I Want to Hold Your Hand
In a Nutshell
The Beatles' arrival in America in early 1964 was like nothing the country had ever seen. The four mop-topped British musicians – whose songs had never even been played on American radio until a few weeks earlier – were mobbed by thousands of screaming fans wherever they tried to go. Their concerts were practically drowned out by the rapturous shrieking of teenage female admirers. We had to invent a whole new word – "Beatlemania" – just to describe what was going on. At one point a few months later, the Beatles held down the top five spots on the US singles chart – all at the same time.
The story of how "Beatlemania" took hold is almost as unlikely as the phenomenon itself. (Hint: a key role was played by an ordinary schoolgirl in suburban Washington, D.C. Seriously.) And the story of the Beatles conquest of America is the story of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the Beatles' debut American single and the song that broke them from an obscure British quartet into becoming the biggest band ever, anywhere.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||John Lennon (vocals, rhythm guitar, handclaps), Paul McCartney (vocals, bass, handclaps), George Harrison (lead guitar, handclaps), Ringo Starr (drums, handclaps).
|Album||"I Want to Hold Your Hand" (single)|
|Year||1963 (UK), 1964 (US)|
|Label||Parlophone (UK), Capitol Records (US)|
|Writer(s)||John Lennon and Paul McCartney|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
How's this for a crazy historical analogy: Take something that's big in Europe, transplant it to the virgin soil of America, and watch it blow up into a phenomenon so huge that just about everybody has to take notice.
That's a pretty good description of Beatlemania, one of the signal moments of the history of rock n' roll
. It's also a pretty good description of the Columbian Exchange
, one of the defining events in the entire history of the world. A disease like smallpox was a big deal in Europe, but when it arrived in America among people who'd never seen it before or built up any immunities to it, it erupted to an almost unimaginable scale, taking down entire populations. Kinda like Beatlemania… only way, way, way less fun to dance to. And a smallpox pandemic definitely didn't
make you wanna hold anybody's hand.
On the Charts
The single was #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks in early 1964.
The single hit #1 in the UK as well; in Britain, it was The Beatles' fourth #1 hit in 1963.
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" had one million advance orders before it even got released as a single in the United States in late December 1963.
The RIAA, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Press all dubbed the song one of the "Songs of the Century."
Mojo's "100 Records That Changed the World" ranks "I Want To Hold Your Hand" #2 on that list.