60 Years Ago: Beatles First U.S. Chart Appearance

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Beatles I Want To HoldA few weeks’ ago, Best Classic Bands commemorated the U.S. release of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which occurred on December 26, 1963. This day, January 18, 1964, is notable for the Beatles’ first appearance on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. (Technically, the group had made a previous placement in Billboard, reaching #116 on the trade publication’s Bubbling Under chart in Aug. 1963.)

It’s hard to imagine–impossible really–but Capitol Records, which is essentially synonymous with the rise of The Beatles in America, had turned down their sister U.K. label Parlophone’s efforts to release the group’s singles stateside.

That all changed with “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The single was released in the U.K. on November 29, 1963, though it took two weeks to hit #1 there, where the group’s “She Loves You” was ensconced.

Capitol had scheduled it for a mid-January 1964 release but clever U.S. radio DJs who were privy to the song’s overseas success arranged to get copies shipped to them and began playing the import early. This forced Capitol’s hand–the label actually contemplated seeking a court order to halt airplay. They wisely recognized that they could use the radio activity to their advantage and the single’s release date was moved up to December 26th to “Capitol”-ize on the demand. (OK, we made that word up.) With the floodgates opened, the 45 is reported to have sold 250,000 copies within days.

How amazing is that picture sleeve above? Look closely and you’ll see Paul McCartney holding a cigarette.

On January 18, 1964, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” debuted on the Hot 100 Singles Chart at #45. The Beatles’ impact in America cannot be overstated: When the song hit #1 two weeks’ later on February 1, 1964, it became the first of seven #1 singles they achieved in a one-year period, launching both Beatlemania and the British Invasion.

Watch their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show eight days later on February 9, 1964

The expanded edition of The Beatles’ 1962-1966 album is available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

10 Comments so far

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  1. You know
    #1 You know 19 January, 2017, 12:17

    Not quite true. The Beatles made it to number 35 in March 1963. Please Please Me on VJ label out of Chicago. This was WLS radio.

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    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 19 January, 2017, 14:32

      Thanks for that info. We should have been more clear. We use the national Billboard Hot 100 chart for all of our chart figures unless otherwise noted.

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      • Dbeatlefreak
        Dbeatlefreak 18 January, 2018, 16:37

        Well…..not exactly true. The Beatles first U.S. national chart appearance was From Me To You/Thank You Girl released on VJ 522 and bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in August 1963 reaching a peak of #116.

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    • Bluerobb
      Bluerobb 19 January, 2018, 17:50

      That is how I recall it, too. My hair was already growing and I had gotten a bass guitar by the time Capitol released I Want to Hold Your Hand b/w I Saw Her Standing There.

      Reply this comment
  2. JSlotnikoff
    #2 JSlotnikoff 18 January, 2021, 18:39

    What’s weird about the picture sleeve is that McCartney is holding his cigarette in his right hand… but Sir Paul is a leftie!

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  3. Jim Southern
    #3 Jim Southern 19 January, 2021, 02:57

    After Capitol said no, Vee Jay got involved. They had a huge impact with 45’s, like the Four Seasons, Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler and others. When their initial efforts failed, “She Loves You” went to the Swan label, likely because of its Philadelphia location (see Dick Clark). Then came “…Hold Your Hand” and Boom!!!

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    • Neilbeatle
      Neilbeatle 19 January, 2023, 05:29

      To a certain point location maybe but dick Clark and his audience did not think the Beatles would go anywhere either .

      Reply this comment
  4. beatseeker
    #4 beatseeker 19 January, 2021, 14:35

    did you ever notice that the sleeve for paperback writer b/w rain, how it’s backwards, and everyone(‘cept paul) is left-handed? at least on my copy. (i’m a proud lefty!) still have it framed on my wall.

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