Day 111: “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

When was it recorded?  Oct. 17, 1963

When was it first released, and on which album?  Nov. 29, 1963 as a single

Who wrote it?  Lennon/McCartney

Have I heard this song before?  Oh yeah

What my research dug up:

I’ll tell you something (I think you’ll understand, when I say that something…)

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was written in Jane Asher’s family home’s basement, where Paul was living as a guest.

“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 nose.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)

[And that’s where I got my tag for collaborations.]

According to Alan Pollack, “just about everyone of the Beatles’ early trademark tricks of the trade is to be found within it: the abrupt syncopations, non-intuitive two-part vocal harmony, falsetto screaming, an occasionally novel chord progression, even some elided phrasing. And of course, don’t forget the overdubbed handclaps!”

The Beatles recorded “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in 17 takes on Oct. 17, 1963. The song was released as a single merely one week after the release of their album, “With the Beatles.”

In the UK, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had one million pre-orders before its release and was barred from entering the charts at #1 due to “She Loves You” already holding the position. “I Want” knocking “She Loves You” out of the spot after a week was “the first such instance of the same act taking over from itself at number one in British history” (Wikipedia). The single stayed there for five weeks and returned to #1 May 16, 1964 at the height of Beatlemania.

In the US… oh boy. Though “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the Beatles’ fourth single in Britain, their previous three singles had flopped in America. “I Want to Hold You Hand” stuck, though. It stuck fast and hard. 25000 copies sold in the first three days. Capitol Records had to get Columbia Records and RCA help them press copies to keep up with the demand. On Feb. 1, the single finally gave the Beatles their first #1 hit in the US. It stayed there for seven weeks before getting bumped off… by “She Loves You.” Wikipedia cites this as the start of the British Invasion.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was nominated for Record of the Year at the 1964 Grammy Awards but didn’t win. In 1998, however, it won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. The song is also

  • One of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll
  • One of the Recording Industry Association of America’s Songs of the Century
  • #16 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • #2 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Beatles Songs
  • #2 on Mojo’s 100 Records That Changed the World
  • #39 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100
  • #23 on’s Best Songs of All Time

And all this for a song about handholding!

A mono version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” appeared on “Anthology 1.” A live version recorded for “From Us to You” on Dec. 26, 1963 can be found on “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2” (and bootlegs from many other BBC radio performances are out there… just sayin’).

Aber warten Sie, es gibt noch mehr!

“The German record company’s head of A&R had told me that The Beatles would never sell records in Germany unless they actually sang in German. I was disinclined to believe this, but that’s what he said and I told The Beatles. They laughed: ‘That’s absolute rubbish.’ So I said, ‘Well, if we want to sell records in Germany, that’s what we’ve got to do.’ So they agreed to record in German. I mean, really it was rubbish.” – George Martin


When was it recorded?  Jan. 29, 1964

When was it first released, and on which album?  Mar. 5, 1964 as a single

Who translated it?  Camillo Felgen

What my research dug up:

According to Beatles E-Books, “At the time, English speaking acts did need to cater to the language barrier somewhat to sell records. Recording artists had to record foreign language versions of their hits for those markets… So EMI’s West German division, Electrola Gesellschaft, wasn’t out of line to ask for The Beatles to record German versions of their recent hits for release in that country on their Odeon label.”

Luxembourgian musician Camillo Felgen translated “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” (which actually translates to “Come, Give Me Your Hand”). If you check out the credits for the translation, you’ll find no note of Felgen. “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” is attributed to Jean Nicolas and Heinz Hellmer. Surprise – those are both pseudonyms for Felgen.  Wikipedia posits he did it for tax reasons, which… classy.

Quoth the Beatles Bible, “Felgen was also asked to fly to Paris [where the Beatles were on tour] to teach The Beatles phonetic pronunciations of the two songs,” which he did with only 24 hours notice.

The Beatles themselves were not amused. They boycotted the first scheduled recording session Jan. 27. After waiting for them at the studio for an hour, George Martin tracked the Fab Four down, tore them a new one (the whole story is hilarious but I don’t have space for it), then badgered them into another recording session two days later.

According to Wikipedia, “In their only recording session outside the United Kingdom, the Beatles recorded Paul McCartney’s new song ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ and the German versions of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’… ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand’ was the first song to be recorded. The Beatles recorded eleven takes, and the new German vocals were mixed with the original instrumental.”

That is hilarious. The last link I posted below is a rough translation of how the German translates back into English, which may not be 100% accurate but includes gems like, “I want me to go to you.”

According to Wikipedia, “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.” Quoth George Martin, “They were right, actually, it wasn’t necessary for them to record in German, but they weren’t graceless; they did a good job.” Outside of Germany, American label Capitol Records snatched up “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” as, quoth Wikipedia, “a novelty-type curiosity” and released the song Jul. 20, 1964 on the album “Something New.” “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” also appears on the “Past Masters” compilation.

Interestingly, Beatles E-Books compares the recording of “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” to the recording of “How Do You Do It” (which I talked about on Day 97).

“When George Martin insisted they record ‘How Do You Do It’ with the intention of it being released as their first single, they argued against it but finally acquiesced. ‘They never shirked on jobs,’ stated George Martin. ‘They didn’t really want to do it but in the end they did quite a good job.’ The same can be said about ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand.’ So… take in the fact that The Beatles were willing to do whatever it took to get them where they got, even if it ended up not being necessary.”

I’ve heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” a million times over, so I was really just here today for the history.  It did not disappoint.  There are so many great stories behind things you should and do know like the back of your hands.  I love it.

To quote Pollack again, “But getting back to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ in context of November 1963, it was the best they could do, a kind of summing up of all they had done to-date. And almost thirty years later, in spite of all its seemingly puppy-love simplicity… it does hold up remarkably well, like a classic.”  Because it is nothing if not a classic, a standard of pop music fifty years later.




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