Beatles shown on a Parlophone record sleeve for “Love Me Do” – billed as “a great new group from Liverpool.”
On October 5th, 1962 – more than 50 years ago – the Beatles’ first major hit song was released, “Love Me Do.” It was recorded by the famous group during some of their first sessions at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London during June and September 1962. EMI was then regarded as one of the most prestigious recording companies in the U.K., and the Beatles, through the persistent efforts of their manager, Brian Epstein, were fortunate to even have had a chance with EMI. “Love Me Do” was also among the first of the “Lennon-McCartney” hit songs – those written jointly by Beatles’ singer-songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In this case, “Love Me Do” had originated in 1958 from Paul’s schoolboy song scribblings – something both he and Lennon did in their dreaming about musical stardom.
Some years later, John Lennon would say that “Love Me Do” was “Paul’s song.” Lennon explained that McCartney had written it when he was about 15-16 years old, adding, “I might have helped on the middle eight, but I couldn’t swear to it…” Lennon did say, however, that the song had been around awhile, and the Beatles had used it in their early performing – “in Hamburg even, way, way before we were songwriters.” McCartney, was more generous about Lennon’s involvement with the song, saying that “Love Me Do” was “completely co-written. It might have been my original idea, but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was. It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea.”
Music Player “Love Me Do” – 1962 (UK), 1964(US)
In any case, the song would rise on the British music charts during October and November 1962, reaching No. 17, making it the Beatles’ first Top 20 hit. However, the song wouldn’t officially arrive in the American market until late April 1964. But for the Beatles, that wasn’t even a consideration at the time. They were just thrilled to have their first major recording.
Beatles’ 1962 hit “Love Me Do” shown on Parlophone 45 rpm record label, EMI, produced by George Martin.
“For me that was more important than anything else,” Ringo Starr would say of their breakthrough hit. “That first piece of plastic. You can’t believe how great that was. It was so wonderful. We were on a record!” John Lennon put it this way: “In Hamburg we clicked. At the Cavern we clicked. But if you want to know when we ‘knew’ we’d arrived, it was getting in the charts with ‘Love Me Do’. That was the one. It gave us somewhere to go.” George Harrison recalled it as the song that opened the doors:
“First hearing ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio sent me shivery all over. It was the best buzz of all time. We knew it was going to be on Radio Luxembourg at something like 7:30 on a Thursday night. I was in my house in Speke and we all listened in. That was great, but after having got to 17 [on the charts] I don’t recall what happened to it. It probably went away and died, but what it meant was that the next time we went to EMI, they were more friendly: ‘Oh, hello lads. Come in.'”
Brian Epstein, Beatles manager & Liverpool record store owner.
“Love Me Do” – with “P.S. I Love You” on the B side – became the Beatles debut single in the U.K. The song’s production had the guiding hand of George Martin, then manager of one of four record labels at EMI, his being Parlophone, on which “Love Me Do” first appeared, as shown above. Martin, however, had not produced much pop music, though he had done well with some show tunes and comedy recordings, and had also worked with artists such as Shirley Bassey.
The Beatles wanted to record their own material, something which was almost unheard of at that time. George Martin would help them do that, but not initially, as Martin had been schooled in the “Tin Pan Alley” tradition where outside professional writers provided the songs for performers. “Tin Pan Alley” refers both to an actual area of New York city where a concentration of professional writers and music publishers worked, and also to that particular style of music business and production, found in other major cities as well.
George Martin had first met with Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, in February 1962, after putting him off repeatedly. Martin listened to a tape the Beatles had recorded at Decca, one of several recording labels which had turned down the group. Martin found the Beatles’ tape “rather unpromising,” but he liked the sound of Lennon and McCartney’s vocals. After another meeting with Epstein in May at the Abbey Road studios, Martin was impressed with Epstein’s enthusiasm and verbally agreed to sign the unknown Beatles without having met them or seen them play live. Turns out, EMI wasn’t gambling much on that commitment, as the terms offered were decidedly in EMI’s favor.
1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
A first audition came in June 1962, with the arriving Beatles described as being “in awe” of the studio. That audition yielded a tape that Martin – who had not been at the session – listened to at the session’s end. He found their original songs lacking, and also lectured them about what it would take to make it, during which they listened politely and were silent. Acknowledging he was a bit harsh on them, Martin then asked if there was anything troubling them, or if there was something they were not happy with, to which George Harrison replied, “Well, there’s your tie, for a start.” That remark, reportedly, became a turning point for Martin, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney joined in with jokes and comic wordplay as well, which made Martin think they should be signed for their wit alone. He would later say that it was the Beatles’ “cheeky charm” that won him over.
Martin would also later acknowledge that Brian Epstein was key to the Beatles’ signing at EMI and their early success. “Individually [the Beatles] may have written and published a few songs,” Martin would say of the Beatles without Epstein’s early help. And they would have been very popular in Liverpool. But without Epstein, Martin believed, they wouldn’t have risen to worldwide fame. “His faith [in the Beatles] never wavered.” Epstein, who was also from Liverpool, had discovered the Beatles through his work at the family business, North End Music Stores (NEMS), which he had turned into a top regional record retailer, and later, through NEMS Enterprises, managed other artists as well. Tragically, Epstein died of a an accidental barbiturate sleeping pill-and-achohol combination in August 1967 at the age of 43.
The Beatles at work, EMI studios, Abbey Road, London, England, Tuesday, 4 September 1962. From left: Ringo, George, John and Paul. Photo: Dezo Hoffmann.
At the time of the Beatles’ first sessions at Abbey Road, Martin wanted the group to record “How Do You Do It?,” a song written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callender — a song that had been offered to British teen star, Adam Faith, but rejected. The Beatles rehearsed the song, but weren’t thrilled about recording it. However, Martin told them unless they could write something as commercial as “How Do You Do It?,” the Tin Pan Alley formula of using outside material would prevail. So the Beatles recorded it along with a few of their own songs.
Music Player “P.S. I Love You” – 1962
Although Martin would be proven right about “How Do You Do It ?” – which later became a hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers – in the end he allowed the Beatles’ own material to go out on their first single, with “Love Me Do” being the primary tune. The Beatles also wanted “Please, Please Me” to be the “B” side of that single, but “P.S. I Love You” was used instead – a somewhat overlooked song in Beatles history. “P.S. I Love You” – also a Lennon-McCartney composition – was composed with female listeners in mind. The Beatles had used the song as part of their Cavern Club set list and it had become a fan favorite. The tune includes some innovative mixing and interspersing of background vocals
U.K. poster for June 21,1962 concert with Bruce Channel and The Beatles.
A part of the sound that distinguished “Love Me Do,” however, and one that would become a part of the Beatles’ early trademark on several of their early songs, was the harmonica – played by John Lennon. Some accounts credit George Martin with urging that the harmonica be used in the song, while others report that it was the harmonica sound that had attracted Martin to the song, and was already part of how the Beatles had been performing it in the clubs. Lennon had learned to play the harmonica after his Uncle George gave him one as a young boy.
But in 1962, around the time the Beatles were recording “Love Me Do,” there were two popular songs out with harmonica parts that had caught Lennon’s attention – “Hey Baby” by U.S. singer Bruce Channel (No. 1 U.S. March 1962) and “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield (No. 1, U.K. July 1962). Brian Epstein, in fact, also handled a booking for Bruce Channel at a NEMS concert in Wallasey, England on June 21, 1962, just a few weeks after Channel’s “Hey Baby” had charted. The Beatles would be on that bill as well, at second billing, a prestigious slot at the time. But Lennon was quite taken with Channel’s harmonica player, Delbert McClinton, and during their joint billing, Lennon asked McClinton for advice on how to play the instrument. At any rate, the harmonica sound would become a featured and background instrument on other Beatles songs including: “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “I Should Have Known Better,” “Chains,” “There’s a Place,” “Thank You Girl,” “I’ll Get You,” “Little Child,” I’m A Loser,” “The Fool On The Hill” and “Rocky Raccoon.”
Music Player “Hey Baby”- Bruce Channel
“Love Me Do,” meanwhile, was not promoted by EMI. Brian Epstein, however, did what he could to generate interest, both in the song and on the news that the Beatles had signed with EMI. In one press release for the single that was sent out, there were several exaggerated claims about the Beatles’ rising popularity, and also an amusing passage from John Lennon describing how the Beatles determined their name: “…It came to us in a vision. A man descended unto us astride a flaming pie and spake these words unto us saying ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an ‘A’. Thus it did come to pass thus.”
Top half of U.K. “Mersey Beat” front page, January 1962. Copyright, Bill Harry.
“Love Me Do” rose on the U.K. music charts within days of its release, with sales initially concentrated in and around Liverpool, the Beatles’ hometown, and where they had also received the attention of a music newspaper named Mersey Beat, published by Bill Harry. Liverpool was also home to the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who owned record stores there. In fact, rumors have persisted over the years that Epstein had bulk- ordered some 10,000 copies or more of the song to increase its chart ranking. Yet some of the Beatles, including John Lennon, denied that happened. Bill Harry of Mersey Beat also wrote a piece in his paper explaining how chart computations were made and why he found the charge without merit.
“Love Me Do” did well on regional U.K. music charts, including a No. 1 showing at Mersey Beat. It also appeared on other U.K. charts, including New Musical Express (NME), Record Mirror, and Disc. Melody Maker was also an important chart in the U.K, and one of the longest-running. “Love Me Do” entered that chart on November 27, 1962 at No. 48, eventually rising to No. 21, remaining on that chart life of sixteen weeks. U.K. music critic Ian Mac- Donald found that “Love Me Do,” with its working- class sound, “rang the first faint chime of a revolu- tionary bell” compared to Tin Pan Alley fare. On December 20, 1962, “Love Me Do” peaked at No. 17 on the Record Retailer chart. The Record Retailer was the trade publication the U.K. record industry regarded its official publication, and its music chart was compiled by the British Market Research Bureau and used by the BBC.
Meanwhile, back in the recording studio, on November 26, 1962 the Beatles and George Martin re-recorded “Please Please Me,” a John Lennon tune. Lennon and McCartney had besieged Martin to record and release another of their original songs. Martin agreed, and appears to have played an important role in changing the song for the better, as he had them speed up what initially had been a slow ballad. “Please, Please Me,” released in January 1963, hit No. 1 on some of the British music charts February 22, 1963.
Other hit singles followed. “From Me To You,” for example, hit No. 1 on May 2 1963, holding there for seven weeks. The Beatles’ first U.K. album – titled Please Please Me – came out in April 1963 and within a month was the No.1 album, remaining in that position for 30 weeks. A second U.K. album — With the Beatles — came next. From then on, there came a string of more No. 1 U.K. Beatles’ singles – at least eleven more by one count – and more No. 1 albums as well.
Martin Creasey’s 2011 book on the Beatles’ UK tours.
“Beatlemania” by this time was in full gale throughout the U.K. In November 1963, the Beatles performed at the Odeon Cinema in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. On the following day, The Daily Mirror newspaper used the headline: “Beatlemania!,” exclaiming, “It’s happening everywhere. . . even in sedate Cheltenham.”
The Beatles’ popularity in the U.S., however, would lag behind the U.K. somewhat, owing in part to EMI’s own American subsidiary, Capitol Records, whose executives declined to take on Beatles songs in early 1963, saying, “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” Lesser known labels, including Vee Jay and Swan then began picking up the Beatles’1963 songs for limited U.S. release, as well as Capitol’s Canadian arm. Still, even with these, there was not much American notice of Beatles music in 1963, although a few U.S. news stories and some TV coverage had appeared about their success in the U.K. But that was about to change in a big way as Brian Epstein had negotiated some Beatles’ TV appearances with Ed Sullivan for the following February. By December 1963, meanwhile, EMI’s U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, began to see the light and released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the American market. See “Beatles in America” story at this website for a more detailed 1963-1964 timeline.
1964 U.S. single of "Love Me Do"/ "P.S I Love You" on Tollie Records.
1964 “Love Me Do” – U.S.
By the time “Love Me Do” formally entered the U.S. market as a single in late April 1964, the song was almost an afterthought. By then, America was in full Beatles swoon, as the group had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show three times, performed live in Washington, D.C. and New York city, and had at least 14 of their songs among the Top 100 on the Billboard music chart. When “Love Me Do” began to enter the U.S. charts in the spring of 1964, it was due initially to sales of imported copies from Canada. On April 27th, 1964 the single “Love Me Do”/ “P.S I Love You” was formally released in the U.S. by Vee-Jay’s Tollie Records subsidiary. A month later, by May 30th, “Love Me Do” was the No. 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard music chart, remaining in the Top 100 for 14 weeks.
1982: Beatles on record sleeve cover of 20 anniversary edition of “Love Me Do.”
1982 20 Years Later
In 1982, at the 20th anniversary of “Love Me Do,” the song was re-issued in the U. K. in a special 12-inch edition, featuring both versions of the song recorded on September 4th and September 11th, 1962. With the re-issue, “Love Me Do” rose to No. 4 on the music charts, making an even better showing than it did 20 years earlier. In the Netherlands, a 20th anniversary EP was issued featuring “Love Me Do” along with two other early ’60s Beatles’ hits – “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.” The Beatles by 1982, however, were no longer together, having broken up in 1970. John Lennon was dead by then as well, shot by a deranged fan in New York city in December 1980. Paul, George and Ringo were each involved in solo careers and/or working with other artists. Beatles music, however, was still doing well. Music technology was beginning to change by 1982, as compact discs were then just emerging, though not yet widely available. Beatles music would not be released on CD until the late 1980s, due in part to litigation between the Beatles and EMI.
2012 50 Years Later
Cover art for the 2012 E-book, “Love Me Do,” by Bill Harry, published by Miniver Press.
At the 50th anniversary of the “Love Me Do” single, Miniver Press published an E-book about the behind-the-scenes making of the song, written by Bill Harry, editor and publisher of several Beatles books, a Beatles encyclopedia, and the former Mersey Beat newspaper. Harry was a long time friend of the Beatles, and in the E-book he reveals an inside account of the song’s making and its release in October 1962, including: how Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr on drums after the first recording session; the role George Martin played in the recording sessions and his influence on the Beatles; the behind-the scenes persistence, skill and efforts of Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, on behalf of the group; details on the U.K. charting of “Love Me Do;” and several other accounts. Also on the 50th anniversary, there were special celebrations in the U.K. marking the ocassion, including a commemoration of the song and the “Fab Four” in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool, England.
“Love Me Do” of 1962 was, in any case, the opening salvo in a worldwide Beatles music revolution that would spark changes not only in music, but also in fashion, film and cultural mores affecting millions of people, and generating billions in business activity.
The Beatles in a session with Ed Sullivan prior to their February 9th, 1964 show. From left: Paul McCartney, Ed Sullivan, George Harrison, John Lennon, and behind & above, Ringo Starr.
The Beatles became a sensation in the U.K. in 1962-63, about a year or more before anyone in the U. S. knew much about them. However, before that, the Beatles had honed their craft playing in nightclubs and other gigs dating to the late 1950s. Known by earlier names such as The Quarrymen, Johnny & the Moon- dogs, and the Silver Beatles, they played a variety of venues, with some alternating personnel during those early years. In Hamburg, Germany, and Liverpool, England, from about 1960 on, they worked hard and steadily in nightclubs, putting in long hours, improving their stage act, increasing their range of music, and writing their own songs. They were a cover band as well, as most English rock bands then were. They offered their own versions of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Larry Williams, and others. By late 1961, they were playing to packed houses at the Cavern nightclub in Liverpool, England where they were discovered by their manager-to-be Brian Epstein in November 1961. Epstein did a wardrobe and style make-over on them, cleaning them up for the music industry. By May 1962, after being rejected by a number of U.K. record labels, they signed a deal with EMI, then the U.K.’s leading music company.
Music Player “Please Please Me,”1963-64
During 1962, their songs began hitting the British Melody Maker music chart and others. “Love Me Do,” a Lennon/McCartney composition, rose to No. 21 that fall, and their first No. 1 hit came with “Please, Please Me” on February 22, 1963. At about this point, what came to be known as “Beatlemania” began to take hold in the U.K. Their first U.K. album was titled Please Please Me, released in April of 1963. Within four weeks it would be the No.1 U.K. album, remaining in that position for 30 weeks, followed by their second U.K. album, With the Beatles. From then on, there came a string of No. 1 Beatles’ hits and No. 1 albums until the group broke up in 1969-1970.
The Beatles as photographed upon their arrival at JFK Airport in New York, February 7, 1964, from top left: John, Paul, George & Ringo.
In the American music industry, however, there was an initial hesitancy about the Beatles, as some record executives and DJs, especially in 1963, didn’t think that British acts generally would do well in America. That perspective would soon change.
What follows below is a timeline marking the rise of Beatles’ music and appearances in the U.S. during 1963 and 1964, along with a few photos, anecdotes, and sidebar stories. It is not a complete and comprehensive treatment of the Beatles’ activities during these years, nor is it meant to be. There are entire books and websites devoted to that topic, some of which are noted in “Sources & Additional Information” at the end of this article. What is offered here, hopefully, is a representative sampling of activity in those first two “Beatles-in-America” years, mixing in music history, business developments, and news-of-the-times — plus one or two stories that may be new to many readers.
January 1963 George Martin of EMI in London sends a copy of “Please Please Me” to U.S. subsidiary Capitol Records, urging executives there to distribute Beatles’ songs in the U.S. They decline, saying: “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.” Lesser known labels then begin picking up Beatles’1963 songs for U.S. release.
Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” in Feb 1963, distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
25 Jan 1963 Vee-Jay record label of Chicago obtains a contract to release limited number of Beatles records in the U.S. for a limited time period.
25 Feb 1963 “Please Please Me”/ “Ask Me Why” released as single on Vee-Jay label. The song is played on Chicago’s WLS radio station where it reaches No. 35 on WLS music survey in March, but does not chart nationally; not on Billboard.
27 May 1963 “From Me To You” / “Thank You Girl” released as a single by Vee-Jay, but is barely visible; No. 116 on August Billboard chart, drops off thereafter.
Record sleeve for ‘She Loves You’ / 'I’ll Get You’ single issued by Swan Records in Sept. 1963, which went ‘virtually unnoticed.’
16 Sept 1963 “She Loves You” / “I’ll Get You” released in U.S. by Swan Records, a Philadelphia label, but does not chart on Billboard.
31 Oct 1963 American TV variety show host, Ed Sullivan, traveling to London, has his arrival delayed at London Heathrow Airport by a screaming crowd of teens welcoming the Beatles home from a tour of Sweden. Sullivan has his first thoughts of booking these rising British music stars with strange haircuts — perhaps as novelty act.
11-12 Nov 1963 Beatles manager Brian Epstein travels to New York and persuades Ed Sullivan to book the Beatles for an unprecedented three consecutive appearances on Sullivan’s much-watched Sunday eveningvariety show — February 9th, 16th and 23rd, 1964. CBS-TV gets one year’s exclusive rights to the Beatles’ U.S. television appearances.
Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
15 Nov 1963 Time magazine take notice of the “Beatlemania” craze sweeping England and the Beatles’ command performance for British royalty in London.
16 Nov1963 CBS News bureau London — at the suggestion of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein — sends a news crew to the British seaside resort of Bournemouth where they film a Beatles concert, thousands of screaming fans, and a few Beatles’ comments on camera. This film clip is later sent to New York.
Mid-late Nov 1963 Brian Epstein phones Capitol Records president Alan Livingston over label’s refusal to distribute Beatles songs in America. Epstein urges Livingston to listen to the U.K. single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” while mentioning the Beatles’ upcoming 1964 Ed Sullivan Show appearances as a big opportunity for Capitol. Livingston later agrees to spend $40,000 for Beatles promotion, equal to about $250,000 in today’s money.
Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand' song that Brian Epstein urged Capitol Records Alan Livingston to listen to, Nov 1963.
18 Nov 1963 NBC’s evening news program, The Huntley-Brinkley Report, airs a four-minute segment on the Beatles.
22 Nov 1963 U.K. album, With The Beatles, is released in the U.K., rising to No. 1 on the British album charts and remaining there for 21 weeks. With The Beatles becomes the Beatles’ first million-selling album in Britain, and the second album of any kind in Britain to sell one million copies, the first being the South Pacific soundtrack.
22 Nov 1963
The “CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace” runs a story on the Beatles for the network’s morning news show. CBS planned to repeat the segment that evening on Walter Cronkite’s newscast. However, that day, in mid afternoon, Walter Cronkite was breaking the tragic news to a shocked nation that their President, John F. Kennedy, had been shot and killed while visiting Dallas, Texas.
29 Nov 1963 The Beatles’ single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is released in the U.K. and immediately hits No. 1 on the British pop charts.
“Dick Clark & The Beatles” Aug-Dec 1963
Dick Clark, of 'American Bandstand' fame, was a partner for a time in Swan Records.
Swan Records was a Philadelphia, PA record label founded in 1957 by Bernie Binnick, Tony Mamma- rella, and Dick Clark. Clark was then host of American Bandstand, a popular dance and pop music TV show. Binnick, an accountant, had worked with Clark on earlier music projects, and Marmmarella was a producer at Bandstand. Initially, Clark held 50 percent of Swan Records, with Binnick and Mammarella each holding a 25 percent share. After the 1959-60 payola scandal that had implicated music DJs in “play-for-pay” music deals, Dick Clark — though never found guilty of any wrong-doing — divested his music holdings, including Swan, which he sold to Binnick and Mammarella. By 1963, Clark was still at American Bandstand, and very much a recognized leader in the business of rock ‘n roll music.
The Beatles in England by this time were already a sensation, with hit after hit, setting music sales records. On August 23, 1963, the Beatles released the song “She Loves You” in the U.K. on EMI’s Parlophone record label. “She Loves You” hit No. 1 in the U.K. on August 29, 1963. However, in the U.S., Capitol Records, a subsidiary of EMI, declined to issue “She Loves You” in America. They had also not issued other Beatles’ U.K hits — “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.” That left the door open to other smaller companies to obtain the U.S. distribution rights for Beatles’ songs.
Swan Records released the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ in Sept 1963, but it went nowhere. Re-issued in early 1964 after Beatles’ music soared, it hit No. 1 in March.
According to John Jackson’s excellent book, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n Roll Empire, Bernie Binnick acquired the American rights for “She Loves You” for his Swan Record label while on vacation in England in the summer of 1963. When he returned, he pressed his old friend Dick Clark about the song, obviously hoping for some American Bandstand attention. “What do you think?” he reportedly asked Clark, who replied that the song sounded like “Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Chuck Berry and a lot of other early American songs sort of mixed together.” Clark was not reassuring, though Binnick tried to interest Clark in the new group’s novel look. But after glancing at a picture of the Beatles, Clark noticed their long hair and reportedly told Binnick, “you’re absolutely insane….It’ll never fly.”
Still, Binnick’s Swan label released “She Loves You” to the American market in mid-September 1963. But nothing happened. Clark, meanwhile, appears to have given the record a review on American Bandstand’s “rate-a-record” segment — probably in the Oct-Nov period. Bandstand’s “rate-a-record” consisted of a selected group of teenagers reviewing several new records that were played, then rated on a numeric scale by the teens who were interviewed by Clark. “She Loves You” reportedly did poorly on the rate-a-record segment, earning a seventy-one out of a possible ninety-eight points — not an impressive showing. According to another account, Clark would later explain that the Beatles’ disc rated “just fair.” He also added, “then I pulled a picture of the group out, and the audience just giggled. I figured these guys were going nowhere.” But as Clark would later acknowledge, “We all found out the truth soon enough.”
New songs were rated by teens on Bandstand, who reportedly gave the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ a poor rating in 1963.
Binnick, meanwhile, had a pile of newly pressed Swan recordings of “She Loves You” going nowhere. Then in late 1963 he got a telephone call from Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, who was then in New York arranging an American television appearance for the Beatles. Epstein wanted to know how “She Loves You” was doing in America. Binnick replied that the record was “a stiff.” Epstein shot back that it might soon become a huge hit, explaining that the Beatles were going to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Binnick, unimpressed, told Epstein he “blew it,” saying he should have had the Beatles appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand rather than The Ed Sullivan Show, suggesting that Clark’s show was more popular.
About a month or so later, Jack Paar, who hosted a Friday evening variety TV show on NBC, had just returned from England that December, marveled to his viewing audience over the “Beatlemania” that he had observed overseas. Paar was also able to get a film clip of the Beatles performing “She Loves You” in an English town, and he aired it on his show Friday, January 3, 1964, showing the Beatles performing the song as their teenage fans went wild. According to Binnick, “the record exploded [in sales] the following Monday.” Binnick and Swan, re-issued “She Loves You” to meet demand. By March 21st it would become the No. 1 hit in the land. “She Loves You,” in fact, would sell 1 million copies, creating a temporary windfall for Binnick and Swan Records. However, Swan’s option on future Beatles songs had been lost since it stipulated that ‘She Loves You” had to sell 50,000 copies in its first year, 1963, which it did not. Swan also had the rights to the German version of “She Loves You,” which did reasonably well too, but not enough to save Swan from its troubles. The company went out of business in 1967.
29 Nov 1963
Radio station KIOA in Des Moines, Iowa begins playing “I Saw Her Standing There” from a Drake University student’s copy of Beatle’s U.K. album, Please Please Me, and a few days later, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” from a U.K. Beatles’ single (see sidebar story below).
1 Dec 1963 The New York Times Sunday Magazine, runs a story on “Beatlemania” in the U.K.
4 Dec 1963 Capitol Records issues a press release announcing that it will begin selling the Beatles’ first U.S. 45 rpm single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” on Monday, January 13th, 1964.
10 Dec 1963 A four-minute CBS film segment on The Beatles that had been pre-empted by the JFK tragedy is aired on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News.
Capitol Records issues a "Beatles' Campaign" memo to its staff, Dec 23rd, 1964.
17 Dec 1963
Radio disc jockey Carroll James at Washington. D.C. station WWDC, plays rare U.K. copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio after 15-year-old girl from Silver Spring, MD wrote to him requesting Beatles music after seeing the CBS-news segment. James arranged to have an airline stewardess buy a U.K. copy of the Beatles’ latest single in London. Listeners phone in repeatedly to request the song.
18-19 Dec 1963 Capitol Records threatens to sue WWDC to stop playing song, but then reverses itself and decides to rush-release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” previously scheduled for January 13, 1964. Christmas leave is canceled at Capitol Records, as pressing plants and staff gear up for rush release.
23 Dec 1963 Capitol Records issues a memo to its sales people and regional managers across the country, outlining an extensive “Beatles Campaign” using various promotional items — from major music magazine trade ads and a fake tabloid Beatles newspaper (reprinted in the thousands), to Beatle buttons, Beatle stickers, Beatle wigs, and a battery-powered, “Beatles-in-motion,” bobble-head-like, window display for music stores.
“Beatles’ Iowa Breakout” 29 November 1963
On the evening of Nov 29, 1963, a Drake University student showed up at this Iowa radio station waving a copy of a new U.K. Beatles’ album at the DJ through the window.
Stu Adams was a disc jockey at Des Moines, Iowa radio station KIOA — one of the “KIOA Good Guys,” as that station’s DJs were known locally. It was late November 1963, the Friday after Thanksgiving. In fact, it was exactly a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The programming at the station was gradually getting back to normal. Adams was working the 6:00 to 9:00 pm shift on that cold November night. He was situated at his radio post behind a huge storefront plate glass window in the studio at 803 Keo Way in Des Moines. While working, he was interrupted by an urgent rap on the window. Outside was a young man trying to get his attention. He was holding up a copy of a Beatles LP from England, Please Please Me, their first album, unavailable in the U.S.
At first, Adams tried to ignore the young man. But he persisted, holding up the album and pointing to it emphatically. So Adams finally let him in out of the cold. The young man was a Drake University student who had recently returned from a trip to England. He insisted that the station play the Beatles’ new music.
On the evening of Nov 29, 1963, a Drake University student showed up at Iowa radio station KIOA with this Beatles’ U.K. album.
Adams, as music director at the station, was aware of the Beatles. In fact, the station had tried playing “She Loves You” back in September 1963 when it was released in the U.S. by Swan Records. But the song received little interest. In fact, a teen record panel that met weekly at the station to rate songs had also given it a thumbs down. Adams was also hearing talk in the music industry that English records were a hard sell in the U.S., and that the Beatles wouldn’t make it here either. But Adams was more open-minded on that score, since a late summer song by England’s Cliff Richard, “Lucky Lips,” had been a Top Ten KIOA hit.
The Drake student, meanwhile, insisted the Beatles album he had was better than previous Beatles recordings, and that “I Saw Her Standing There,” on the album, was one of the songs that was then very popular in England. Adams, having been playing a steady parade of “car tunes and surfing music,” decided to give the new Beatles album a whirl. He “slapped the Parlophone labeled Please Please Me LP on a turntable” and asked his listeners to call in and let the phone ring just once if they liked it. “Instantly, all the lines lighted up and stayed that way until well after the song ended,” recalled Adams in a later account of the playing. “With that,” said Adams, “Beatlemania was not only born in Iowa, but throughout the Midwest.”
This was the U.K. Beatles’ LP that Iowa radio station DJ Stu Adams began playing on Nov 29, 1963.
Requests continued for the Beatles music the next day. Adams had no choice but to add “I Saw Her Standing There” to the station’s playlist, using a dubbed version taken from the student’s album. It became the most requested song at the station, but it didn’t make the station’s top tunes survey because that survey was based on local record sales, and at the time, there were no copies of that record in stores. No sales meant no chart position. But according to Adams, “the requests just kept on coming in.” Several days later, the Drake University student returned with the new UK Beatles single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” backed with “This Boy.” Said Adams: “sales in England were phenomenal and as soon as we put it on the air we could see why.” But as Adams and KIOA continued playing these U.K. Beatles releases, local record shop owners in Des Moines weren’t too happy, as they had none to sell. Soon, Capitol Records, which held the rights to the Beatles records in the U.S., ultimately was forced to move up the release date for “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — the first scheduled U.S. Beatle’ single from Capitol — from January 13th, 1964, to December 26th, 1963. Once released, the single, with “I Saw Her Standing There” on the B side, hit No. 1 in record sales in Des Moines and made it to No. 1 on the KIOA survey — as it soon did throughout the rest of the U.S.
The Beatles’ single ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ issued by Capitol Records, went on sale in the U.S. in late December 1963.
26 Dec 1963
Capitol Records begins distributing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to radio stations in major U.S. cities where it is played regularly. With teens home for Christmas-New Years break, radios get full-time use, and the record begins selling like crazy. In New York City, 10,000 copies are sold every hour. In the first three days, 250,000 copies are sold. Capitol was so overloaded it contracted Columbia Records and RCA to help with the pressings.
28 Dec 1963 The New Yorker magazine publishes a Brian Epstein interview; regarded as first serious article in U.S. about the Beatles and their manager.
29 Dec 1963 New York city radio station WMCA joins others broadcasting “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Back in London, meanwhile, Sunday Times critic Richard Buckle praises the Beatles as the greatest composers since Beethoven.
A Beatles' film clip was shown on Jack Paar's TV show in early January 1964.
30 Dec 1963 A two-page ad from Capitol Records pitching the Beatles’ recordings runs in Billboard and Cash Box music industry magazines. Bulk reprints of these ads have already been distributed to Capitol’s sales agents for use with radio stations and in enlarged, easel-scale size for use in music store displays across the country.
3 Jan 1964 Jack Paar, host of the late night U.S. TV talk show, “The Jack Paar Show,” airs a filmed Beatles’ performance of “She Loves You” from England. It is the first complete Beatles song shown on American TV, and for many in America, the first time they see the Beatles.
V-J’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
10 Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records releases the first Beatles album in the U.S., Introducing…The Beatles. Legal and business issues plague the album, but by late fall, it would sell more than 1.3 million copies.
10 Jan 1964 Two weeks after the Capitol Records release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” sales hit 1 million copies — a staggering number at that time for an unknown music group from overseas.
mid-Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records’ issues special record sleeves for promoting “Please Please Me” to radio DJs, noting Beatles’ clip on Jack Paar’s show, upcoming Ed Sullivan Show dates, and national news coverage in Time, Life & Newsweek magazines.
'Meet the Beatles,' their first U.S. Capitol album.
17 Jan 1964 “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles is the No. 1 single in America.
20 Jan 1964 Capitol Records issues Meet the Beatles, the Beatles’ first Capitol album in the U.S.
20 Jan 1964 To promote the Meet The Beatles album and their upcoming first American visit, Capitol Records distributes pre-recorded interview with the Beatles to American radio stations.
29 Jan 1964 Capitol Records announced in a press releases, that Meet the Beatles had already sold 400,000 copies by January 27th.
Vee-Jay's "Please Please Me," released a 2nd time, late Jan 1964.
30 Jan 1964 Vee-Jay Records releases, for the second time, the single “Please Please Me” / “From Me to You,” entering the Billboard chart at No. 69. It would later reach No. 3, and Vee-Jay would sell at least 1.1 million copies.
7 Feb 1964 At about 1:20 p.m. the Beatles arrive at Kennedy International Airport in New York where they are greeted by 3,000 screaming teenagers, 200 reporters and photographers, and more than 100 New York police officers. At a televised press conference the Beatles come off as witty, charming and playful.
Beatles at press conference after landing in New York, February 7, 1964.
9 Feb 1964 Elvis Presley sends The Beatles a telegram wishing them well in their upcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearance later that evening.
9 Feb 1964 Beatles perform live on The Ed Sullivan Show, reaching a record-breaking audience of 73 million, or according to A.C. Nielsen, 23.2 million households. One estimate at 40% of population. They perform five songs: “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
Beatles performing on ‘Ed Sullivan Show,’ Feb 9, 1964, before estimated TV audience of 73 million.
11 Feb 1964 The Beatles give their first live concert performance in the U.S. at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
12 Feb 1964 The Beatles perform two shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
16 Feb1964 Second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Approximately 70 million people tune in, or 22.4 million households. Songs performed: “She Loves You,” “All My Loving,” “This Boy,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Beatles clowning with boxer Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) during visit to Miami, FL, Feb 1964. Photo, Harry Benson.
22 Feb 1964 The Beatles return to London, U.K.; at Heathrow Airport at 7 a.m. they are met by an estimated 10,000 fans.
23 Feb 1964 Beatles appear for 3rd time on Ed Sullivan Show, a performance that was taped earlier in New York — performing three songs: “Twist and Shout”, “Please Please Me” and “I Want to Hold your Hand.”
13 Mar 1964 Meet the Beatles LP by this date is reported to have sold 3,600,000 copies. “Can’t Buy Me Love” their next single, has advance orders of 1,700,000 copies in the U.S.
The Beatles, 'Saturday Evening Post' cover, 21 March 1964.
14 Mar 1964 “Please Please Me” is a massive hit, rising to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart by this date.
16 Mar 1964 “Can’t Buy Me Love/You Can’t Do That” is released as single by Capitol Records; sells 940,225 copies first day, 2.1 million by March 19th.
21 Mar 1964 Beatles appear on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, one of America’s mainstream magazines at the time. Post’s cover story — “The Secrets of The Beatles” — promises “an intimate account of their American tour and a probing analysis of their incredible power to excite frenzied emotions among the young.”
23 Mar 1964 “Do You Want to Know a Secret” / “Thank You Girl” released as a Vee-Jay single.
28 Mar 1964 Capitol Records reports sales of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in excess of 3.4 million copies.
Beatles' 2nd album from Capitol, released April 10th, 1964.
31 Mar 1964 The Beatles hold the top five slots on Billboard: (1) Can’t Buy Me Love, (2) Twist and Shout, (3) She Loves You, (4) I Want To Hold Your Hand (5) Please Please Me — a musical first.
10 Apr 1964 The Beatles’ Second Album is released by Capitol Records, which replaces the Beatles first Capitol album, Meet The Beatles, at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart from May 5th to June 2nd.
11 Apr 1964 The Beatles hold 14 slots on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
14 Apr 1964 The Beatles’ Second Album reaches $1 million in sales by this date.
Beatles’ Hot 14 Chart #s on Billboard April 11, 1964
1. Can’t Buy Me Love
2. Twist & Shout
4. She Loves You
7. I Want To Hold Your Hand
9. Please Please Me
14. …Want to Know a Secret
38. …Saw Her Standing There
48. You Can’t Do That
50. All My Loving
52. From Me To You
61. Thank You Girl
74. There’s A Place
78. Roll Over Beethoven
81. Love Me Do
___________________ Billboard Hot 100, 1964.
27 April 1964
“Love Me Do”/ “P.S I Love You” released as single by Tollie Records, a Vee-Jay subsidiary.
1 June 1964 “Sweet Georgia Brown” / “Take Some Insurance Out on Me” released as Atco Records single.
‘A Hard Day’s Night’ became one of the fastest-selling soundtrack albums of the 1960s.
June 1964 Advance orders for the soundtrack album from the Beatles’ forthcoming film, A Hard Day’s Night, are 250,000 in the U.K. and 1 million in the U.S.; album would sell 2 million copies in the U.S. by October, and 600,000 in the U.K. by year’s end. American version, with somewhat different songs, was released on June 26, 1964 by United Artists Records.
June 1964 The Beatles fly to Hong Kong, June 8-10, perform two concerts there and then go to Austrailia, June 12-14. In Adelaide, Australia they are greeted by an estimated crowd of 300,000 along their motorcade route.
Beatles’ single, ‘And I Love Her’/ ‘If I Fell’ released July 20th, 1964.
13 July 1964 “A Hard Day’s Night” / “I Should Have Known Better” released as single by Capitol Records.
20 July 1964 “I’ll Cry Instead”/ “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” released as single by Capitol Records.
20 July 1964 “And I Love Her”/ “If I Fell” released as single by Capitol Records, as well as a new Beatles’ album, Something New.
Beatles' film poster, 1964.
11 Aug 1964 Beatles first film, A Hard Day’s Night, opens in America and is a huge hit. Shown in 500 theaters across U.S., it earns $1.3 million in the first week. Some 15,000 prints made for world-wide distribution — historical first in film industry.
12 Aug 1964 Variety magazine reports that by August 1964, the Beatles had sold approximately 80 million records globally.
19 Aug 1964 The Beatles perform at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California, in the first concert of their USA/Canada tour, which lasts a month through August and September.
24 Aug 1964 “Matchbox” / “Slow Down” is released as a single by Capitol Records.
Beatles, 'Life' magazine, August 1964.
August 1964 The Beatles received a request from the White House press office to be photographed with President Lyndon B. Johnson, laying a wreath on the grave of John F. Kennedy. The request was politely declined by their manager, Brian Epstein, saying it was not the group’s policy to accept “official” invitations.
25 Aug 1964 The Beatles’ single, “A Hard Day’s Night,” is certified gold for exceeding sales of more than 1 million copies.
26 Aug 1964 Beatles’ North American tour plays Denver, Colorado.
27 Aug 1964 Beatles’ North American tour plays Cincinnati, Ohio.
28 Aug 1964 Life magazine article reports that the Beatles’ 33-day tour of 23 American cities is a sell out at every location and is expected to gross millions. Beatles pandemonium at the time is such that some hotels along the tour route refused to house the Beatles, and Los Angeles’ Lockheed Airport forbad any Beatles plane from landing there for fear of screaming fans running on to the tarmac.
“Charlie O & The Beatles” 17 September 1964
Ticket stub, Beatles' Sept 17,1964 concert in Kansas City, MO.
Charles O. Finley (b.1918 – d.1996) was an American businessman who made his fortune in medical insurance. In December 1960, he became the owner the Kansas City Athletics professional baseball team in Kansas City, Missouri. He later moved this team to Oakland, California where they became the Oakland Athletics. However, in Kansas City, “Charlie O” as he was sometimes called — remembered for his promotional antics and not always winning teams — was also responsible for bringing the Beatles to Kansas City in 1964. The Athletics played their games at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium then, and Finley promised the city’s people he would bring the Beatles to Kansas City during the group’s first American tour that summer. But Kansas City was not on the list of cities where the Beatles had arranged to perform.
Finely on ticket back.
Finley went to San Francisco on August 19, 1964, where the Beatles were playing their first date. There he met with the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. He told Epstein that he was disappointed that Kansas City was not on the Beatles’ itinerary. He then offered Epstein $50,000 and then $100,000 if the Beatles would schedule a concert for Kansas City. Epstein refused, pointing out that on the only free date available, September 17, the band was scheduled for a day of rest in New Orleans. Finley left disappointed, but again encountered Epstein in Los Angeles a week later. Epstein again rejected Finley’s offer of $100,000, noting that the band wanted to use their only day off to “explore the traditional home of jazz.” Undetered, Finley tore up the $100,000 check and wrote a new one for $150,000 (equal to about $1 million in today’s money). Astonished, Epstein excused himself to talk to the group. John Lennon speaking for his bandmates replied, “We’ll do whatever you want.” So Epstein accepted Finley’s check, and they agreed to play Kansas City. At the time it was the highest fee ever paid for a musical concert, working out to about $4,838 per minute (or roughly $33,000 per minute in 2009 $$). When the Beatles performed there they included their version of the song “Kansas City.” They also gave a memorable press conference at the Hotel Muehlebach, available today on CD.
CD of Beatles' 1964 Kansas City press conference.
Finley had justified the Beatle’s high-priced recruitment to Kansas City with the quip, “Today’s Beatles Fans Are Tomorrow’s Baseball Fans” — printed on the back of the concert tickets. Also shown on the back of some of the tickets was a photo of Finley in a Beatle’s wig — which were sold as a fad at the time as part of Beatles’ promotional merchandise.
At the concert, however, a crowd of 20,207 attended, which was just over half of Municipal Stadium’s full capacity of 35,000 when seats were installed on the field. The drop off in attendance was due in part to local animosity over Finely’s record with the Athletics and some of his promotional antics, which weren’t always welcomed in the community. In fact, the local media at the time, and especially The Kansas City Star, suggested boycotting the Beatles’s concert as a way to protest Finley’s unpopular management of the Athletics. Still, thousands came out, as Beatles’ fans heard a full set of their tunes performed that night. Finley, meanwhile, who had earmarked profits from the event for Children’s Mercy Hospital, had to write a $25,000 check to cover the minimum donation he had pledged to the hospital in the event that the concert did not earn a profit.
_______________________ Sources: “Charles Finley,” Wikipedia.com; “Can’t Buy Him Love,” Kansas City Public Library; and, Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Live!: The Ultimate Reference Book, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1986, pp. 168-69.
Vee-Jay Record’s “Beatles vs. Four Seasons” two-album set, October 1964.
20 Sept 1964 The Ed Sullivan Show replays broadcast of Beatles’ February 16th appearance on the show.
1 Oct 1964 The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons two-record set is released by Vee-Jay Records. Package is basically two previous albums — 1963’s Golden Hits of the 4 Seasons and VJ’s Beatles album, Introducing The Beatles. VJ hypes the package as “The International Battle of the Century!”
1 Oct 1964 Book by Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise, is released by Souvenir Press; includes his autobiography and inside account of early Beatles. Later edition issued in 1998 by Byron Preiss Multimedia Books.
Beatles’ Tour North America Aug-Sept 1964
Aug 19 San Francisco
Aug 20 Las Vegas
Aug 21 Seattle
Aug 22 Vancouver
Aug 23 Los Angeles
Aug 26 Denver
Aug 27 Cincinnati
Aug 28 New York
Aug 30 Atlantic City
Sept 2 Philadelphia
Sept 3 Indianapolis
Sept 4 Milwaukee
Sept 5 Chicago
Sept 6 Detroit
Sept 7 Toronto
Sept 8 Montreal
Sept 11 Jacksonville
Sept 12 Boston
Sept 13 Baltimore
Sept 14 Pittsburgh
Sept 15 Cleveland
Sept 16 New Orleans
Sept 17 Kansas City
Sept 18 Dallas
Sept 20 New York
2 Oct 1964 As of this date, ten million Beatles’ records had been sold in the U.S.; their American concert tour had grossed at least $1 million; their film, A Hard Day’s Night, had reaped $5.8 million at the U.S. box office in six weeks. EMI, their record label, was reporting fiscal year sales of $265 million, up 12 percent largely on Beatles’ business. Capitol Records was reporting its revenues were up as well, by 17 percent. Brian Epstein and the Fab Four, meanwhile, were millionaires many times over, with total income earned beyond the U.K. then estimated to be some $56 million.
Atco album, of Beatles' songs and other U.K. artists, October 1964.
5 Oct 1964 Ain’t She Sweet album is released by Atco Records, an American album featuring four 1961 Beatles tracks from Hamburg, Germany and cover versions by other British groups.
13 Nov 1964 CBS TV shows a 50-minute doc- umentary, “What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.,” filmed by Albert Maysles, covering the Beatles U.S. tour and other activities that year.
23 Nov 1964 “I Feel Fine” / “She’s a Woman” single released by Capitol Records.
23 Nov 1964 The Beatles Story double LP is released by Capitol Records, billed as “a narrative and musical biography of Beatlemania on two long-play records.” The albums feature interviews, press conferences, and songs by the The Beatles. It was The Beatles’ fourth release by Capitol Records.
'The Beatles' Story' album, 1964.
1 Dec 1964 Ringo Starr has his tonsils removed at the University College Hospital in London.
15 Dec 1964 Beatles ’65 album is released by Capitol Records featuring 11 Beatles’ cuts, among them: “I’m a Loser,” “Baby’s in Black,” “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “Mr. Moonlight,” “Honey Don’t,” “I’ll Be Back,” “She’s a Woman,” and “I Feel Fine.”
December 1964 Christmas recordings, with Christmas songs and messages from individual Beatles, are sent to fan club members in the U.K and U.S.
'Beatles '65' album, December 15, 1964.
The 7th Grammy Awards, held in 1965, recognized the accomplishments of musicians for the year 1964. This was the year musically when Barbra Streisand won a Best Vocal Performance award for “People,” and Louis Armstrong for “Hello, Dolly!”; the year Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto won Record of the Year for “The Girl from Ipanema,” and songwriter Jerry Herman, Song of the Year, for “Hello, Dolly!” 1964 was also the year that Henri Mancini won a Grammy for the “Pink Panther Theme” and Roger Miller took home several Country & Western music awards, while Nancy Wilson won Best Rhythm & Blues Recording, Petula Clark for “Downtown,” and Gale Garnett, Best Folk Recording for, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.” Not to be left out, of course, The Beatles won two awards: Best New Artist and Best Performance by a Vocal Group for “A Hard Day’s Night.” But the Beatles’ 1964 arrival left its mark on more than music awards.
A Sound of Change
The Beatles’ bursting onto the music scene of 1963-64 with their numerous popular songs has been described by some historians as a rare “pop explosion” — a musical infusion lasting basically four years, 1963-1967. This Beatles’ infusion, however, produced change that would last much longer than four years, not only in music but more broadly throughout popular culture — in fashion, literature, politics and beyond. But it would all start with the music, especially that first flush of Beatles’ songs in 1963-64. What the Beatles had then, according to rock music historian Greil Marcus writing for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, “was that elusive rock treasure, a new sound — and a new sound that could not be exhausted in the course of one brief flurry on the charts.”
Bob Dylan …On the Beatles
“We were driving through Colorado [and] we had the radio on and eight of the Top Ten songs were Beatles songs. In Colorado! ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ and those early ones.
“They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies, made it all valid… But I kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction that music had to go…in my head, the Beatles were it. In Colorado, I started thinking but it was too far-out. I wouldn’t deal with it — eight in the Top Ten.
“It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn. This was something that never happened before.”
_______________________ Source: “Bob Dylan, 1971,” The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, p. 212.
This new Beatles’ sound, according to Marcus, is best captured in a selection of their 1963-64 tunes, such as: “Please Please Me,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Boys,” “There’s A Place,” “It Won’t Be Long,” “All My Loving,” “She Loves You,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Things We Said Today,” “Eight Days A Week,” among others. This Beatles’ sound, at that time, was different and unique — exciting, optimistic, playful, and fresh. Also unique was what the Beatles did together musically — i.e., their group dynamic; beat, rhythm, vocals, composition, etc. — yielding a very high level of music quality. It blew away most of the competition. In fact, what the Beatles had in this case was “so fluid and intelligent,” says Greil Marcus, “that for years they made nearly everything else on the radio sound faintly stupid.”
Between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S. In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100. They had 15 separate recordings in 1964 — nine singles and six albums — that each sold 1 million or more copies, representing total Beatle sales in the U.S. that one year of more than 25 million copies. That feat has never been matched. Many of the Beatles’ songs from 1964 went on to enjoy continued success. “I Want To Hold Your Hand” would proceed to have worldwide sales of 15 million copies, the largest-selling single in rock history until Elton John’s 1997 version of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Diana, eclipsed it. “Can’t Buy Me Love” would have worldwide sales of 6 million; “She Loves You,” 5 million, and several others from that year each surpassing 2 million or more copies.
On Billboard, the prominent U.S. music chart that reflects single and album popularity and success, the Beatles set a slew of records, most in the March-April 1964 period, but a few of which still stand today. Among their marks in 1964: most songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the same time (14); most songs within the Billboard Top 40 ranking at the same time (7, on two occasions); most songs within the Billboard Top 10 and Billboard Top 5 at the same time (5); and most songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100 within a calendar year (30). On April 4, 1964, Beatles’ singles and albums simultaneously held the top five Billboard singles spots and the top two Billboard album ratings — a record that still stands.
The Beatles’ impact, of course, goes well beyond their music-chart numbers in 1963-64. Yet these Beatle years marked a turning point for rock ‘n roll, both musically and as a business. From their Ed Sullivan Show appearance onward, the Beatles made plain the power of good music meeting the right demographic — in this case, Baby Boomer disposable income.…Between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S. In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100. This Boomer market was clearly visible before the Beatles’ pop explosion, but they certainly took it to another level, revealing a gigantic “rock business” segment that would only expand over the next several decades in all manner of ways, from concert touring to MTV and beyond. In 1964, the Beatles opened the door for other British rockers that helped to change and enlarge the nature of the rock music business globally. In that year, for example, the Dave Clark Five, Dusty Springfield, the Searchers, Billy J. Kramer, Peter & Gordon, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Animals, Manfred Mann, the Zombies, Herman’s Hermits, and the Rolling Stones all had Top 20 hits on the U.S. music charts. It wasn’t just the British sound, of course, as all of rock ‘n roll was going great guns by then — from Motown to the Surf sound, the Beach Boys to the Supremes, Bob Dylan to Marvin Gaye, and many more to come. But the Beatles had their distinct effects on the music business — influencing the rise of album format in rock music, for example, and also presaging and influencing the music video era with their 1960s’ film-making techniques. The Beatles were also one of the first acts to package and exploit pop music as a multi-media business opportunity — combining music, television, film, concerts, and merchandising.
Beatles’ "Rock Band" video game, released internationally Sept 2009, features more than 40 Beatles songs.
Today, more than 40 years after the Beatles’ musical explosion of 1963-64, their music from that era is still a cultural and business phenomenon. By September 2009, Beatles’ songs from the 1960s were being used again to form a major new Beatles’ business built around family-based video games. And in November 2010, Beatles’ songs were made available on iTunes and similar digital media.
In any case, the sales of Beatles’ music — whether for video games or digital media — will only add to the 1.6 billion singles and albums already credited to their legacy.
See also at this website other Beatles stories, including “Beatles’ D.C. Gig: 1964,” featuring their first live performance in America; “Dear Prudence: 1967-68,” which includes a famous Beatles song as well as detail on their trip to India at the time and the resulting ‘White Album’ that emerged thereafter;’ or “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a profile of the group in 1966 and an early psychedelic-era Beatles song that also made a cameo in a 2015 MadMen TV episode.
A topics page with more Beatles story choices can be found at “Beatles History.” And for additional stories that profile other popular music, artists, and various uses of music in politics, advertising and film, see the “Annals of Music” page. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle, “Beatles in America, 1963-1964,” PopHistoryDig.com, September 20, 2009.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
‘Introducing...The Beatles’ was the first Beatles album sold in the U.S., by Vee-Jay Records. Business problems spoiled a planned July 1963 debut, but it did appear on January 10, 1964. Legal issues also plagued the album, but Vee-Jay was permitted to sell it until the fall of 1964, selling more than 1.3 million copies.
Beatles' 'Can't Buy Me Love' / 'You Can't Do That' single, Capitol Records, 16 March 1964.
Beatles' 'Do You Want to Know A Secret?' single, Vee-Jay, 23 March 1964.
Beatles’ single, ‘Love Me Do’ with ‘P.S. I Love You,’ April 1964, Tollie Records.
Beatles’ ‘Hard Days Night’ single, released by Capitol Records, July 14, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘I’ll Cry Instead’ single, released by Capitol Records, July 20, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘Something New’ – 3rd Capitol album of 1964, released July 20th. It spent 9 weeks at No. 2 behind then No. 1 Beatles’ 'A Hard Day's Night' album by United Artists.
Beatles’ 'Matchbox' / 'Slow Down' single by Capitol Records, August 24, 1964.
Beatles’ ‘I Feel Fine’ / ‘She’s A Woman’ single, Capitol Records, Nov 23, 1964.
Brian Epstein’s book, ‘A Cellarful of Noise,’ released Oct 1, 1964, included his autobiography & inside account of early Beatles. New 1998 edition shown here.
Poster for Beatles' Washington, D.C. concert, 11 Feb 1964.
Cover sleeve with Beatle photos on George Martin’s album of May 1965, featuring instrumental versions of Beatles’ songs from the film soundtrack for ‘A Hard Day's Night.’
“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.
“Singers: The New Madness,” Time, Friday, November 15, 1963.
Stephen Watts, “Nonconformists and Newcomers on the British Screen; Anomaly Universal “Beatles” Rising Star,” New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 1963, Arts & Leisure, p. 35.
Frederick Lewis, London, “Britons Succumb To ‘Beatlemania’,” New York Times Magazine, Sunday, December 1, 1963.
Lawrence Malkin, “Liverpudlian Frenzy; British Beatles Sing Up a Teen-Age Storm,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1963, p. G-4.
Hank Bordowitz, Turning Points in Rock and Roll, New York: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing, 2004, 282 pp.
Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n Roll, New York: Random House, revised edition, 1992, pp. 209-222.
Martin Goldsmith, The Beatles Come to America, J. Wiley & Sons, January 2004, 208 pp.
John C. Winn. Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume One — 1957-1965, Three Rivers Press, 416pp, 2008, and That Magic Feeling: the Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume Two — 1966-1970, Three Rivers Press, 416pp, 2009.
Philip Norman, Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation,” Simon and Schuster, 2005, revised edition, 546 pp.
Bob Spitz, The Beatles: The Biography, Little Brown, 2005.
Jonathan Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America, Piatkus Books, 2008.
“The First U.S. Visit: A Film by Albert and David Maysles,” DVD, Apple/Capitol Records, 1964, Revised 1990.
“The Beatles Anthology,” Directed by Geoff Wonfor, VHS, Apple/Capitol Records, DVD, Apple/Capitol Records, 1996.
“The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring the Beatles,” VHS & DVD, Sofa Entertainment, 2003.
“The Beatles in Washington, D.C.,” Passport Video, 2003.
“Beatles Around the World,” DVD, Entertainment Properties, 2003.