, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Beatles in America, 1963-1964″ (frenetic early years of Beatles’ popularity & music success) PopHistory Dig.com, September 20, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Watching The Wheels, 1980-1981″ (John Lennon song; his New York “house-husband” years & 1980 shooting death), PopHistoryDig.com,  October 19, 2010.

Jack Doyle, “The Paul-is-Dead Saga, 1969-1970,”(rumored death of Paul McCartney & Beatles break up), Pop HistoryDig.com, March 7, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

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