The Paul McCartney Project

I Want To Hold Your Hand

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the I Want To Hold Your Hand / This Boy 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1963
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

I Want to Hold Your Hand” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and recorded in October 1963, it was the first Beatles record to be made using four-track equipment.

With advance orders exceeding one million copies in the United Kingdom, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” would have gone straight to the top of the British record charts on its day of release (29 November 1963) had it not been blocked by the group’s first million seller “She Loves You“, their previous UK single, which was having a resurgence of popularity following intense media coverage of the group. Taking two weeks to dislodge its predecessor, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” stayed at number one for five weeks and remained in the UK top fifty for twenty-one weeks in total.

It was also the group’s first American number one, entering the Billboard Hot 100 chart on 13 January 1964 at number forty-five and starting the British invasion of the American music industry. By 1 February it held the number-one spot, and stayed there for seven weeks before being replaced by “She Loves You“, a reverse scenario of what had occurred in Britain. It remained on the US charts for a total of fifteen weeks. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” became the Beatles’ best-selling single worldwide. In 2013, Billboard magazine named it the 44th biggest hit of “all-time” on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Background and composition

Although it is said that Brian Epstein had encouraged Lennon and McCartney to write a song to appeal to American listeners this has been denied by George Martin. McCartney had recently moved into 57 Wimpole Street, London, where he was living as a guest of Dr Richard and Margaret Asher, whose daughter, actress Jane Asher, had become McCartney’s girlfriend after meeting him earlier in the year.

This location briefly became Lennon and McCartney’s new writing base, taking over from McCartney’s Forthlin Road home in Liverpool.

Margaret Asher taught the oboe in the “small, rather stuffy music room” in the basement where Lennon and McCartney sat at the piano and composed ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand‘. In September 1980, Lennon told Playboy magazine: “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.

In 1994, McCartney agreed with Lennon’s description of the circumstances surrounding the composition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, saying: “‘Eyeball to eyeball’ is a very good description of it. That’s exactly how it was. ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ was very co-written. It was our big number one; the one that would eventually break us in America.

Musical structure

The song is in the key of G major and opens on “I’ll tell you” with a D-B, B-D melody note drop and rise over a I (G) chord. Controversy exists over the landmark chord that Lennon stated McCartney hit on the piano while they were composing the song. Marshall considers it is the minor vi (Em) chord (the third chord in the I-V7-vi (G-D7-Em) progression). Everett is of the same opinion. Pedler claims, however, that more surprising is the melody note drop from B to F# against a III7 (B7) chord on “understand”. Music theorists are divided over whether this chord is a iii (Bm), a B major, or a B7 or even a B5 power chord with no major or minor defining third. Lyrically bland, random phrases were most likely called out and if they fitted the overall sound would stay. This, according to Ian MacDonald, was how Lennon and McCartney worked in partnership at that time. The song’s title probably being a variation of “I Wanna Be Your Man” which they had only just recently recorded at Abbey Road Studios.

In the studio

The Beatles started recording “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at EMI Studios in Studio 2 on 17 October 1963 in seventeen takes. This song, along with the single’s flip side, “This Boy“, was the first Beatles song to be recorded with four-track technology. The two songs were recorded on the same day, and each needed seventeen takes to complete. Mono and stereo mixing was done by George Martin on 21 October 1963; further stereo mixes were done on 8 June 1965, for compilations released by EMI affiliates in Australia and the Netherlands, and on 7 November 1966.

I Want to Hold Your Hand” was one of two Beatles songs (along with “She Loves You” as “Sie liebt dich“) to be later recorded in German, entitled “Komm, gib mir deine Hand“. Both songs were translated by Luxembourger musician Camillo Felgen, under the pseudonym of “Jean Nicolas”. Odeon, the German arm of EMI (the parent company of the Beatles’ record label, Parlophone) was convinced that the Beatles’ records would not sell in Germany unless they were sung in German. The Beatles detested the idea, and when they were due to record the German version on 27 January 1964 at EMI’s Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris (where the Beatles were performing 18 days of concerts at the Olympia Theatre) they chose to boycott the session. Their record producer, George Martin, having waited some hours for them to show up, was outraged and insisted that they give it a try. Two days later, the Beatles recorded “Komm, gib mir deine Hand“, one of the few times in their career that they recorded outside London. However, Martin later conceded: “They were right, actually, it wasn’t necessary for them to record in German, but they weren’t graceless, they did a good job“.

Komm, gib mir deine Hand” was released as a German single in March 1964. In July, the song appeared in full stereo in the United States on the Beatles’ Capitol LP Something New. (That album was released in CD form for the first time in 2004, on The Capitol Albums, Volume 1, and then rereleased in 2014, individually and in the boxed set The US Albums.) “Komm, gib mir deine Hand” also appeared on the compilations Past Masters and Mono Masters.

The German-language track was a big hit in Germany at the time, but today, like all the other German-lyrics versions of English-language pop songs that were popular in that country during the 1950s and 1960s, it is generally considered as a cultural curiosity from a by-gone era at best. The English versions are much better known in Germany today; the Beatles’ Red and Blue albums of the 1970s already featured the English hits on the German pressings.

Promotion and release

In the United Kingdom, “She Loves You” (released in August) had shot back to the number-one position in November following blanket media coverage of the Beatles (described as Beatlemania). Mark Lewisohn later wrote: “‘She Loves You’ had already sold an industry-boggling three quarters of a million before these fresh converts were pushing it into seven figures. And at this very moment, just four weeks before Christmas, with everyone connected to the music and relevant retail industries already lying prone in paroxysms of unimaginable delight, EMI pulled the trigger and released ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. And then it was bloody pandemonium“.

On 29 November 1963, Parlophone Records released “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the UK, with “This Boy” joining it on the single’s B-side. Demand had been building for quite a while, as evidenced by the one million advance orders for the single. When it was finally released, the response was phenomenal. A week after it entered the British charts, on 14 December 1963, it knocked “She Loves You“, another Beatles song, off the top spot, the first such instance of the same act taking over from itself at number one in British history, clinging to the top spot for five full weeks. It stayed in the charts for another fifteen weeks afterwards and incredibly made a one-week return to the charts on 16 May 1964. Beatlemania was peaking at that time; during the same period, the Beatles set a record by occupying the top two positions on both the album and single charts in the UK.

EMI and Brian Epstein finally convinced American label Capitol Records, a subsidiary of EMI, that the Beatles could make an impact in the US, leading to the release of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” with “I Saw Her Standing There” on the B-side as a single on 26 December 1963. Capitol had previously resisted issuing Beatle recordings in the US. This resulted in the relatively modest Vee-Jay and Swan labels releasing the group’s earlier Parlophone counterparts in the US. Seizing the opportunity, Epstein demanded US$40,000 from Capitol to promote the single (the most the Beatles had ever previously spent on an advertising campaign was US$5,000). The single had actually been intended for release in mid-January 1964, coinciding with the planned appearance of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. However, a 14-year-old fan of the Beatles, Marsha Albert, was determined to get hold of the single earlier. Later she said: “It wasn’t so much what I had seen, it’s what I had heard. They had a scene where they played a clip of ‘She Loves You’ and I thought it was a great song … I wrote that I thought the Beatles would be really popular here, and if [deejay Carroll James] could get one of their records, that would really be great.

James was the DJ for WWDC, a radio station in Washington, DC. Eventually he decided to pursue Albert’s suggestion to him and asked the station’s promotion director to get British Overseas Airways Corporation to ship in a copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from Britain. Albert related what happened next: “Carroll James called me up the day he got the record and said ‘If you can get down here by 5 o’clock, we’ll let you introduce it.’” Albert managed to get to the station in time, and introduced the record with: “Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time on the air in the United States, here are the Beatles singing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’

The song proved to be a huge hit, a surprise for the station since they catered mainly to a more staid audience, which would normally be expecting songs from singers such as Andy Williams or Bobby Vinton instead of rock and roll. James took to playing the song repeatedly on the station, often turning down the song in the middle to make the declaration, “This is a Carroll James exclusive“, to avoid theft of the song by other stations.

Capitol threatened to seek a court order banning airplay of “I Want to Hold Your Hand“, which was already being spread by James to a couple of DJs in Chicago and St. Louis. James and WWDC ignored the threat, and Capitol came to the conclusion that they could well take advantage of the publicity, releasing the single two weeks ahead of schedule on 26 December.

The demand was insatiable; in the first three days alone, a quarter million copies had already been sold (10,000 copies In New York City every hour). Capitol was so overloaded by the demand, it contracted part of the job of pressing copies off to Columbia Records and RCA. By 18 January, the song had started its fifteen-week chart run, and on 1 February, the Beatles finally achieved their first number-one in America, emulating the success of another British group, the Tornados with “Telstar“, which was number one on the Billboard charts for three weeks over Christmas and New Year 1962/63. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” finally relinquished the number-one spot after seven weeks, passing the baton to the very song they had knocked off the top in Britain: “She Loves You“. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sold close to five million copies in the US alone. The replacement of themselves at the summit of the US charts was the first time since Elvis Presley in 1956, with “Love Me Tender” beating out “Don’t Be Cruel“, that an act had dropped off the top of the American charts only to be replaced by another of their releases. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” also finished as the No. 1 song for 1964, according to Billboard. In 2013, Billboard listed it as the forty-fourth most successful song of all-time on the Hot 100.

With that, the “British Invasion” of America had been launched. Throughout 1964, British pop and rock artists enjoyed unprecedented success on the American charts.

The American single’s front and back sleeves featured a photograph of the Beatles with Paul McCartney holding a cigarette. In 1984, Capitol Records airbrushed out the cigarette for the re-release of the single.

I Want to Hold Your Hand” was also released in America on the album Meet the Beatles!, which altered the American charts by actually outselling the single. Beforehand, the American markets were more in favour of hit singles instead of whole albums; however, two months after the album’s release, it had shipped 3,650,000 copies, over two hundred thousand ahead of the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” single at 3,400,000.

The song was included on the 1964 Canadian release The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. The November 1966 stereo remix appeared on 1966’s A Collection of Beatles Oldies, and on several later Beatles compilation albums, including 1973’s 1962–1966, 1982’s 20 Greatest Hits, and 2000’s 1. The 2009 CD rerelease of the Beatles’ catalog included the 1966 stereo remix on Past Masters and the original mono mix on Mono Masters.

Reception

The song was greeted by raving fans on both sides of the Atlantic but was dismissed by some critics as nothing more than another fad song that would not hold up to the test of time. Cynthia Lowery of the Associated Press expressed her exasperation with Beatlemania by saying of the Beatles: “Heaven knows we’ve heard them enough. It has been impossible to get a radio weather bulletin or time signal without running into ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’.

Bob Dylan was impressed by the Beatles’ innovation, saying, “They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid.” For a time Dylan thought the Beatles were singing “I get high” instead of “I can’t hide“. He was surprised when he met them and found out that none of them had actually smoked marijuana.

The song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, but the award went to Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz for “The Girl from Ipanema“. However, in 1998, the song won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. It has also made the list in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In addition, the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Endowment for the Arts and Scholastic Press have named “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as one of the Songs of the Century. In 2004, it was ranked number 16 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“. In 2010, Rolling Stone placed the song at number two on the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs after “A Day in the Life“. It was ranked number two in Mojo’s list on the “100 Records That Changed the World“, after Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti“. The song was ranked number thirty-nine on Billboard’s All Time Top 100. As of August 2015, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is ranked as the 45th best song of all time, as well as the number three song of 1963, in an aggregation of critics’ lists at acclaimedmusic.net. Time included the song on its list of the All-TIME 100 Songs.

The Beatles’ recording of this song also appeared as the opening track in the 1997 Time-Life 6-CD boxed set, Gold And Platinum: The Ultimate Rock Collection.

Starting at the song’s final week at number 1 on the American charts, the Beatles have the all-time record of seven number 1 songs in a one-year period. In order, these were “I Want to Hold Your Hand“, “She Loves You“, “Can’t Buy Me Love“, “Love Me Do“, “A Hard Day’s Night“, “I Feel Fine“, and “Eight Days a Week“. It was also the first of seven songs written by Lennon-McCartney to hit number 1 on the US charts in 1964; that’s an all-time record for writing the most songs to hit number 1 on the US charts in the same calendar year. (see List of Billboard Hot 100 chart achievements and milestones) […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 21 Oct 1963.
    UK: Parlophone R5084 single 1963, Parlophone PMC 7016 Collection of Oldies 1966.
    US: Capitol 5112 single 1964, Capitol T 2047 Meet the Beatles 1964.
    CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [a1] mock stereo made from [a] 1964, by Capitol.
    US: Capitol ST 2047 Meet the Beatles 1964.
  • [a2] mock stereo made from [a] 1973, by Capitol.
    US: Apple SKBO-3403 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
  • [b] stereo 21 Oct 1963.
    Australia: Parlophone A8103 single reissue 1976.
  • [c] stereo 8 Jun 1965.
    Germany: Odeon SMO 83 991 (later 1C 062-04 207) Beatles Greatest 1965, Odeon SMO 73 692 (later 1C 062-04 363) Beatles Beat 1966.
    Australia: Parlophone PCSO 7533 Greatest Hits 1 1966.
    Holland: Odeon OMHS 3001 Beatles Greatest 1967.
  • [d] stereo 7 Nov 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7016 Collection of Oldies 1966, Apple PCSP 717 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
    US: Capitol SV-12245 20 Greatest Hits 1982.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 90043 2 Past Masters 1 1988, EMI CDP 7 97036 2 The Beatles 1962-1966 1993.

Stereo mix [b], the first ever made by George Martin from 4-track, has the rhythm instruments far left and vocal far right, like a twintrack mix, leaving the lead guitar isolated in the center, which sounds odd since it only plays fills. Sending this mix to Australia for a 1976 single reissue must have been a mistake.

The other two stereo mixes are similar but distinguishable. The June 1965 mix [c] has the lead guitar louder and the handclaps slightly louder, and somewhat more bass sound. Compare for example the right channel on the last “ha-a-a-and”: the louder guitar covers the vocal more than in [d]. The more common mix [d] has slightly less bass but the cymbal sound is better– both these differences from [c] may be pressing or LP mastering, rather than the mix, but the handclap and particularly the lead guitar are mix differences.

“20 Greatest Hits” was the first stereo release in the US, using the mix made 16 years earlier in 1966 [d].

(The April 1964 German LP The Beatles Beat has caused a great deal of confusion since from its date it appears that it must use the Oct 1963 stereo mix, the only one in existence when it was compiled. But back issues of Der Grosse Deutsche Schallplatten Katalog prove the original issue was available in mono only, contradicting many later Beatles publications. Two reissues in 1966 (or late 1965) are probably stereo, The Beatles Beat (Odeon STO 73 692) and And Now: the Beatles (S R International Hi-Fi 73 735)– but we have heard neither. The more common later Beatles Beat (Odeon 1C 062-04 363) definitely has mix [c].)

Last updated on February 10, 2016

Lyrics

Oh yeah I'll tell you something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand

I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

Oh please say to me
You'll let me be your man
And please say to me
You'll let me hold your hand

Now let me hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you I feel happy inside
It's such a feeling that my love
I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide

Yeah, you got that something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand

I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you I feel happy inside
It's such a feeling that my love
I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide

Yeah you, got that something
I think you'll understand
When I feel that something
I wanna hold your hand

I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

Officially appears on


I Want To Hold Your Hand / This Boy

7" Single • Released in 1963

2:28 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 17, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 21, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Meet the Beatles! (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1964

2:27 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 17, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 21, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


Meet the Beatles! (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1964

2:27 • Studio versionA1 • Mock stereo made from mono version [A]

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 17, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Recording:
Oct 21, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


The Beatles' Million Sellers

EP • Released in 1965

2:28 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 17, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 21, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:26 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 17, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 21, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road


A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:26 • Studio versionD • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 17, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Nov 07, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

2:27 • Studio versionD

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Handclaps, Rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 17, 1963
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Nov 07, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 1

Official album • Released in 1995

2:37 • LiveL1

Concert From "The Morecambe And Wise Show" in Borehamwood, United Kingdom on Apr 18, 1964


1

Official album • Released in 2000

2:24 • Studio version


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

1:22 • Studio version • An interview with George and Giles Martin stated that elements from both the studio recording and the Hollywood Bowl live performance were mixed to create this version.

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Bootlegs


Looking Through The Bent Backed Tulips

Unofficial live

2:23 • Live


Looking Through The Bent Backed Tulips

Unofficial live

0:21 • Live


The BBC Archives Volume 8

Unofficial album

2:19 • Radio show


The BBC Archives Volume 8

Unofficial album

2:24 • Radio show


The BBC Archives Volume 9

Unofficial album

2:21 • Radio show


Live performances

“I Want To Hold Your Hand” has been played in 101 concerts and 1 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where “I Want To Hold Your Hand” has been played








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