A great post at Slate on the story behind the Beatles’ first No. 1 hit.
John Lennon wrote “Please Please Me” at his Aunt Mimi’s house in Liverpool, but it was months later—50 years ago today, to be exact—that the Beatles finally got the song right. When they first played it in studio for George Martin, on Sept. 11, 1962, the producer was not impressed. It was a slower, bluesier number, modeled on Roy Orbison songs like “Only the Lonely,” and Martin dismissed it. He called it “a dirge.”
Martin—and the Beatles’ label, Parlophone Records—wanted the band’s next single to be “How Do You Do It?” by the English songwriter Mitch Murray. Martin was sure it would be a hit. But the Beatles hated the idea. They thought the catchy but elementary tune was antiquated, even embarrassing—how could they show their faces around Liverpool if they made it big with that? If they wanted to succeed on their own terms, though, they would have to prove themselves as songwriters—and Martin was skeptical of their skills at songcraft. “Their songwriting was crap,” he later said. “The first record we issued was ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’—which are not exactly Cole Porter, are they?”
So the band went back to work.
Exactly 50 years ago
todayyesterday, on October 5th, 1962, a new single titled “Love Me Do” hit record stores all over England. It was the debut 45 by the Beatles - though, at the time, that name didn’t mean much to many English fans outside of Manchester and their native Liverpool. (The band’s frequent performances at the Star Club in Hamburg had already won them a devoted following in Germany, however.) The song was a surprise hit, rising to Number 17 on one of the many weekly charts around the U.K., a strong enough showing to convince EMI they had made a smart bet in signing the Beatles.
Paul McCartney began writing “Love Me Do” a few years earlier, in 1958, when he was playing hooky from school at age 16. Soon afterwards, he sat down with John Lennon to flesh it out. “It was completely co-written,” McCartney later said. “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.”
Interesting story. Julian Lennon is 47 years old, seven years older than John was when he was killed. I remember that day so very clearly; where has the time gone?
In the often-bitter history of the Beatles family … it was a surprising moment of unity.
John Lennon’s first wife Cynthia and the woman he left her for, Yoko Ono, embracing.
On the eve of what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, his two wives and their two sons … all together now.
“That was most curious how that came together,” said Julian Lennon. “I did tell everybody that everybody was going to be there - and wasn’t quite sure if everybody was going to turn up!” he laughed.
The occasion was the opening of Julian Lennon’s first exhibition of photographs.
At 47, John Lennon’s first-born son is already 7 years older than his father was when he was killed in 1980.
“If millions of people weren’t coming up and asking you about your father’s 70th birthday, is it something you would be marking in any way?” Mason asked.
“I’m actually looking at my age and his age, going, Jesus, what happened?” Julian laughed. “You know, time has flown. And now more than ever look back with a great deal of respect for him as a man, and his work, but not necessarily as a father. There’s a lot of forgiveness now.”
It’s been the paradox of Julian Lennon’s life that he spent his childhood chasing after his father’s love, and the years since running from his father’s shadow.