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This was the first Beatles song to catch on in America. In 1963, the Beatles became stars in England, but couldn't break through in the US. They couldn't get a major label to distribute their singles in America, so songs like "Love Me Do
" and "She Loves You
" were issued on small labels and flopped, even though they were hits in England. By February 1964, America finally took notice of The Beatles and bought this single in droves, giving them their first US hit. It sold better in first 10 days of release in the US than any other British single, and remains the best-selling Beatles single in the United States, moving over 12 million copies.
The Beatles celebrated madly when they found out they were #1 in America. They came to America for the first time in February 1964, a week after this hit #1, and having the top single gave them a huge boost. Conquering the US was, and still is, a big deal for British bands. Many groups that are huge in the UK (Oasis, Blur) never really catch on in America.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote this in Jane Asher's basement. Asher was an actress who became Paul's first high-profile girlfriend. After appearing in several movies, TV shows and stage productions, Asher became an authority on baking, and has her own business selling party cakes and supplying baking and decorating equipment. She and Paul broke up in 1968.
Jane had a brother named Pete Asher who teamed up with Gordon Waller to form the duo Peter & Gordon and McCartney wrote for them their hit single "A World Without Love
." Pete recalled in a 2010 interview with Gibson.com the two Beatles penning this song at his home: "My mother had a practice room that she used to give private oboe lessons when she wasn't teaching at The Royal Academy, where she was a professor. There was just a piano, and an upright chair and a sofa. Paul used that room to write in, from time to time. One afternoon John came over, while I was upstairs in my room. The two of them were in the basement for an hour or so, and Paul called me down to listen to a song they had just finished. I went downstairs and sat on the sofa, and they sat side by side, on the piano bench. That's where they played 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' for the first anywhere. They asked me what I thought. I said, 'I think it's very good.'" [laughs]
The Beatles performed this on their first 2 Ed Sullivan Show appearances, which took place Feb 9th and 16th, 1964. There was a media frenzy around The Beatles, as this was #1 on the charts and millions of people saw them on Sullivan's show. The Beatles were booked for the show before they had a hit in the US, so they actually got paid less than many other guests for their appearance.
Bob Dylan thought the line "I can't hide" was "I get high," and a reference to marijuana. He was surprised to learn they had never tried pot, and became part of Beatles lore when he introduced them to it.
This was one of John Lennon's favorite Beatles songs. It starts with a falling melody, which is typical of Lennon's songwriting, and ends with a cadence with a quarter-interval: "I'll think you'll understand." That quarter-interval cadence you can even hear in Lennon's first bit of "From Me to You
" and in "Tomorrow Never Knows
." McCartney most often uses second-intervals. Also typically Lennon is the sudden octave-run, "Haaaaand..." The same octave-run you can hear in the end of the middle part in Lennon's "Please Please Me
": "To reason with youuuuuu..." Also note that the beginning of the melody in the middle part is almost the same melody as the beginning of the middle part in "Don't Let Me Down
." (thanks to Johan Cavalli, who is a music historian in Stockholm)
Two parody groups made answer songs to this in 1964: "I'll Let You Hold My Hand" by The Bootles and "Yes, You Can Hold My Hand" by The Beatlettes.
This was played on a Washington, D.C. radio station before it was released in America by a DJ who got the record from a stewardess. It was a huge hit with his listeners.
The first Beatles song recorded on 4 track equipment. Some of their first songs were in mono.
The Beatles also cut a German version called "Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand." The Beatles picked up some German while playing The Star Club in Hamburg in 1962.
In the 1960s it wasn't uncommon for British stars to record new versions of their hits in other languages. The idea was to increase airplay on continental stations and to get a hit before an indigenous artist recorded a version in the local tongue. On January 29, 1964, The Beatles went into the Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris and recorded this song and "She Loves You" ("Sie Liebt Dich") in German. The lyrics had been hurriedly translated by a Luxembourger named Camillo Felgen, who was then a program director at Radio Luxembourg. As well, apart from their recording of "My Bonnie" in the early '60s, this was the only time The Beatles recorded in another language. In addition it was the sole occasion on which they recorded outside London.
When this hit US #1 it was the first time a British group topped the charts in the US since 1962, when "Telstar
" by The Tornados did it. The Beatles quickly began dominating the US charts.
At times John Lennon realized that the crowds the Beatles played to were so loud that they really couldn't hear them sing, so sometimes instead of saying "I want to hold your hand," John would say, "I want to hold your gland" as a reference to women's breasts. (thanks, bob - Laguna Beach, CA)
It was the youth who discovered The Beatles, and while young people can be easily manipulated through hype and image, in the case of The Beatles it was the music that drew them in. An American girl Sanda Stewart, 15 years old in spring 1964 (according to Hunter Davies in his book Beatles) said: "I was one day in a shop with my mother when I suddenly heard 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' on the car radio. Such a special sound! I could never stop thinking about it. No song has effected me on that way. Several other girls in school had reacted in the same way. We saw the Beatles on photos and thought they were ugly. But their music was fantastic." (thanks to Johan Cavalli, who is a music historian in Stockholm)
This song was used in the movie Across the Universe at a much slower tempo. (thanks, Breanna - Henderson, NV)