Love Me Do – the first one…

“‘Love Me Do’ is Paul’s song. He wrote it when he was a teenager. Let me think. I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn’t swear to it. I do know he had the song around, in Hamburg, even, way, way before we were songwriters.” – John Lennon

“‘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.” – Paul McCartney

John, Paul, George, and Ringo (image courtesy Wikimedia)

We know now (at least those of us who are American) that it was their first.

Most of us learned about it in that tidal wave of spring 1964 when it seemed that the Beatles released a new record every week. Many of them were fantastic – “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “She Loves You,” “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “Twist and Shout,” “There’s a Place,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” It seemed like an endless stream of great song after great song, the releases of new singles coming sometimes only a week apart thanks to the Beatles’ tangled history of American deals.

So it was Tollie, a Vee-Jay subsidiary, that released “Love Me Do” in the US in April 1964.  

The song had been released some 18 months before in Britain on another subsidiary, Parlophone, a subsidiary of EMI, the British record conglomerate that also owned the American record label Capitol. The October 1962 release has a long and well documented history complete with drama over whether Ringo, Pete Best, or Andy White, a session drummer, played on a given release of the song. The British release reached #17 and established the band as a viable act (though there is controversy over whether Brian Epstein used the economic power of his family’s music stores, NEMS, to buy lots of copies of the record and thus help its success).  It gave the Beatles a foothold.

That foothold became a launch pad. “Love Me Do” was followed by “Please Please Me” which went to #1. Beatlemania in Britain was underway.

The song got to #1 in America in the wake of the first frenzy of American Beatlemania.

****************************************************************************

That’s the history. The question, for me at least, is how good a song is “Love Me Do”?

It certainly showcases two of the early Beatles’ distinctive appeals – Paul McCartney’s voice and John Lennon’s harmonica. The tune has a wonderful lilt to it (I suspect that John is right that it’s a primarily Paul composition) and John’s harmonica gives a bit of edge. But the lyrics are as weak as any Lennon and McCartney ever composed:

Love Me Do

Love, love me do
You know I love you
I’ll always be true
So please, love me do
Whoa, love me doLove, love me do
You know I love you
I’ll always be true
So please, love me do
Whoa, love me do

Someone to love
Somebody new
Someone to love
Someone like you

Love, love me do
You know I love you
I’ll always be true
So please, love me do
Whoa, love me do

Love, love me do
You know I love you
I’ll always be true
So please, love me do
Whoa, love me do
Yeah, love me do
Whoa, oh, love me do

The shuffle beat of the song has always seemed too slow to me, and while I like both Paul’s vocal and John’s harmonica, it’s always felt to me like a lesser song, a B side, on the order of “I’ll Get You.”  While I’ve argued that some songs from the period that ended up as B sides are hidden gems in their canon, I have to say I’ve never felt that way about “Love Me Do.” It’s a song like the aforementioned “I’ll Get You” or “Hold Me Tight” – a good Beatles song – but proof that they weren’t always perfect even though they were the Beatles. There was a life lesson in that for a 12 year old in 1964.

Still, “Love Me Do” is the first.  It was good enough to get them on their way.

And they got better.

 

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About Jim Booth

Novelist, college professor, rock musician - are we getting the band back together? Maybe....
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