John Lennon and Paul McCartney started writing this in McCartney's living room after they skipped school one day, with Paul writing the majority of this song in September of 1962.
Paul McCartney in Observer Music Monthly October 2007 on the early days of his songwriting partnership with John Lennon: "Those early days were really cool, just sussing each other out, and realizing that we were good. You just realize from what he was feeding back. Often it was your song or his song, it didn't always just start from nothing. Someone would always have a little germ of an idea. So I'd start off with [singing] 'She was just 17, she'd never been a beauty queen' and he'd be like, 'Oh no, that's useless' and 'You're right, that's bad, we've got to change that.' Then changing it into a really cool line: 'You know what I mean.' 'Yeah, that works.'"
The Beatles frequently played this at the Cavern Club, where they often played between 1961-1963. In fact, it was because of the crowd reaction to their live shows that George Martin decided to have them simply record their live show in the studio for their first album. That's why he kept Paul's "1, 2, 3, 4" count at the beginning, which was taken from the 9th take and edited on to the first. The title was originally "Seventeen" until it was changed for the album.
The Beatles performed this on their first two Ed Sullivan Show appearances, which took place a week apart in February, 1964. Getting on the show was a really big deal because it had a huge audience. About 73 million people watched the first show, which made The Beatles household names.
This wasn't released as a single in England. In the US, it was released as the flip side of "I Want To Hold Your Hand
," which was their first hit in the America. The Beatles were famous in England about a year before they caught on in America.
This became the first Beatles song performed on the TV series American Idol when Jordin Sparks won in 2007 and sang it on the finale with runner-up Blake Lewis. The first line of the song - "She was just 17" - was fitting, as that was Sparks' age.
Chuck Berry was a big influence on The Beatles, and the bass line of this song borrows from Berry's track "I'm Talking About You." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
This was the last song John Lennon performed for a paid audience. He played it at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974 when he took the stage at an Elton John concert. Elton released this version as the B-side of "Philadelphia Freedom" the following year. This was the only live duet ever recorded between Elton John and John Lennon, who were good friends.
This was covered in 1987 by pop star (and future Playboy model) Tiffany. It was on her first album, and released as a single after her first hit, which was a cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James & the Shondells. The her was changed to him in Tiffany's version, which hit #7 US and #8 UK. (thanks, Nora - richfield, MN)
At the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, McCartney went to one of the games at Yankee Stadium and was shown between innings singing along as this played in the stadium. It was McCartney's second visit to Yankee Stadium, and he saw The Yankees win that day, although they eventually lost the World Series.
Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman sing this song during a very powerful scene in the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man. (thanks, Ariel - Rehovot, Israel)
The Who, Daniel Johnston, Santo & Johnny, and The Tubes all covered this song. (thanks, Airk - Skagway, AK)
With Dave Grohl playing drums, Paul McCartney played this at the Grammy Awards in 2009.