55 Years Ago: The Beatles Knock Themselves Off Top of U.K. Chart
Before the U.S. welcomed the Beatles with open arms, the Fab Four were household names in their native U.K. Their debut LP, Please Please Me, released in March 1963, eventually spent an astonishing 30 weeks at the top of the U.K. sales charts.
Those figures were unheard of at the time, especially from an upstart pop group. Their first single, "Love Me Do," hit the U.K.Top 20 during the fall of 1962; their next release, "Please Please Me," stormed the charts when it came out in early 1963, hitting No. 2.
“It was my attempt at writing a Roy Orbison song, would you believe it?" John Lennon explained in a 1980 interview with Playboy. "I heard Roy Orbison doing ‘Only the Lonely’ on the radio. Also, I was always intrigued by the words to a Bing Crosby song that went, ‘Please lend a little ear to my pleas'. I was intrigued by the double use of the word ‘please.’ So it was a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby.”
The third time was the charm for the Beatles: their next single, "From Me to You," reached No. 1 on the U.K. charts in the spring of 1963. "That was a pivotal song," Paul McCartney said in the book Many Years From Now. "Our songwriting lifted a little with that song. It was very much co-written."
Their status was sealed with their second chart-topping single, "She Loves You," in August. "Brian Matthew, the radio presenter, reviewed 'She Loves You' in Melody Maker, and called it 'banal rubbish,'" recalled McCartney in The Beatles Anthology. "But when the record zoomed to No. 1 in the Melody Maker chart the next week, he was on the front page disclaiming his comments: 'No, no – at first I thought maybe it was a little banal ... but it grows on you.'"
The mania surrounding the Beatles drove sales of their singles and the Please Please Me LP through the stratosphere. The idea that a pop group holding down the No.1 slot for 30 weeks was totally unheard of at the time. What or who was going to knock it off its perch? Simple: The same force that put it there.
Released on Nov. 22,1963, eight months to the day after Please Please Me, With the Beatles would very quickly claim the No. 1 position, ending the 30-week run of its predecessor. With the Beatles stayed at the top of the U.K. album charts for 21 weeks. The Beatles' first two LPs spent almost an entire year at No. 1 -- a continuous run of 51 weeks at the very top.
The busy year would end on another high note when, one week later, the group issued a new single not found on the hit With the Beatles album -- a common practice at the time. That song, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," became the band's first release on Capitol Records in the U.S. right before 1964 started and ended up altering the course of history in ways no one could have ever imagined.