One of the other songs they prepared for this 4 September session was “Love Me Do,” almost the most simple item in the Lennon-McCartney catalogue with only a little over a dozen words and, for most of the song, only two chords. Back in June, their arrangement shifted between musical meters, sliding into a lazy shuffle during the harmonica solo of the second chorus; but more problematically, McCartney and Best let the tempo float faster and slower. This time, Martin recorded the instrumental backing separately from the vocals, allowing McCartney and Starr to focus on the tempo, which they hold at a faster tempo than in June, despite occasional temporal disagreements between the two musicians. In addition, McCartney’s bass dominates the mix such that Starr’s bass drum is barely audible.
With Murray rejecting their version of “How Do You Do It?,” Martin arranged for them to return on 11 September to record two more McCartney-Lennon tunes, a new song called “P.S., I Love You” and the work-in-progress, “Please Please Me.” He hoped that one of these songs could serve as the principal side of the release. However when they arrived, they found that Ron Richards, not Martin, would oversee the session and, more surprisingly, Richards had hired a session drummer: Andy White. With the Beatles having already wasted a recording session on a song that Martin could not release, he wanted no more delays. A session drummer could solve the problem.
The startled Starr remembers, “I saw a drum kit that wasn’t mine, and a drummer that most definitely wasn’t me!” Andy White remembers saying very little to the other drummer, whom Richards put to work playing maracas on “P.S., I Love You.” At this point, Starr could rationalize that they were working on a new side and that his original recording of “Love Me Do” would stand. That was before Richards called out for them to rehearse “Love Me Do.”
In the Andy White version of “Love Me Do,” his American-made bass drum and drum heads possess a presence that neither Starr nor Best had achieved, and his cymbal crash following the second chorus has warmth and sustain that shames Starr’s British equipment. More importantly, White synchs with McCartney’s playing as though the two had been born joined at the beat, the tempo standing as steady as a rock. Starr’s tambourine, which doubles White’s snare hits (even if these sometimes arrive at micro-temporally different points), serves as the most obvious way to tell the difference between the two recordings. The session would also feature another attempt at “Please Please Me,” sped up from their 4 September session, but still in need of improvements. It would wait until November.
With two sides recorded, George Martin weighed which one would be the “A” side. Ron Richards reminded him that Frank Sinatra and Dion and the Belmonts had already released another song called “P.S., I Love You” leaving Martin with “Love Me Do” as the featured recording; but which version? He set a release date of 5 October and pondered which recording to choose: Starr or White?
Gordon Thompson is Professor of Music at Skidmore College. His book, Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out, offers an insider’s view of the British pop-music recording industry. Check out Thompson’s other posts here.