the beatles at EMI Studios, Abbey Road – How Did They Do It?
Ringo was now The Beatles’ drummer. But that was just the start to his career with the group. All was going smoothly until the first EMI recording session on 4th September 1962, just after his debut. The new Fab Four headed to the EMI Studios in Abbey Road to record their first single.
Brian Epstein reported for Mersey Beat, and his story, carried anonymously at his request. He told how they had met together at Liverpool Airport at 8.15am for their flight to London. Neil drove the equipment van on that long journey to the capital, though not in the midst of a snowstorm. This time, it was just torrential rain, but still not for the faint-hearted. Brian even had his “boys” pose for a group photograph on the tarmac, but none of them looked impressed.
Ringo sported his now-famous grey streak and George tried to appear oblivious to his black eye. The flight was not very smooth due to the weather, which did little to comfort George. He had a aversion to flying. They eventually arrived in London and checked into their hotel in Chelsea before heading to EMI Studios in Abbey Road.
Beatles! How Did You Do With It?
There was an important aim for the day, and it wasn’t to make a record. After the June session, it wasn’t just Pete’s drumming George Martin didn’t like. He wasn’t impressed with the songs or the arrangements, and the overall quality from the group was below-par. George Martin had told The Beatles to work over the summer on “How Do You Do It?”. (The Mitch Murray song George had sent them in late July) and “Love Me Do”.
Was This A Recording Session?
The normal practice was that a session drummer would only be hired when a song was ready to record. On 4th September, The Beatles were nowhere near ready to record! It therefore made no economic sense to pay for a session drummer to stand around all day. Session drummers usually worked on three-hour sessions and, in that time, they could learn and record up to four songs. For producer Martin, there was still a lot of work to do with the group; they weren’t ready to record the songs yet: they didn’t even know which songs they were going to record.
Possibly of more importance was the fact that Dezo Hoffman had been booked to photograph The Beatles. Irrespective of Ringo turning up, George Martin would still be hiring a session drummer for the record. It wouldn’t matter how well Ringo performed. The evidence therefore suggests that this was not a recording session from which a record would result.
How Should We Do It?
The Beatles walked into the studio and were met by their trusted roadie ‘Nell’. There was also their ‘headmaster’ George Martin and producer Ron Richards, the latter two having contributed to Pete Best’s downfall. The Beatles must have been nervous as they readied themselves for the session. “And so the moment came when all was set to make a first disc. A first disc with the world’s greatest recording organization,” said a proud Brian Epstein. No pressure on the boys, then.
The afternoon session, a three-hour rehearsal slot which ran from 2pm to 5pm. This was followed by another three hours of recording between 7pm and 10pm. According to Brian, it wasn’t an easy afternoon for The Beatles. “The rehearsal part of the session began,” he recalled. “It was a long and hard afternoon’s work. Six numbers were considered and eventually two were selected for the actual recording session in the evening.” They definitely would have rehearsed “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”, though the identity of the other four songs was not noted. They are thought to be “Ask Me Why”, “P.S. I Love You”, “Please Please Me” and a new original song in their repertoire, “Tip of My Tongue”. All apart from the first song were Lennon/McCartney originals. Their mission was clear: record their own songs. And this is where the conflict arose.
“how do you do it?”
George Martin wanted them to release the Mitch Murray song “How Do You Do It?”, which the group had been working on over the summer. But they were equally intent on recording only their own songs. They had been working on “Love Me Do” as Martin had asked them to do. Plus, they had “Love Me Do”, which had been recorded in June, but was now improved. What resulted was a much brighter, more marketable song. But there were other songs in contention, too, which they wanted to perform for Martin.
the beatles session in june 1962
The June session had to be scrubbed as far as making a record was concerned. However, George Martin still included those four songs in their total of six to record per the contract. This explains why no session drummer was present that day. They only had two songs left to fulfil the terms of the contract. He wasn’t going to squander money for a session drummer when they hadn’t even decided which songs they were going to release.
George Martin knew he had to start again and Ringo seemed to confirm this. “The response to us at EMI was okay, because we’d done the auditions and George Martin was willing to take a chance. On my first visit in September, we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did ‘Please Please Me’”. Norman ‘John Lennon called me Normal’ Smith, who had been involved in the June session, returned for this session. He remembers that “it was really all John and George and Paul. Ringo had just joined and was put right at the back, being used rather like a puppet.” What mattered at this session was having John, Paul and George up to speed on the songs. George Martin was still planning to hire a session drummer.
who was andy white replacing?
Was Andy White booked to replace Pete Best? No. White confirmed that he was only called in after the 4th September session. This 4th September was a test session, and George Martin probably had a plan for a final recording date. That is when the session drummer would be employed. That date became 11th September. In Martin’s mind, the session drummer was still going to be brought in to replace Pete. However, it was suddenly Ringo, not Pete, who was the problem. As it turned out, Andy White was booked to replace Ringo. However, just as Pete was kept in the dark about the Decca failure, nobody thought to inform Ringo when he was being replaced.
First Rehearsal Session: 2pm – 5pm
As the clock headed towards 2pm, they were ready to start rehearsing. The afternoon session of six songs included “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”, plus “Please, Please Me” as Ringo had mentioned, “P.S. I Love You” and probably “Ask Me Why” and “Tip Of My Tongue”. They were intent on winning over George Martin, especially with their own songs.
But despite their efforts, Martin was still not impressed with “Love Me Do”, even with their changes. He didn’t hold back in his judgment of “Please Please Me” either. “They played me ‘Please Please Me’ but it was very slow and rather dreary. I told them if they doubled the speed it might be interesting”. And so George Martin’s influential role with The Beatles had begun. “I told them what beginning and what ending to put on it,” Martin added.
How Did We Do It?
After the three hours of rehearsal, George Martin took The Beatles out for a meal. He got to know them better as people. More than their songs, he liked their personalities, and regaled them with tales about recording the Goons. But there was still work to be done on the four songs set to be recorded. However, Martin considered only two songs sufficiently progressed enough for recording: “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”.
The recording of “How Do You Do It?” was completed quite quickly, in only a couple of takes. Though it was a good performance, it lacks enthusiasm and belief. There is no soul in the singing and playing, and they are clearly not interested in the song.
“LOVE ME DO”
“Love Me Do” was a different matter, Brian observed, as the song was “no simple matter. Everyone was anxious to attain a perfect sound, which would reproduce The Beatles’ unique qualities exactly”. As in June, this Lennon/McCartney original was causing problems for the recording engineers. Brian recalled it took around 15 takes to record, and that “John’s mouth (on harmonica) was numb with playing”. In fact, there were more than 15 takes for just the rhythm track, with the vocals added separately.
Why Should We Do It?
Once they had completed several takes of “Love Me Do”, there was a confrontation which has been remembered in different ways by those present.
It was Lennon, as group leader, who confronted George Martin. “Look, George, I have to tell you, we really think that song is crap”. Martin’s face was obviously shocked, so John qualified his statement. “I mean, it may be all right, but it’s just not the kind of thing we want to do”. George Martin quickly responded: “Well, exactly what is it you want to do?” Lennon realised this was his chance. “We want to record our own material, not some soft bit of fluff written by someone else”. Martin, who was obviously fond of the Liverpudlians, gave a wry smile. “I’ll tell you what, John,” he replied. “When you can write a song as good as that one, then I’ll record it.”
They’ve Got some cheek
What could Lennon say? Norman Smith was obviously amused by it all. “They’ve got some cheek, that lot,” he said. “I reckon that’s what got them this far, though?”
Paul and John were later to tell US journalist Larry Kane, what they felt about their choice. “‘Love Me Do,’ Larry, wasn’t the best song we ever wrote. But it really put us out front,” McCartney told Kane on the 1965 Beatles tour. John was also emphatic. “In Hamburg we clicked. At the Cavern we clicked. But if you want to know when we knew we’d arrived,” Lennon said, “it was getting in the charts with ‘Love Me Do.’ That was the one. It gave us somewhere to go.”
“Um, Without Ringo”
Norman Smith remembered the session, too. “They started to do ‘Love Me Do’ again, this time with George Martin”. Smith looked back at the session from June, and the problem again was the drummer. “Ringo Starr’s drumming did not impress. And so Ringo was taken off and replaced by a session drummer.” This explained why it took more than 15 attempts to record “Love Me Do”.
george martin didn’t like ringo
Paul explained what happened. “Horror of horrors! George Martin didn’t like Ringo. Ringo at that point was not that steady on time.” Were they in a better place than with Pete? “Now he (Ringo) is rock steady,” Paul stated some thirty years later. “It’s always been his greatest attribute. But, to George (Martin), he was not as pinpoint as a session guy would be. So, Ringo got blown off the first record.” Actually, no he didn’t!
Paul continued: “George (Martin) did the ‘Can I see you for a moment, boys?’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Um… without Ringo’. He said, ‘I would like to bring another drummer in for this record’. George got his way and Ringo didn’t drum on the first single.” Norman Smith said: “I’ve a feeling that Paul wasn’t too happy with Ringo’s drumming, and felt that it could be better. He didn’t make too good a job of it. I remember too that there was a fair bit of editing to be done.”
“paul was starting to get annoyed with him”
Geoff Emerick remembered the problems surrounding the recording of “Love Me Do”. “The Beatles seemed to have a lot of trouble getting this one (“Love Me Do”) right, though,” he said. They obviously hadn’t rehearsed it as much as the other song. “Ringo was having difficulty maintaining a steady beat”. More telling was the dissention in the group, as “Paul was starting get annoyed with him”. They hoped that each take they finished would be good enough for George Martin. However, Emerick witnessed the conversations between Martin and Smith, where Martin criticized Ringo’s “unsteady drumming.”
When the session was finally over, George Martin appeared to be frustrated. Norman Smith then turned to Geoff Emerick to discuss the session. Smith said, “George has decided to bring in a session drummer when they come in again next week, so we shouldn’t have those problems again.”
“i didn’t rate ringo very highly”
George Martin’s opinion was based on what he had seen and heard. “I didn’t rate Ringo very highly,” he said. “He couldn’t do a drum roll – and still can’t – though he’s improved a lot since. Andy was the kind of drummer I needed. Ringo was only used to ballrooms. It was obviously best to use someone with experience.”
Ron Richards and George Martin hadn’t liked Pete Best’s drumming in June. Now, three months later, Martin and Norman Smith cared little for Ringo’s drumming. The Beatles knew there was one more recording session in which they could make their debut single. However, it would be without Ringo on drums. Was this really due to Ringo’s drumming quality? Or because it was record company practice to use session drummers at first? George Martin’s mind was made that he would be using a session drummer.
We shouldn’t be too harsh on Pete or Ringo, even if the producer had reservations about both drummers.
Ringo was in for a shock
After the 4th September session, there were two important decisions to address. First, a session drummer was still needed to make the record. And second, another Lennon/McCartney original was needed to replace “How Do You Do It?”. They had a week to prepare for their final session, but nobody thought to inform Ringo of George Martin’s decision. He was in for a very big shock.
Excerpt taken from Finding the Fourth Beatle