While some famous musicians took years before finding success, The Beatles had a hit with their first record. That’s not to say everything went according to plan with the recording of “Love Me Do,” the band’s debut ’62 single.
Between sessions to get the record down, The Beatles ended up dropping Pete Best and bringing Ringo Starr aboard as their new drummer. But once the track got recorded it made a dent on the UK charts. (It peaked at No. 17.)
Considering the song was an original by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it represented quite an achievement. And the good news didn’t stop at the A-side. When listeners flipped the single over, they got another Lennon-McCartney original.
“P.S. I Love You,” the B-side written mainly by Paul, kept the messages of love coming. And that song became a hit in its own right. Looking back on the Beatles years, John thought of it as Paul’s effort to compose a track like “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles.
John Lennon considered ‘P.S. I Love You’ a sort of take on ‘Soldier Boy’
When Paul composed “P.S. I Love You,” he was just 19 years old and still learning his craft. “It’s just an idea for a song really, a theme song based on a letter,” he said in his authorized biography Many Years From Now (1997).
“There are certain themes that are easier than others to hang a song on, and a letter is one of them,” Paul added. “‘Dear John’ is the other version of it. The letter is a popular theme and it’s just my attempt at one of those.”
In All We Are Saying, the book of 1980 Playboy interviews with John and Yoko Ono, John considered the track to be Paul’s crack at “Soldier Boy,” the Shirelles’ No. 1 from earlier in ’62. (“P.S. I Love You” went all the way to No. 10 on the Billboard charts in 1964.)
If Beatles fans didn’t connect the two bands at the start, they had no choice by the time the Fab Four released its first LP, Please Please Me (1963). On that album, they recorded two tracks made popular by The Shirelles.
The Beatles covered 2 songs made famous by The Shirelles
While The Beatles had eight original (i.e., Lennon-McCartney) songs on Please Please Me, the band didn’t have enough to fill an LP. So the remaining six songs were cover versions of tracks they’d been playing in their stage show.
“Baby It’s You,” first recorded by The Shirelles in 1961, was one of those cover tracks. And “Boys,” which Ringo sang both at concerts and on record, represented the second Shirelles cover of the batch. So it’s safe to say The Beatles were big fans of the popular girl group.
While you might expect male singers to change the lyrics to a song like “Boys,” The Beatles didn’t bother. Ringo sang it almost exactly as it was written. “We just sang it the way they’d sung it and never considered any implications,” Paul explained in Beatles Anthology.