The Beatles reach number one in America

Following their first night of performances at the Olympia Theatre, Paris, The Beatles arrived back at the Hotel George V where they were told that ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ had reached number one in America.

A telegram came through to Brian from Capitol Records of America. He came running in to the room saying, ‘Hey, look. You are number one in America!’ I Want To Hold Your Hand had gone to number one.

Well, I can’t describe our response. We all tried to climb onto Big Mal’s back to go round the hotel suite: ‘Wey-hey!’ And that was it, we didn’t come down for a week.

The song was number one in the Cash Box chart, which had been compiled on the previous day. It showed that The Beatles had leapt from number 43 to the top spot.

It was such a buzz to find that it had gone to number one. We went out to dinner that evening with Brian and George Martin. George took us to a place which was a vault, with huge barrels of wine around. It was a restaurant and its theme was… well, the bread rolls were shaped like penises, the soup was served out of chamber pots and the chocolate ice cream was like a big turd. And the waiter came round and tied garters on all the girls’ legs. I’ve seen some pictures of us. There is a photograph around of Brian with the pot on his head.

It was a great feeling because we were booked to go to America directly after the Paris trip, so it was handy to have a number one. We’d already been hired by Ed Sullivan, so if it had been a number two or number ten we’d have gone anyway, but it was nice to have a number one.

We did have three records out in America before this one. The others were on two different labels. It was only after all the publicity and the Beatlemania in Europe that Capitol Records decided, ‘Oh, we will have them.’ They put out I Want To Hold Your Hand as our first single, but in fact it was our fourth.

The Beatles, Brian Epstein and George Martin in Paris, 16 January 1964

The Beatles celebrated until 5am. Almost immediately after hearing the news, Brian Epstein took a call from a Detroit promoter offering the group $10,000 for a single concert.

We couldn’t believe it. We all just started acting like people from Texas, hollering and shouting, ‘Ya-hoo!’; I think that was the night we finished up sitting on a bench by the Seine; just the four of us and Neil. In those days we’d promise Neil £20,000 if he’d go for a swim. He’d go for a swim and we’d say, ‘No, sorry.’

Derek Taylor, then a reporter for the Daily Express, accompanied The Beatles on their French trip, and was present when the band heard the US chart news.

I remember the Great Happening in the George V, when The Beatles learned that they were Number One in Cashbox magazine with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. In response to a message from George, I hurried along with Harry to their suite and found them all there, happier than I had ever seen them, Brian clutching his telegram containing the good news. The euphoria was infectious. I went to telephone Joan [Taylor] from George’s room. He took the phone from me and spoke to her for the first time: ‘Mrs Taylor, we’re Number One in Cashbox with our record! Isn’t it great!’ It was sweet indeed, then; somehow everything now seemed possible, for all of us. The column would write itself – and who cared about a boring old column anyway? The Beatles were Number One in America!

Harry and I together posed a great photograph: Brian and Paul with hands clasped behind their heads, George with telegraph, John with guitar, and Ringo just sitting. It was the last really good picture we would accomplish together on that trip. For the rest of the week, we kept trying for an exclusive; but the goodwill was fast dissolving and all four were uncooperative, reclusive and rude. The strain of the Paris trip was beginning to tell. There was so much happening. Norman Weiss arrived from the General Artists Corporation agency to talk contracts for the US; the American film producer Walter Shenson came for pre-production meetings on A Hard Day’s Night, and George Martin was there to make German versions of some of the hits: all this on top of concert performances The Beatles didn’t really want to do, now that the bravest New World was beckoning with such promise. They were also being solicited daily, nightly and mightily by a very large and importunate press corps, ranging from the bulky and famous Vincent Mulchrone of the Daily Mail to their then favourite photographer, Dezo Hoffmann (and including others neither so bona fide nor so friendly). And through it all, John and Paul were trying to write songs for A Hard Day’s Night.

Derek Taylor
Fifty Years Adrift
Last updated: 6 November 2020
The Beatles live: Olympia Theatre, Paris
The Beatles live: Olympia Theatre, Paris
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