Written in early 1962, "Ask Me Why" is principally a John Lennon composition, but was credited to Paul McCartney and John Lennon, as were all other Lennon–McCartney originals on the first pressings of Please Please Me album. Paul McCartney: "It was John's original idea and we both sat down and wrote it together, just did a job on it. It was mostly John's." (Barry Miles. Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now). It was part of their live act prior to their recording contract, and was one of the songs performed at their Parlophone audition in EMI's Abbey Road studio three on 6 June 1962. The song emulates in style that of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, by whom Lennon was influenced, and draws its opening guitar phrase from the Miracles’ "What’s So Good About Goodbye" (1961).
The song is in the key of E major, with some leaning to its relative minor of C#, and is in 4/4 time. Structurally, the song is complex and, as Alan Pollack states, contains three different variants of the verse. The song also contains "jazzy parallel sevenths" in most of the chords, and has a live ending.
"Ask Me Why" was originally recorded at Abbey Road studios on 6 June 1962 with an unknown number of takes as part of the Beatles' EMI audition. The two quarter-inch tape reels from that session were later destroyed by EMI. It was recorded again on 26 November 1962, the same day the Beatles rehearsed "Tip of My Tongue", another Lennon and McCartney song which, along with "Ask Me Why", was also being considered for the B-side of the "Please Please Me" single. However, George Martin felt that "Tip of My Tongue" still needed some work, and it was eventually given to Tommy Quickly to record.
Capitol Records, EMI's American counterpart to Parlophone, initially refused to distribute Beatle music in the US and so the "Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why" single was released by Vee-Jay Records on 25 February 1963.