Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Beatles hit #1 in the U.S. with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” fifty years ago today (2/1/1964)

First posted 4/15/2019; updated 4/17/2020.

I Want to Hold Your Hand

The Beatles

Writer(s): John Lennon/Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)

Released: November 29, 1963

First Charted: December 5, 1963

Peak: 17 US, 18 CB, 19 HR, 15 UK, 16 CN, 17 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.86 UK, 12.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, -- video, 39.3 streaming


About the Song:

This was the biggest hit of 1964, WHC and the Beatles’ first of twenty #1’s on the Billboard Hot 100, a still untouched record. BB100 It was also the opening shot for the British Invasion. AMG Previously, only two British artists had topped the U.S. charts – Acker Bilk with “Stranger on the Shore” and the Tornados with “Telstar.” LW However, during 1964 and 1965, the Brits occupied a whopping 52 weeks at the American chart pinnacle. LW

The Beatles were not, however, an overnight success. They’d been huge in the U.K. for more than a year, but manager Brian Epstein couldn’t get Capitol Records (EMI’s American company) interested because, as one label executive said, “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” BR1

Paul McCartney remembers the group telling Epstein, “We’re not going to America till we’ve got a #1 record.” RS500 When the Beatles touched down in New York for their first U.S. visit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the number one song in America. BB100 On February 9, 1964, the Beatles performed for an estimated 73 million people on The Ed Sullivan Show. Beatlemania was born.

The tame sexuality of the title phrase was mocked by some critics AMG and certainly the goal was “make maximum impact rather than last as a transcendent song,” LW but the delivery of the song hinted that the Beatles had more on their minds than hand holding. KL What they may not have intended, but achieved nonetheless, was world dominance and a permanent impact on music as “Hand” became “one of the most important songs in rock history.” AMG

Resources and Related Links:

  • The Beatles’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • AMG All Music Guide
  • BB100 Billboard (9/08). “All-Time Hot 100
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 143.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 96.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 121.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 89.

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