After so many years of The Beatles’ rule atop the ladder of popular music, it can be difficult to conceive that they were giants standing on the shoulders of others. Their main influences were rooted in the earliest form of blues-based rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. The Beatles took a great deal of inspiration from American greats like Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. It was these musicians that they would cover in their early shows before they had a healthy back-catalogue in the Lennon-McCartney locker.
The earliest incarnation of The Beatles was originally assembled in 1956 by John Lennon. His band was named The Blackjacks for a short while before they decided to change it to The Quarrymen, named after his school, Quarry Bank High. In 1957, Lennon met 15-year-old Paul McCartney at St Peter’s Church Hall fete in Woolton. The pair got on like a house on fire, and it wasn’t long before McCartney joined The Quarrymen, initially as a rhythm guitarist.
Using tried and tested covers allowed the band a level of exposure before the daunting prospect of airing original compositions for the first time. It took a few years before Lennon and McCartney began playing their own songs at live performances, but some of the most beloved Beatles songs were under construction as far back as the days of The Quarrymen.
The Beatles released their first single ‘Love Me Do’ in 1962, but as discussed by Lennon in a 1972 interview, the song was born some five years prior. “‘Love Me Do’ is one of the first ones we wrote ourselves, you know,” he recalled. “Paul started writing that when he must have been about 15. We finished it up over the years and recorded it.”
Lennon continued, noting that he felt that the song was daring. “It was the first one we’d sort of dared do of our own,” he said. “Because we were doing such great numbers of other people.”
When asked if it was a big moment when the band started to perform their own numbers, Lennon responded: “Yeah, yeah,” he said. “That started later in our life, around Liverpool and Hamburg, when we started introducing our own numbers. It was quite a traumatic thing because we were doing such great numbers, you know, of other people. Ray Charles and [Little] Richard and all them.”
“It was kind of a hard thing to come in and suddenly start singing ‘Love Me Do,’” he continued. “We all thought our numbers were a bit wet, you know. But we gradually broke that down and decided to try ’em.”