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 their first three singles there, "Please Please Me
," "From Me to You
" and "She Loves You
," were issued on small labels and flopped, even though they were hits in England.
Late in 1963, American news outlets started reporting on this British sensation, and interest in the group started to rise. Capitol Records took notice and released "I Want To Hold Your Hand" Stateside on December 26. The song rose up the chart, and on February 1, 1964, hit #1. It sold better in the 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 on February 7, 1964, greeted at the airport by screaming fans. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was the #1 song in the country at that time, and it stayed on top for seven weeks, until their next single, the re-released "She Loves You," replaced it.
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; McCartney wrote 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 two Ed Sullivan Show appearances, which took place February 9 and 16, 1964. There was already a media frenzy around The Beatles, which was amplified when millions 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
Johan Cavalli, 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 the Washington, DC radio station WWDC before it was released in America by a DJ named Carroll Baker, who got the record from a stewardess. It was a huge hit with his listeners and prompted Capitol Records to release the song ahead of schedule - they planned to issue it on January 13, 1964.
This was 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." They 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 "I Want To Hold Your Hand" 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 #1 in the US, it was the first time a British group topped the chart there since 1962, when "Telstar
" by The Tornados did it. Until The Beatles came along, most British groups that had hits in America came and went pretty quickly. The Beatles kicked off the British Invasion, leading to a lengthy occupation on the charts for acts like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who as well as The Beatles.
At times John Lennon realized the crowds The Beatles played to were so loud they really couldn't hear them sing, so sometimes instead of singing the line, "I want to hold your hand," he would say, "I want to hold your gland" as a reference to women's breasts.
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."
This song was used in the movie Across the Universe
at a much slower tempo.
Breanna - Henderson, NV
A fairly straightforward and simple Beatles song, this one still has some musical complexity that foreshadowed what was to come. "The middle eight of that does something," Tony Banks of Genesis
explained. "The way the key changes at that point is something I hadn't heard before."
The Melvins' 2018 release Pinkus Abortion Technician features a cover of a cover of this Beatles' classic. Dale Crover explained that the Melvins' version is a cover of the Moving Sidewalks' version of the song. Moving Sidewalks was formed in the mid-1960s and featured Billy Gibbons, who later went on to be part of Texas blues-rock band ZZ Top. Moving Sidewalks had a more psychedelic sound than ZZ Top, and the Melvins' cover stays faithful to their interpretation of the Beatles' tune.