The Beatles have their first number one hit in the United States with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and recorded in October 1963, it was the first Beatles record to be made using four-track equipment.
With advance orders exceeding one million copies in the United Kingdom, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” would have gone straight to the top of the British record charts on its day of release had it not been blocked by the group’s first million-seller “She Loves You”, their previous UK single, which was having a resurgence of popularity following intense media coverage of the group. Taking two weeks to dislodge its predecessor, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” stayed at number 1 for five weeks and remained in the UK top 50 for 21 weeks in total.
It was also the group’s first American number 1 hit, entering the Billboard Hot 100 chart on 18 January 1964 at number 45 and starting the British invasion of the American music industry. By 1 February it topped the Hot 100, and stayed there for seven weeks before being replaced by “She Loves You”. It remained on the Billboard chart for 15 weeks. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” became the Beatles’ best-selling single worldwide selling more than 12 million copies. In 2013, Billboard magazine named it the 44th biggest hit of “all-time” on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Capitol Records’ rejection of the group’s recordings in the US was now Brian Epstein’s main concern, and he encouraged Lennon and McCartney to write a song to appeal specifically to the American market. George Martin, however, had no such explicit recollections, believing that Capitol were left with no alternative but to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand” due to increasing demand for the group’s product.
McCartney had recently moved into 57 Wimpole Street, London, where he was lodging as a guest of Dr Richard and Margaret Asher, and whose daughter, actress Jane Asher, had become McCartney’s girlfriend after their meeting earlier in the year. This location briefly became Lennon and McCartney’s new writing base, taking over from McCartney’s Forthlin Road home in Liverpool. Margaret Asher taught the oboe in the “small, rather stuffy music room” in the basement where Lennon and McCartney sat at the piano and composed “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. In September 1980, Lennon told Playboy magazine:
We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball. Like in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, ‘Oh you-u-u/ got that something…’ And Paul hits this chord and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that—both playing into each other’s noses.
In 1994, McCartney agreed with Lennon’s description of the circumstances surrounding the composition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, saying: “‘Eyeball to eyeball’ is a very good description of it. That’s exactly how it was. ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ was very co-written.” According to Ian MacDonald, in keeping with how Lennon and McCartney collaborated at that time, lyrically bland, random phrases were most likely called out by the pair; if the phrases fitted the overall sound, they would stay. The song’s title was probably a variation of “I Wanna Be Your Man”, which the Beatles had recently recorded at EMI Studios.
On 1 February 1964, the Beatles posted their first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” their first entry on the list, rose 3-1 in its just its third week on the chart. It had vaulted from its No. 45 debut the week before.
Eight days after the song reached No. 1, the Fab Four would appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which drew a reported 73 million viewers, helping fuel the wave of Beatlemania that crashed U.S. shores following the band’s native British breakthrough.