LONDON – The Beatles’ debut tune that helped launch Britain into the Swinging Sixties and ignite a worldwide obsession for the four-man band from Liverpool celebrates its 50th birthday on Friday.
Even though it only peaked at number 17 on the British charts, “Love Me Do” was not only the group’s first record but also their first hit.
“It’s obviously the first single, but more importantly, it established their policy of only releasing songs that were written by the Beatles themselves,” said Hamish MacBain, assistant editor at British music magazine NME.
“The fashion at that time was not for big groups to write their own material, so the Beatles were being quite radical in that sense by issuing a single that they had written themselves,” MacBain told AFP.
“Love Me Do” was recorded in September 1962, though the so-called “fifth Beatle”, producer George Martin, pushed for the release of another song, penned by British singer Adam Faith but performed by the Fab Four.
But the Beatles got their way, and “Love Me Do”, written like so many of their succeeding hits by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, went on sale on October 5, 1962.
The group’s insistence that their singles at least should be all their own work “established a trend that lasted obviously their entire career and became the norm for big groups that became rock bands”, MacBain said.
“You were not considered a serious rock band by the mid-60s unless you were writing your own material.”
The catchy lyrics and recognisable harmonies of “Love Me Do” were recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios, later made famous by the group as the title of one of their LPs.
Although it kick-started their career and became a British hit, “Love Me Do” did not spark Beatlemania, said Simon Zagorski-Thomas, a reader in music at University of West London’s college of music.
“‘Love Me Do’ was an interesting song, but it wasn’t the thing that really launched their career,” he told AFP.
Instead, it was the group’s 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the United States that made the Beatles a phenomenon distinct from all previous British bands and launched them globally.
“Love Me Do” is not considered by most observers to be among the Beatles’ masterpieces, MacBain said.
“In terms of songwriting it’s pretty basic, and it’s certainly not as good as the stuff they were coming out with a few months later.”
“P.S. I Love You” was recorded on the B-side of the track, and both songs were featured on the group’s first album “Please Please Me”, named after their second hit single, which was released in March 1963 and included songs they had not written.
BBC Four TV will air a documentary on Sunday about “Love Me Do,” with an eyewitness account claiming that the group’s manager Brian Epstein bought 10,000 copies of the single to boost sales.
While the rumour has never been proved, Epstein’s friend and business associate, Joe Flannery, claims in the documentary that the copies were purchased.
Remastered versions of The Beatles’ studio albums will be released on vinyl on November 13 in North America.