The Beatles rise to fame was beyond anything anyone had ever seen or heard of before. Like a meteor, the group soared through the sky and into stardom. Such a rise to fame means that jealousy was not only suggested but expected and those around the Fab Four didn’t disappoint with many contemporary bands and others in the music business left dumbfounded by their success. In fact, one song was shot so quickly up the charts that the band were accused of cheating the system.
The track in question just so happened to be the first one they ever recorded, The Beatles classic from 1963, ‘Love Me Do’. As McCartney reflects on the track, “the first song we recorded, like, for real. First serious audition. I was very nervous, I remember. John was supposed to sing the lead, but they changed their minds and asked me to sing lead at the last minute.” The song would be the band’s first step to their legendary status.
Releasing one’s debut single is a nerve-wracking affair. Though most bands are signed with a degree of fanfare and hype, The Beatles were still very much on the cusp of ‘making it’. Four young lads from Liverpool who, against all suggestion and precedent, were debuting with a song they wrote themselves—nobody expected the song to have any real success outside of the fanbase the group had built in their home town. How wrong they were.
“Introducing our own numbers started round Liverpool and Hamburg,” remembered Lennon for Anthology. “‘Love Me Do’, one of the first ones we wrote, Paul started when he must have been about 15. It was the first one we dared to do of our own. This was quite a traumatic thing because we were doing such great numbers of other people’s, of Ray Charles and [Little] Richard and all of them.
“It was quite hard to come in singing ‘Love Me Do’. We thought our numbers were a bit wet. But we gradually broke that down and decided to try them.”
The track shot up the UK singles charts, peaking at number four, while on the US Billboard 100 it topped the chart when it was released. For Ringo Starr, the enigmatic Beatles drummer, just making the record was enough: “The first record, ‘Love Me Do,’ for me that was more important than anything else. That first piece of plastic. You can’t believe how great that was. It was so wonderful. We were on a record.”
However, the real story is that George Martin asked Starr not to appear on the band’s first single, instead, they used Andy White. “Ringo didn’t drum on the first single,” confirmed McCartney. “He only played tambourine. I don’t think Ringo ever got over that. He had to go back up to Liverpool and everyone asked, ‘How did it go in the Smoke?’ We’d say, ‘B-side’s good,’ but Ringo couldn’t admit to liking the A-side, not being on it.”
However, the music business is still a business which means when success does arrive at your doorstep you have a lot of green-eyed monsters waiting down the garden path. For The Beatles this was no different and, as the song went up the UK charts, the murmurs of the Fab Four somehow ‘fiddling’ the charts began to swirl around. “It came to the charts in two days,” remembered Lennon, “and everybody thought it was a ‘fiddle’ because our manager’s stores send in these… what is it… record returns. And everybody down south thought, ‘Aha! He’s just fiddling the charts.’ But he wasn’t.”
Though they were most certainly based on jealousy with a touch of regional prejudice to boot, it’s not something that stopped the band or slowed them down in any way. In fact, they kind of liked it. And to prove themselves their next run of singles all hit similar heights, each one showing that The Beatles were here to stay.