It is the most stupendous, bodacious, pick your own favorite -ous adjective feat of dominance in the history of the record charts. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated February 8, 1964, the day before they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was spending its second week at Number One, and “She Loves You” had blasted to Number 7 from Number 21. The storm that was Beatlemania would continue to rise with the coming of spring:
February 15: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” remains at Number One; “She Loves You” rises to Number Three.
February 22: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” remains at Number One; “She Loves You” rises to Number Two.
February 29: Same two in the same spots at the top; “Please Please Me” zooms to Number 6 from Number 29.
March 7: Status quo at the top, “Please Please Me” to Number Four.
March 14: The Beatles hold the top three spots: “Hand,” “Loves You,” “Please.”
March 21: “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” switch positions; “Please Please Me” holds at Number Three; “Twist and Shout” makes an amazing leap to Number 7 from Number 55.
March 28: The top two are the same; “Twist and Shout” takes over Number Three, dropping “Please Please Me” to Number Four.
And so, things were falling into place. On April 4, 1964—44 years ago today—”Can’t Buy Me Love” made the greatest leap in chart history up to that time, reaching Number One from Number 27 the previous week. The rest of the top five lined up this way: “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Please Please Me.” That same week, seven other Beatles songs were on the Hot 100: “I Saw Her Standing There” at 31, “From Me to You” at 41, “Do You Want to Know a Secret” at 46, “All My Loving” at 58, “You Can’t Do That” at 65, “Roll Over Beethoven” at 68, and “Thank You Girl” at 79.
There was even a pair of Beatles-related novelties on the chart that week. “We Love You Beatles” by the Carefrees was based on the chant heard outside the New York hotel where the Beatles stayed in February.
“A Letter to the Beatles” by the Four Preps, the last chart hit for the popular vocal group of the 50s, criticizes the Beatles for charging for fan-club memberships. Not that the Carefrees record is especially hip or anything, but “A Letter to the Beatles” strikes me as particularly un-hip. Like the handful of other anti-Beatles records released in 1964, it’s the last bleat of people who know they’ve lost the battle and the war.
I’ll have more about the Beatles’ unprecedented chart feat over the weekend and on Monday.