The subject for Day 11 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song from the first album you ever owned“. This will reveal how ancient I am, but the first album I ever owned was Meet the Beatles!, which I bought in 1964 when I was nine years old. My copy, pictured above, is still in mint condition. The song I’ve chosen from the album is “I Want to Hold Your Hand“, which was my introduction to the Beatles, and their first Top 40 hit in the U.S. (The version of the album released in the UK was titled With the Beatles, and featured a different list of tracks, none of which was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.)
The Beatles recorded “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at EMI Studios in London on October 17, 1963, along with “This Boy”, which became the B-side of the 45 single released in the UK. The two songs were recorded on the same day, and required seventeen takes to complete. The single was released on November 29, 1963 in the UK, and December 26, 1963 in the U.S., although the version released in the U.S. featured “I Saw Her Standing There” as the B-side.
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at #45 on January 18, 1964, which music historians mark as the beginning of the ‘British Invasion’ of the American music industry. It reached #1 on February 1st, and stayed there for seven weeks before being replaced by “She Loves You”, which had actually been released in September 1963, but shockingly, failed to catch on in the U.S. at the time. Despite receiving a positive review in Billboard, “She Loves You” garnered very little radio airplay, sold only about 1,000 copies, and completely failed to chart on Billboard (I previously featured “She Loves You” for another song challenge in 2020, which you can read here).
After the poor reception for “She Loves You” in the U.S., Capitol Records (the Beatles’ label for the distribution of their music in the U.S.) resisted releasing any more of their music, despite protestations by Beatles’ producer George Martin and manager Brian Epstein. Capitol finally released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” the day after Christmas 1963.
Though the song was quickly embraced by raving fans on both sides of the Atlantic, it was dismissed by some stodgy critics as nothing more than another fad song that would not hold up to the test of time. Proving them wrong, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” went on to become the Beatles’ best-selling single worldwide, selling more than 12 million copies, and in 2018, Billboard named it the 48th biggest hit of all time on its Hot 100. In the UK, it was the second highest selling single of the 1960s, behind “She Loves You”.
Here’s their famous performance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.