The Beatles photographed circa 1964
Photo: Getty Images
Remember When? The Beatles Unleash "I Want To Hold Your Hand"
It was 54 years ago this week when the Beatles put the finishing touches on the song that would usher in the British Invasion to the United States.
On Oct. 17, 1963, the Fab Four — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — entered studio two at Abbey Road to have a go at a song called "I Want To Hold Your Hand." The touchy-feely ditty was written by Lennon and McCartney. As Beatles lore goes, the nascent songwriting duo worked out the tune's framework sitting side by side at a piano in the London home of McCartney's then-girlfriend, Jane Asher.
Aided by producer George Martin and the use of four-track technology — the first Beatles song to be recorded with such — the group recorded 17 takes of the song.
The result is what many historians cite as the aural epitome of Beatles pop candy. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is sweetened by many of the hallmarks ingrained within the Beatles' early song output: strong rhythmic and melodic hooks, prominent vocal harmonies, Harrison's jangly guitar stylings, and Starr's inimitable backbeat — all blended masterfully by Martin.
Upon its release on Dec. 26, 1963, in the United States, the song served as the opening Beatles salvo for millions of listeners. In January 1964 it entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart and climbed to become the group's first U.S. No. 1 single by February, staying there for seven weeks. On Feb. 9, 1964, the Fab Four performed their hit during their landmark debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show," a true watershed moment for music and pop culture.
The Beatles would earn their first GRAMMY nomination for "I Want To ..." for Record Of The Year at the 7th GRAMMY Awards. (That same year, they won their first two awards: Best New Artist and Best Performance By A Vocal Group.) In 1998 it became the fourth Beatles recording to be inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.
"'I Want To Hold Your Hand' changed everything," McCartney told Rolling Stone in 1987. Martin later added that the track represented "the apex of phase one of the Beatles' development. When they started out, in the 'Love Me Do' days, they weren't good writers. … It wasn't until they tasted blood that they realized they could do this, and that set them on the road to writing better songs."