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Beatles first single Love Me Do turns 50
The Beatles. Picture: Reuters/Robert Whitaker/Handout .

The Beatles' debut tune that launched Britain into the Swinging Sixties and helped to ignite a worldwide obsession for the four-man band from Liverpool celebrates its 50th birthday on Friday.

Even though it only peaked at No.17 on the British charts, the single Love Me Do was not only the group's first record but also their first hit.

"It's obviously the first single, but more importantly, it established their policy of only releasing songs that were written by the Beatles themselves," said Hamish MacBain, assistant editor at British music magazine NME.

"The fashion at that time was not for big groups to write their own material, so the Beatles were being quite radical in that sense by issuing a single that they had written themselves," MacBain said.

Love Me Do was recorded in September 1962 with the so-called "fifth Beatle", producer George Martin, who pushed for the release of another song, penned by British songwriter Adam Faith but performed by the Fab Four.

But the Beatles got their way, and Love Me Do went on sale on October 5, 1962.

The group's insistence that they only release songs they had written themselves "established a trend that lasted obviously their entire career and became the norm for big groups that became rock bands", MacBain said.

"You were not considered a serious rock band by the mid-`60s unless you were writing your own material."

Co-written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the catchy lyrics and recognisable harmonies of Love Me Do were recorded at London's Abbey Road studios, later made famous by the group.

Although it kick-started their career and became a British hit, Love Me Do did not spark Beatlemania, said Simon Zagorski-Thomas, a reader in music at University of West London's college of music.

"Love Me Do was an interesting song, but it wasn't the thing that really launched their career," Zagorski-Thomas said.

Instead, it was the group's 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States that made the Beatles a phenomenon distinct from all previous British bands and launched them globally.

"Love Me Do is not considered by most observers to be among the Beatles' masterpieces," MacBain said.

"In terms of songwriting it's pretty basic, and it's certainly not as good as the stuff they were coming out with a few months later," MacBain said.

"P.S. I Love You was recorded on the B-side of the track, and both songs were featured on the group's perennial album Please Please Me," released in March 1963.

BBC Four TV will air a documentary on Sunday about Love Me Do, with an eyewitness account claiming that the group's manager Brian Epstein bought 10,000 copies of the single to boost sales.

While the rumour has never been proved, Epstein's friend and business associate, Joe Flannery, claims in the documentary that the copies were purchased.