Released on 29 November 1963, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ sold more than a million copies on advanced orders alone. It became The Beatles’ first US number one, and kick-started the British Invasion of America.
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.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
‘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 by Bob Eubanks: “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.
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 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.