“Love Me Do” was recorded by the Beatles on three occasions with three drummers at EMI Studios at 3 Abbey Road in London:
The Beatles’ first recording session, on 6 June 1962, with Pete Best on drums. This version (previously thought to be lost) is available on Anthology 1.
Second recording session, 4 September 1962. In August, Best had been replaced with Ringo Starr.
Producer George Martin did not approve of Best’s drumming for studio work. It was the norm at that time to have a specialist studio drummer who knew the ways of studio work. The decision to fire Best was not Martin’s. The Beatles with Starr recorded a version at EMI Studios. They recorded “Love Me Do” in 15 takes. This version with Starr is available on Past Masters.
Third recording session, 11 September 1962. A week later, The Beatles returned to the same studio and they made a recording of “Love Me Do” with session drummer Andy White on drums. Starr was relegated to playing tambourine. As tambourine is not present on the 4 September recording, this is the easiest way to distinguish between the Starr and White recordings.
The Andy White version is available on Please Please Me.
First issues of the single, released on Parlophone in the UK on 5 October 1962, featured the Ringo Starr version, prompting Mark Lewisohn to later write: “Clearly, the 11 September version was not regarded as having been a significant improvement after all”.
The Andy White version of the track was included on The Beatles’ debut UK album, Please Please Me, The Beatles’ Hits EP, and subsequent album releases on which “Love Me Do” was included (except as noted below), as well as on the first US single release in April 1964. For the 1976 single re-issue and the 1982 “20th Anniversary” re-issue, the Andy White version was again used.
The Ringo Starr version was included on the albums Rarities (US version), Past Masters, and Mono Masters. It was also included on Record 1 of The Beatles Box. The CD single issued on 2 October 1992 contains both versions. The Pete Best version remained unreleased until 1995, when it was included on the Anthology 1 album.
Capitol Records Canada pressed 170 singles which were released on 4 February 1963 with catalogue number 72076. This pressing was dubbed from the original UK single and featured Ringo Starr on drums.
“Love Me Do”, featuring Starr drumming, was also recorded eight times at the BBC and played on the BBC radio programmes Here We Go, Talent Spot, Saturday Club, Side By Side, Pop Go The Beatles and Easy Beat between October 1962 and October 1963.
The version of “Love Me Do” recorded on 10 July 1963 at the BBC and broadcast on the 23 July 1963 Pop Go the Beatles programme can be heard on The Beatles’ album Live at the BBC. The Beatles also performed the song live on the 20 February 1963 Parade of the Pops BBC radio broadcast.
In 1969, during the Get Back sessions, The Beatles played the song in a slower, more bluesy form than they had in earlier recordings. This version of “Love Me Do” is one of many recordings made during these sessions and subsequently appeared on some bootlegs.
The song featured no harmonica by Lennon, and McCartney sang the majority of the song in the same vocal style he used for “Lady Madonna”.