It was 60 years ago today …
Those of us who are old enough to remember the arrival of The Beatles in America can never forget the pandemonium they created. Sorry, if you’re not old enough to remember the Beatlemania tsunami, my mere words can never adequately describe them for you. The Beatles simply were a musical and cultural phenomenon like none before, and the adulation heaped upon them may never be equaled. Even Elvis stood in awe. I remember watching their first movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” at the Tower Theatre in Fresno the summer of 1964 when the screaming girls overpowered the sound system. I found myself cast away in a sea of frenzied, hysterical teenage girls, unabashedly crying and shrieking at those larger-than-life black and white images. I had a different fascination. I wanted to get a good look at George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 12-string guitar and maybe figure out how to play a couple of those songs.
Capitol Records, owned by EMI, The Beatles record company in England, didn’t release their records here in America at first because they said “they sounded like hillbillies with accents.” Take another listen to “Love Me Do” or “From Me To You,” or even “Please Please Me” perhaps, and you can understand the record company’s opinion, although I suspect The Beatles might say that was exactly the sound they were trying to create. English Everly Brothers.
Upon its initial release in America by the tiny record label Swan, “She Loves You” flopped (despite being the Beatles’ best-selling single in England). But based on the subsequent success of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” — the number one worldwide smash released just a month later that sold more than a million advance copies in England alone — Swan hastily reissued “She Loves You” in January 1964, and it sold more than 2 1/2 million copies, becoming the company’s first and only number one record.
While it failed initially to chart in the states, “She Loves You,” with its earworm, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Andrews Sisters’ sixth harmony, Isley Brothers’ falsetto whoops, the super silly say-e-a lyric and the mostly John and Paul unison lead vocal, entrenched Beatlemania in England. As The Beatles crossed the English Channel to lay waste to Europe that winter, Capitol Records reconsidered, and launched a publicity campaign to coincide with the Dec. 26, 1963 American release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” the release of the “Meet The Beatles” album nearly a month later and The Beatles upcoming Feb. 9 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. With the Capitol Records promotion machine pumping and churning at full strength, radio stations everywhere frantically proclaimed, “The Beatles are coming, The Beatles are coming … “
“I Want To Hold Your Hand” went on to sell more than 12 million copies worldwide. In the first days after its release, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” reportedly sold 10,000 copies an hour in New York City alone. And after seven weeks in the number one spot in America, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was replaced by — you guessed it — “She Loves You.” By April The Beatles occupied the top five spots in the hit parade. The British Invasion had begun. Other number one hits by the Fab Four in America in 1964 included “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Feel Fine” and “Eight Days A Week.”
It might be impossible for us to understand or comprehend today with all the box sets and reissues on the market, once the masters for the “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” singles were prepared for the pressing plant, the original recording session tapes were erased and reused.
If you’d like to visit or revisit those first infectious days of Beatlemania, just click here to hear the “She Loves You” single. Lasting only 2 minutes, 19 seconds, it’s a true pop masterpiece — irresistibly effervescent and joyfully exuberant — released in America to very little fanfare 60 years ago today.