John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote this in Jane Asher's basement. Asher was an actress who became Paul's first high-profile girlfriend. John Lennon played this song for his friend Gerry Marsden from the band Gerry and the Pacemakers when they were on tour together with The Beatles. Gerry recalled that John came into his hotel room and played him the newly written song. Marsden thought it was horrible, unaware it would eventually become a hit.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" was perfected by the time the Beatles came to the studio on October 17, 1963 to record it. It was captured in 17 takes, all pretty much performed in the same way. Noticeable differences were on take 2 which tried a hushed vocal line "and when I touch you" and take 4 when Paul sang in mock-American with a pronounced "h" ("shay that shomthing").
The song was played on a Washington, D.C. radio station (before it was released in America) by a DJ who got the record from a stewardess. It was a huge hit with his listeners. Capitol threatened to seek a court order banning airplay of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which was already being spread to a couple of DJs in Chicago and St. Louis, until the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. The threat was ignored, and Capitol came to the conclusion that they could well take advantage of the publicity, releasing the single two weeks ahead of schedule on December 26, 1963. Although "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was a #1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, in America it sold more copies in the first ten days than any other Beatles single sold in the UK. In the first three days, the single had sold a quarter of a million copies.
When the song hit number one on the Billboard charts, it was the first time a British group topped the charts in the US since 1962, when the instrumental "Telstar" by The Tornados reached number one.
The Beatles performed this on their first two Ed Sullivan Show appearances, which took place Feb 9th and 16th, 1964. There was a media frenzy around The Beatles, as this was #1 on the charts and millions of people saw them on Ed Sullivan's show. The Beatles were booked for the show before they had a hit in America, so they actually got paid less than many other guests for their appearance.
- John Lennon – rhythm guitar, lead vocal
- Paul McCartney – bass guitar, lead vocal
- George Harrison – lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums