New Delhi: It is said that the rocker quartet from the British dockside town of Liverpool, The Beatles, started their big-league journey exactly fifty years back when on September 4, 1962, they recorded their first single 'Love Me Do' at the iconic Abbey Road Studios of EMI in London. Accordingly, tributes have been pouring in from all and sundry. People on social networking sites have had their profile pictures replaced by images of yellow submarines and Beatles album covers.
Before 1962, the Merseyside band had been playing in Liverpool and Hamburg for two to three years which gave them a kind of a toehold on the listeners' minds.
While it is not entirely true that September 4 was the defining date as the band recorded the same song at the same venue earlier that year on June 6 with Pete Best on the drums, it nonetheless presented the line-up Beatles fans have come to worship ever since - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Also, the version most of the world associate with this iconic number was recorded on September 11 with session player Andy White hitting the drums while a tambourine kept Ringo Starr busy. Producer George Martin was reportedly unhappy with Pete Best’s June 6 and Ringo Starr's September 4 performances. Manager Bernie Epstein fired Best but Starr was spared. May be Epstein wanted to give the new entrant some time to get into the groove. Apparently, George Martin also interfered with the manner in which the harmonica was being used. He had the reputation of being a nosy boss.
The September 4 version was released in Canada and sneaked into the US. However, today the master tape of the September 4 recordings does not exist as EMI erased the earlier two offerings later on.
The single peaked at number seventeen on the UK charts but in the US, they burnt the charts climbing to the number one spot in 1964 and staying in the top 100 for 14 consecutive weeks. In 1982, it was re-issued and still reached number four.
The two versions can be easily distinguished by the fact that the September 4 version has got no tambourine in it where as Ringo Starr's handiwork is clearly audible in the September 11 version which is infinitely more famous.
In 2005, a controversy over the hit broke out when in his biography of the band, Bob Spitz wrote that Epstein tried to help turn "Love Me Do" into a hit in the UK by himself snapping up thousands of copies for his Liverpool record store. This story had done the rounds before leading to a John Lennon himself denying on a 1969 documentary.
The single was released on the EMI label and was backed by "P.S. I Love You." Incidentally, these are the only two Beatles songs that John Lennon's estate and Paul McCartney wholly own.
Numerous artists has since covered the number including names like Bobby Vee, Dick Hyman and David Bowie. "Love Me Do" was The Beatles' ticket to ride to stardom, a process that possibly led to the band's frontman John Lennon claiming that they were 'more popular than Jesus Christ.' Their sales figures remain unrivalled in the history of commercial music with EMI claiming to have sold more than a billion records/albums - one of those many figures even the most ardent Rolling Stones fan would be able to dispute.