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50 Years Ago: The Beatles Reach Billboard Hot 100 Chart For The First Time

Beatles
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

On Jan. 18, 1964, the Beatles‘ first Capitol single, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ entered the Billboard Hot 100. It was the first appearance for the group on the American chart.

After only 10 days on the market, the song was able to debut at No. 45. A week later, it would jump to No. 3, and climb to the top on Feb. 1, where it would stay there for seven weeks.

The magazine, which noted the occasion today (Jan. 18), was immediately aware the song’s meteoric rise. In a front-page story called, ‘British Beatles Hottest Capitol Singles Ever,’ Eliot Tiegel reported the lengths their label were going to in order to meet the demand for the single. “Capitol’s artists and repertoire vice-president Voyle Gilmore told Billboard his company had shipped 640,000 copies during the first week of the disk’s release,” he wrote. “This surpasses the label’s all-time fastest-breaking singles, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ‘Sixteen Tons’ and the Kingston Trio’s ‘Tom Dooley.’”

“To keep pace with the demand,” the article continued. “Capitol has had its plants in Scranton, Pa., and Los Angeles on 24-hour production schedules, and found it necessary to farm out 200,000 Beatle pressings to RCA Victor.”

Prior to that, the closest the Beatles had come to being on the Hot 100 was when ‘From Me To You,’ which had been released on Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records, reached No. 116 of the “Bubbling Under” section of the chart in the summer of 1963. This was due to strong airplay at KRLA in Los Angeles by Dick Biondi, who had previously been at WLS in Chicago, where he reportedly was the first American DJ to play the Beatles.

The No. 1 song on the chart that week was Bobby Vinton’s ‘There! I’ve Said It Again,’ which was spending the third of its four weeks at the top. The garage rock classics ‘Louie Louie‘ by the Kingsmen and ‘Surfin’ Bird’ by the Trashmen were at Nos. 2 and 5, respectively. Directly below the Beatles at No. 46 was another Capitol act. The Beach Boys‘ ‘Be True to Your School,’ which was in its 12th week on the chart, having already peaked at No. 10.

Next: The Beatles U.S. vs. U.K. Album Guide

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