“HOW DO YOU DO IT”
John, Paul, and George (and probably Brian Epstein) had been under the misunderstanding that Pete Best was their only impediment on the way to studio freedom. Having divested of Pete for Ringo, they believed their troubles to be over. In fact, there was another storm a-coming, and The Beatles were ill-prepared for it.
Under the impression that they had knocked out George Martin with their catchy “Love Me Do” and quirky “P.S. I Love You,” they were quite dumbfounded when Martin delivered to them a song from a relatively-unknown composer which he felt more correctly befitted his new foundlings. This was Mitch Murray’s “How Do You Do It.” Martin loved The Beatles personally, but “frankly, the material didn't impress me, least of all their own songs. I felt that I was going to have to find suitable material for them, and was quite certain that their songwriting ability had no salable future!”1.
Mitch Murray was a pleasant lad who had on May 4, 19622 written “How Do You Do It," demoing it shortly thereafter for Barry Mason and Adam Faith, both of whom turned it down. Murray, on a mission of his own, approached Ron Richards of EMI (George Martin’s assistant), who in turn convinced publisher Dick James to purchase the rights to Murray's song. Here, the clarity of the narrative breaks down. Let’s examine three trails:
(1) Ron Richards said that he liked “How Do You Do It” so much that he “immediately” (probably May 1962) brought the demo to Dick James, who signed up for the publishing rights “straightaway.” After a “long time,” Richards took the Murray acetate from his desk, and played it to George Martin “much later” (possibly August 1962), when Martin was trying to decide what The Beatles ought to record for their first record3. This is the most plausible timeline.
(2) According to Dick James, Mitch Murray came to him (not to Ron Richards) with the demo, and James (not Richards) brought it ‘round to George Martin. But James’ story is full of holes. First, he said that Murray had been peddling his song with no success for six months. This is very much untrue (it was only a few weeks, at most). Second, James said that four months after The Beatles recorded “How Do You Do It” it was October 1962. This is also false4. We need not go any further. Nevertheless, James’ claim that he brought the demo to George Martin is supported by Davies (“Dick James rushed ‘round to George Martin”5) and Martin himself (“Dick James brought me a number”1). But Martin and Davies both have untenable dating positions. Martin wrote that "How Do You Do It" was rejected in favor of "Please Please Me" (George Harrison explained that Martin believed “How Do You Do It" could still be The Beatles’ second single6), and that this was the first rejection of Murray's song (following the “disappointment” of “Love Me Do” on the charts); but this is completely incorrect, since “How Do You Do It” actually contended with “Love Me Do” for The Beatles’ initial release. Davies (and Philip Norman) made the same chronological error, causing all their accounts to be at least doubtful (Norman further twisted the tale by claiming that George Martin went to Dick James7). It might even be incorrect to say that this song survived to November 26 (for consideration against “Please Please Me"), since Dick James said that he received a call from Martin in late October explaining that “How Do You Do It” would not be used in any way. Perhaps James misspoke on this point as well.
(3) Thompson agreed that Richards brought this song to Martin’s attention in the summer of 1962, but also claimed that this was before Dick James ever heard the song2. I think this makes little sense.
In any event, there came a time when George Martin was mulling choices for his Liverpool band, and he gave a listen to “How Do You Do It.” In his mind, it was a match. Ron Richards said that Martin felt the song would be “ideal for them”3. Martin’s description is more revealing. After he heard it, “I jumped up and said, ‘That's it. We've got it. This is the song that's going to make the Beatles a household name’”1. Norman wrote that Martin was “jumping up and down”7. Later, Martin effervesced somewhat less, saying, “I was convinced that ‘How Do You Do It’ was a hit song. Not a great piece of songwriting, not the most marvelous song I had ever heard in my life, but I thought it had that essential ingredient which would appeal to a lot of people”6.
The timeline then becomes fuzzy again, concerning when The Beatles received their marching orders. Ron Richards stated that, after he played the acetate for George Martin (about August 1962), the boss “sent a copy to Liverpool right away so that they could learn their parts”3. Winn supported this, and it makes the most sense. Paul, on the other hand, testified that (on June 6, 1962, obviously), “He gave us it on a demo, a little white acetate. We took it back to Liverpool,” and that, back home, they wondered, “What are we gonna do with this? This is what he wants us to do, he's our producer, we'll have to do it, we'll have to learn it”8. George Harrison (supposedly) said, supporting Paul, “When we first went to EMI and saw George Martin, he gave us a song. Some guy who was supposed to be a writer of pop songs wrote it. George said, ‘Here's a song. Go back and learn it’”9. George's account is flawed already, in that June 6, 1962 was not the first time that The Beatles met George Martin. Paul's story sounds nice, but there is no evidence that The Beatles ever tested "How Do You Do It" live (although both Winn and Unterberger maintain that they did). Thus, it seems that Ron Richards' account is the accurate one.
Having received the acetate sometime in August, there was little time to do much of anything except talk about it (and perhaps arrange it a little), and there was plenty to talk about. The budding stars wanted to be careful about their first step in the majors. They wanted to remain “bluesy” 8, they wanted to go in a “slightly artistic direction”, and they were ready to forego the Number One hit if it meant being fey to get it (and “God knows we needed a number one”10). Mainly, though, the lads worried about how recording “How Do You Do It” would affect their reputation with “all the lads in Liverpool”8. More to the point, they fretted over “peer pressure” that might force them out “into the wilderness”10. Apparently, John and Paul worried that even “Love Me Do” was only borderline-acceptable, (although good enough to be admired by “groups we respect") but with “How Do You Do It” they sincerely felt that they would be “laughed at”6. Coincidentally , our heroes were not alone in their reluctance; both Dick James4 and Mitch Murray2 expressed hesitation at letting the scruffy Liverpudlians record this “gem,” James giving George Martin a “sick look” when he found out.
There does not seem to be any truth to the notion that The Beatles determined to bring in an arrangement of Murray's song with a “my way or the highway” attitude; in actuality, the boys were afraid to make enemies of Martin and EMI, a natural fear, and were willing to bend to the end of their integrity (but no further). Arriving to the studio on September 4, they did, however, let it be known that they weren’t cozy with “How Do You Do It." George Martin, though, “read the riot act”1, and Lewisohn reported that, when The Beatles balked at recording “How Do You Do It,” Martin told them “when they could write a song as good as this one, then he would let them do that instead”3. Paul said that Martin lectured how the music biz works - songwriters, publishers, groups, blah, blah, blah – but they were adamant, yet diplomatic, saying, “It's a hit, George, but we've got a song, ‘Love Me Do.’” Martin said, “I don't think yours is such a big hit," to which they countered, “Yes, but it is us, and it is what we're about”6 (Paul's story-telling, while compelling, is also confusing, for he said that after this meeting they “went home” and "learnt it up," which would indicate that these conversations took place before September 4, 1962. With no breaks in their schedule, and most or all of their gigs taking place in the Liverpool area11, the only date that really fits is June 6. However, all the evidence points otherwise, which leads to the conclusion that Paul's memory was faulty).
In the studio, The Beatles duly recorded “How Do You Do It,” John at lead vocal. There is no truth to the idea that they deliberately made a poor showing of it, although both Mitch Murray2 (and possibly Dick James12) thought so. In the first place, our lads have always been thoroughly professional. In the second place, George Martin would have forced them to record as many takes as satisfied him. George Martin said, “They didn't like doing it, but we made a good record”6, and, “They never shirked on jobs. They really didn’t want to do it, but in the end they did quite a good job”3 Paul said that they did it, but they didn't like it, and they were still thinking that they wanted to go for “something new”8. This was quite revolutionary in 1962: that an unknown pop band might write their own songs rather than use accomplished songwriters. On this, they were forceful, and Martin understood. Paul said this was “symptomatic of our group” in the same way that they told Brian Epstein that they weren’t going to America until they had a Number One there6. Thus, after listening to the acetate, and to the opinions of our Beatles, Brian Epstein, and Mitch Murray, George Martin decided, on September 11, 1962, that this song would not, after all, be suitable for their first release together, and it was led to the EMI vault.
After The Beatles dropped it, Gerry and the Pacemakers were next offered the opportunity to record “How Do You Do It.” Gerry “leapt at the chance,” keeping the same Beatles tempo and arrangement8. Their version went to #1 on April 11, 1963, where it stayed for a total of three weeks, before being replaced by “From Me to You”13.
HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: After “How Do You Do It” was officially rejected (probably October 1962), George Martin introduced Brian Epstein to Dick James over the phone. Brian was seeking a new publisher not only for The Beatles (he wasn’t happy with Ardmore and Beechwood), but also for a growing stable of Liverpool artists under his management. That was “the start of it”4. That is, it was the start of one of the greatest publishing success stories of all time. It also happened to be the genesis of the biggest betrayal; for, seven years later, Dick James sold his share in Northern Songs (the Beatles’ song catalog) to Sir Lew Grade, an act that precipitated John and Paul eventually losing authority over their own songwriting works.
References for “How Do You Do It”
1 Martin, All You Need is Ears, p.123, 128, 129
2 Thompson, Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out, pp.187-188
3 Lewisohn, Recording Sessions, p.19
4 Billboard, 9/18/71
5 Davies, The Beatles, p.166
6 The Beatles Anthology, p.77
7 Norman, Shout!, p.184
8 Lewisohn, Recording Sessions, p.8
9 Badman, The Beatles Off The Record, origin of quote unknown
10 Miles, Many Years From Now, p.83-84
11 Lewisohn, The Beatles Live!
12 Lewisohn, Chronicles, p.78
“LOVE ME DO”
“Love Me Do” was written in 1958, when Paul was 16. Paul related that this song was “50/50” co-written with John1, but John took little credit for himself, saying he contributed perhaps “something to do with the middle eight”2. Iris Caldwell, Rory Storm’s sister, who Paul later dated, claimed that this song was written for her3. Paul said that “Love Me Do” was “us trying to do the blues. It came out whiter because it always does”4. Wryly, he also remarked that it was “our greatest philosophical song”5.
References for “Love Me Do”
1 Miles, Many Years From Now, p.37
2 Hit Parader, April 1972 (originally from Record Mirror, October 1971)
3 Harry , The Beatles Who Who (1982), p.30
4 Lewisohn, Recording Sessions, p.8
5 Interview, Paul with Alan Aldridge, 1967
RECORDING AND MIXING
Lewisohn told that “How Do You Do It” was completed in an unknown number of takes, and handclaps were added as overdubs. The rhythm track for “Love Me Do” took at least 15 takes. This may have been a consequence of Ringo as newcomer, or some “curious drumming technique” he employed, which possibly led to George Martin’s next move (1962, September 11). The vocals, superimposed next, also took a long time. Winn doubted Norman Smith’s claim that a “fair bit of editing” followed, citing lack of evidence. George Martin then mixed both songs to Mono and created acetates. According to John Barrett, two reels were used for this session, E47730 (which Winn called the recording reel, but which appears to be a master Mono reel) and E47776 (which Winn called the mix, but which appears to be the acetate). See Barrett's notes (in color): here.
(above) Acetate of "Love Me Do" thought to be from this session.
(above) Acetate of "How Do You Do It" thought to be from reel TL14063S, created 10/5/62; probably the disc used to make bootlegs, beginning 1976. Ref: here.
References for Recording and Mixing
Winn, Way Beyond Compare; Lewisohn, Recording Sessions; Sulpy, Complete Beatles Audio Guide (2006); Lewisohn, Chronicles, p.78
Although I use quotes from sources, or cited fact, much of the material on this and other pages of my blog is original, from my own pen. This is not cut-and-paste, it is a work of art. Copyright © 2010 Tom Wise