Saturday, February 1, 2014

50 years ago: The Beatles hit #1 in the U.S. with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

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, 67.9 video, 233.71 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Beatlemania exploded in the UK in 1963. “From Me to You” hit #1 in May, followed by “She Loves You” in September and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in December. 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.” BR He couldn’t have been more wrong.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” ended up launching the group in the United States. Paul McCartney remembers the group telling Epstein, “We’re not going to America till we’ve got a #1 record.” RS500 They kept their promise. 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 the U.S. BB100 On February 9, 1964, the Beatles performed for an estimated 73 million people on The Ed Sullivan Show.

It went on to become the biggest hit of the year 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 tame sexuality of the title phrase was mocked by some critics AMG but “the lyrics are typical of the period – all euphemism and innuendo.” CR The Beatles had more on their minds than hand holding. KL Their goal was to “make maximum impact rather than last as a transcendent song,” LW However, they achieved the latter nonetheless with “one of the most important songs in rock history.” AMG


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Beatles
  • AMG All Music Guide
  • BB100 Billboard (9/08). “All-Time Hot 100
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 143.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 857-8.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 89.
  • 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.

First posted 4/15/2019; last updated 4/13/2021.

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