I Want To Hold Your Hand

I Want To Hold Your Hand single - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 17 October 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 29 November 1963 (UK), 26 December 1963 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, rhythm guitar, handclaps
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar, handclaps
George Harrison: lead guitar, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums, handclaps

Available on:
Past Masters
Anthology 1
On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2

Released on 29 November 1963, I Want To Hold Your Hand sold more than a million copies on advanced orders alone. It became the group's first US number one, and kick-started the British Invasion of America.

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The song was written by Lennon and McCartney in the basement of Jane Asher's parents' house in Wimpole Street, London.

We wrote a lot of stuff together, one-on-one, eyeball to eyeball. Like in I Want To Hold Your Hand, I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher's house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, 'Oh you-u-u... got that something...' And Paul hits this chord and I turn to him and say, 'That's it!' I said, 'Do that again!' In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that - both playing into each other's nose.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

At the behest of Brian Epstein, I Want To Hold Your Hand was composed with the American market in mind.

From Me To You was released - a flop in America. She Loves You - a big hit in England, big number one in England - a flop in the USA. Nothing until I Want To Hold Your Hand.
Paul McCartney

I Want To Hold Your Hand is, along with She Loves You, the epitome of 1963 Beatles pop. It was recorded four days after the band's defining 13 October performance on Sunday Night At The London Palladium.

In the UK the song was a standalone single; it didn't feature on the group's second album, With The Beatles, which was released a week before the single.

A version of I Want To Hold Your Hand was included on the 2006 album Love. A shorter edit from the original studio recording was combined with a performance and crowd noise from the Hollywood Bowl, and the famous introduction from The Ed Sullivan Show: "Here they are... The Beatles!"

In the studio

I Want To Hold Your Hand was recorded on 17 October 1963, at Abbey Road's studio two. It was the first song The Beatles recorded using four-track technology; their previous releases had been completed using just two tracks.

I heard tapes recently of me counting in I Wanna [sic] Hold Your Hand, which was our first number one in the States, and I'm being pretty bossy: 'Sssh, Sssh! Clean beginning, c'mon, everyone. One, two. No, c'mon, get it right!' and I can see how that could get on your nerves.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The recording was completed in 17 takes. The Beatles spent some time rehearsing the song before the tapes began rolling, and according to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, take one was largely the same as the final version.

One early idea - take two - was to hush the vocal line "And when I touch you". Another - take four - saw Paul introduce the not uncommon 1963 Beatle 'h' into words ("Shay that shomething").
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions
Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles also recorded the single's b-side, This Boy, on 17 October. Prior to both songs, however, they taped the first of seven Christmas recordings, to be given away to members of the group's fan club.

The vocals were later re-recorded for the German market, as Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand, for Electrola Gesellschaft, the German wing of EMI. This took place on 29 January 1964 at EMI's Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris, along with Sie Liebt Dich (She Loves You) and Can't Buy Me Love.

UK chart success

I Want To Hold Your Hand/This Boy was released in the UK on 29 November 1963. Demand had been building since the success of She Loves You and the first flushes of Beatlemania. One million advance orders had been placed for the new single.

On 14 December it knocked She Loves You off the number one spot - the first time the same act had replaced itself at the top of the chart.

It remained at number one for five weeks, becoming The Beatles' 1963 Christmas hit, and stayed in the charts for a further 15 weeks. On 16 May 1964, during the peak of Beatlemania, it returned for a one-week return to the top.

20 responses on “I Want To Hold Your Hand

  1. Andrew

    The 2006 Love version actually has the studio recording playing in one speaker and the live Hollywood Bowl performance in the other, which is a little cooler than just sampling the crowd noise imo

    1. Joe Post author

      Good question. I think they were trying to establish a little motif or gimmick or their own, perhaps similarly to Buddy Holly’s trademark vocal hiccups. They abandoned it pretty quickly though – I don’t think it occurs after 1963.

      1. Deadman

        Saying “sh” instead of “s” avoids excessive sibilance, particularly when using a close microphone. These days, of course. you can just turn on a “de-esser” effect.

        ‘As I listened to the playbacks of “Misery” that afternoon, I was also struck by the way John and Paul sang the word “send” as “shend”…. Changing an “s” to an [sic] “sh” was an affectation on some American records, so it helped the Beatles sound more like their musical idols, plus it removed any potential “de-essing” problem, where, if there was too much top end (treble), the sound on vinyl would distort. That was a great little vocal trick, and they used it on a lot of their songs from then on, most notably on “I Want to Hold Your Hand”….’
        Geoff Emerick & Howard Massey, Here There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (London, 2007), p. 60.

      1. McLerristarr

        Interesting because on one of the Anthology videos I’m pretty sure he’s playing an acoustic guitar. I think it’s miming as well. Seems strange to mime with an instrument not even in the song. I guess he used it in the previous songs they were miming to and couldn’t be bothered changing instruments.

        1. Joe Post author

          In The Beatles as Musicians, Walter Everett claims there’s an overdubbed bass, played by Harrison. I’m not sure if it’s correct or not, but if so it’d be the first overdubbed bass on any Beatles song. According to Everett, it’s the five-note run after “…tell you something” etc in each verse, played fairly high on the fretboard so it’s within a guitar’s range.

    1. Joe Post author

      Lennon used a Rickenbacker 325 with very heavy compression applied. The result knocked out most of the guitar’s dynamic range, making it sound almost like an organ.

    2. Rick N. Backer

      In my opinion, for anything regarding John Lennon”s guitar technique and sound go to Youtube and check out the guitar videos of a guy called msjokes. He is a fountain of practical knowledge on the Beatles’s sound.

  2. carlos gutman

    The first overdubbed bass line in Beatles discography was “From me to you” (Listen to the solo: harmonica, guitar and bass playing the riff at the same time). In any case it must be Paul who overdubbed the bass in this song.

  3. Bob Harris

    When I first heard this song on Love I kept saying I do not remember the drums sounding this great. I think that is because they were not featured as prominently in the mix. I am not a musician but I love Ringo’s drumming on this song.

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