Song: “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles
Reached #1: February 1, 1964 (their first, 7 weeks)
Yes, it took 32 days to get to the band that changed everything.
The song rocketed up the charts, entering the Billboard Hot 100 on January 18, and reaching #1 just two weeks later.
Of course, we’ll see the Beatles multiple times over the next 11 months, so I won’t run out everything I want to say right now.
I’m simply going to propose my theory: Beatlemania doesn’t happen the way it did if JFK lived past 11/22/63.
Music has always been a refuge in tragedy. And in the wake of a national tragedy such as the events in Dallas, America desperately needed a refuge.
We found it in four British lads who played uptempo, fun, tight, well-written pop music. We needed something different – and what the Fab Four brought was so different that America needed an excuse to find them. Keep in mind that EMI/Capitol, and other labels, had been trying to break the Beatles in North America since 1962. The music really didn’t change – yes, Brian Epstein asked the boys to write a song “for the American market”, but the other singles that would hit the charts in 1964 were, for the most part, the same that had failed in 1962-63.
Ironically, Capitol didn’t want the record to be out this early (it came out on December 26, 1963, after WWDC in Washington imported the single from Britain) and threatened to sue because the early airplay threw off their release schedule, timed to the Ed Sullivan Show appearances. But, for perhaps the first time in their promotion of the Beatles, they did the right thing and rush-released the single.
The January 18, 1964 issue of Billboard was pretty much the first one in which the song could have charted after the post-holiday mad rush to buy the single. Once it did, history was well on its way.
But I wonder… if it hadn’t been for the great tragedy of 11/22/63, would we have seen quite the great triumph of Beatlemania in 1964? We’ll never know.
One thing is for sure – unlike a lot of their contemporaries, the Beatles’ music has aged well. Let’s face it, does this sound like a “Sixties” song? No. It’s just a good one.
Tomorrow, we see how much the top of the charts changed in just 10 years…
Other songs that reached #1 on February 1:
1969 – “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James & The Shondells (their second, 2 weeks)
1975 – “Laughter In The Rain” by Neil Sedaka (his second, 1 week)
1992 – “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” by George Michael & Elton John (Michael’s sixth, 1 week)
2003 – “Bump, Bump. Bump” by D2K featuring P. Diddy (D2K’s first, 1 week)