It’s worth remembering that the Billboard Hot 100, authoritative as it is, was usually a couple of weeks behind what was actually happening on the street back in the day. Exhibit A: the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which debuted on the Billboard chart dated January 18, 1964, at Number 45. By then, however, in cities across the country, Beatlemania had already left Billboard in the dust.
The earliest charts at ARSA showing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are both from Buffalo, where WGR and WKBW charted it as a “pick hit” for the week of December 27, 1963. It shows up the next week in Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Endicott, New York, and Springfield, Massachusetts. The first ARSA chart showing it at Number One is from KROY in Sacramento, dated January 11, 1964. The next week—46 years ago this week—it was already Number One in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Detroit, and Manchester, New Hampshire, when it debuted in Billboard.
So let’s see how the Beatles were faring against the rest of the competition on the record charts in some other cities that week. If nothing else, think of these charts as evidence for why the British Invasion had to happen.
1. “There! I’ve Said It Again”/Bobby Vinton
2. “Drag City”/Jan and Dean
3. “Surfin’ Bird”/Trashmen
4. “California Sun”/Rivieras
5. “You Don’t Own Me”/Lesley Gore
40. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (second week on)
Comment: “There! I’ve Said It Again” is the song knocked from the top of the Hot 100 by “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the chart dated February 1, 1964. It represents not just a changing of the guard but the dynamiting of an era, rock’s climactic assault and victory over the kind of adult pop music that had ruled American culture since the 1930s. Elvis started it; the Fab Four finished it.
1. “Surfin’ Bird”/Trashmen
2. “There! I’ve Said It Again”/Bobby Vinton
3. “Hey Little Cobra”/Rip Cords
4. “You Don’t Own Me”/Lesley Gore
5. “California Sun”/Rivieras
27. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (first week on)
Up ‘n’ Coming: “She Loves You”
Comment: “She Loves You” shows up at ARSA before “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Station 2SM in Sydney, Australia, charted it in October 1963 as Beatlemania broke over the British Empire, and Toronto’s CHUM was on it in early December. “She Loves You” first appears on an American station’s chart at ARSA for the week of December 27 at WGR in Buffalo—the same week WGR showed “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as a future hit—but that chart shows it in its second week on, which means that WGR was playing it during the week of December 20. But even it isn’t the first Beatles song found in the ARSA chart archives. KEWB in San Francisco had been on “Please Please Me” as early as the week of April 20, 1963.
KXOK, St. Louis:
1. “Louie Louie”/Kingsmen
2. “Shake a Tail Feather”/Five Du-Tones
3. “Can I Get a Witness”/Marvin Gaye
4. “There! I’ve Said It Again”/Bobby Vinton
5. “Since I Fell for You”/Lenny Welch
24. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (first week on)
Comment: The Five Du-Tones were a St. Louis group; their song would be covered by a number of better-known performers. James and Bobby Purify would get it into the Top 40 in 1967; in 1980, Ray Charles would cut a memorable version for the movie The Blues Brothers.
1. “Hey Little Cobra”/Rip Cords
2. “Surfin’ Bird”/Trashmen
3. “Letter from Sherry”/Dale Ward
4. “Anyone Who Had a Heart”/Dionne Warwick
5. “Louie Louie”/Kingsmen
19. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (up from 32)
Comment: “Letter From Sherry,” like “There! I’ve Said It Again,” is the sort of thing the Beatles came to destroy. Ward himself is now 70 years old, and is apparently sitting in jail on a cocaine conviction.
1. “The Nitty Gritty”/Shirley Ellis
2. “Midnight Mary”/Joey Powers
3. “There! I’ve Said It Again”/Bobby Vinton
4. “Hey Little Cobra”/Rip Cords
5. “Out of Limits”/Marketts
12. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (no previous week position shown)
Comment: “Midnight Mary” was the first hit written and produced by Artie Wayne, who did a bunch of them. It was set to be recorded, with a group of studio musicians including Paul Simon and Roger McGuinn, on the night of November 22, 1963. Wayne tells some of the story of the record here in a 2007 post at his blog, which is marked “to be continued”—although I don’t know if it ever was.
Over the next two months, the Beatles would play The Ed Sullivan Show and embark on an American tour; “I Want to Hold Your Hand” would top more charts in other cities: Columbus, Denver, Milwaukee, Miami, St. Louis, San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, Nashville, Washington, Toronto, and practically every other place with a radio station. Beatlemania would peak with an unprecedented feat of chart domination during the first week of April. After the winter and spring of 1964, nothing in the world would ever be like it was before.