‘Love Me Do’ and the Hormonal Storm of the 1960s

51Ld97tIgjLOn the 5th of October 1962, The Beatles’ first single ‘Love Me Do’ was released. The release of the song triumphantly marks the beginning of one of the most fascinating phenomena in the history of popular music – the ‘Beatlemania’.  On the 5th of October 1962, after few years of ups and downs, The Beatles were officially making it into the charts. Despite the fact that ‘Love Me Do’ peaked at only number seventeen and that the songwriting credit was given to ‘McArtney’ rather than ‘Lennon-McCartney’ partnership, The Beatles soon became the hottest bun in the music industry.

What kind of secret lies behind this spectacular success? After all, as Ian MacDonald noticed, “The Beatles rarely thought long about their lyrics” – which is clearly evident in ‘Love Me Do’. MacDonald explains it as follows: 

They were, in short, instinctive, rather than rational, as artists – a trait which might be ascribed to their youth and social origin, but which owes most to the fact that they were working musicians rather than composers. All the great songwriting teams to have preceded them were, in that sense, composers rather than performers. In early 20th century popular music, composing teams almost invariably wrote for performers. Only a handful of performers ever wrote their own material before The Beatles and Bob Dylan appeared, neither of whom set out on their careers with the explicit intention of supplying themselves with their own songs. Dylan had little idea when he started writing songs that this would become his life; similarly, The Beatles started writing songs chiefly as a means of preventing other groups from stealing their own purloined material… Rather than tell a story in traditional Tin Pan Alley style, Lennon and McCartney wrote their lyrics to create a mood or a tone, so as not to get in the way of the effect created by the music and the sound. (Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties)

Another important factor contributing to their success was most likely the subject of their songs, which, especially in the early stages of their career, was simply LOVE. “Between the release of the group’s debut single ‘Love Me Do’/‘P.S. I Love You’ (October 1962) and their final album ‘Let It Be’ (May 1970), the total official output of The Beatles – on singles, E.P.s and albums – was 221 separate tracks… Of these 221 titles, 196 (89 per cent) were composed by group members (typically Lennon-McCartney); 25 (11 per cent) were cover versions of songs written and/or performed by others. Of the 196 self-compositions, 112 (57 per cent) are songs about love.” (Ian Inglis, ‘Variations on a Theme: The Love Songs of the Beatles’, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol.28, No.1, Jun., 1997)

Taking also into consideration the sexual boom of the 1960s, love and everything that was love related, seemed to be one of the best selling themes in popular music. The 1960s were the time of breaking away from the post-war traumas and the phantom of the Cold War that dominated for most of the 1950s. Young people were finally able to release all kinds of emotions accumulated somewhere in the social subconscious by the preceding generations. That is why ‘Love Me Do’ and The Beatles – with a significant help from the producer George Martin, who by replacing the drummer Pete Best with Ringo Star, brought a new energetic charisma into the band’s sound – fitted perfectly within the hormonal storm of the 1960s. ‘Love Me Do’, in its minimalist form, was like a mini skirt to the generation of teenage girls (and boys) at the time – simply hot and inviting.

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