‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ Turns 50: Let’s Celebrate the Birth of Beatlemania
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It was 50 years ago today next week that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play Beatlemania was born.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" was written on October 16, 1963, and recorded the next day. Within two months, it would be firmly entrenched at No. 1 in Britain and starting to get a little bit of radio play across the pond. It was not much more than three months later that it reached the top of the pops in America ... paving the way for an "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance that still stands as just about the greatest example of "appointment viewing" in TV history. Here is the story, behind the seminal song.
Things were not so hysterical when John Lennon and Paul McCartney sat down together at the piano on that fall night a half-century ago. They were banging out some tunes for their soon-to-be-released sophomore album, "With the Beatles," and also looking to write some singles that would not appear on the album, as was the custom at that time. Some have claimed they had been asked to deliberately try to come up with something that could crack the tough American market, which had proven highly resistant to Britpop, as poor Cliff Richard found out.
They were at the Winpole Street home of the Ashers, parents of Paul's girlfriend, Jane (and also Peter, of Peter & Gordon fame) on the evening of October 16. As Lennon later recounted: "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 noses."
According to Steve Turner's "A Hard Day's Write" book, Lennon had been listening to a French avant-garde record that included a song "where a musical expression repeated as if the record had stuck," and that provided the inspiration for repeating the phrase "I can't hide" three times.