More from The Beatles.
1963–66: Beatlemania and touring years
In February 1963, the Beatles recorded ten songs during a single marathon studio session for their debut LP, Please Please Me. The album was supplemented by the four tracks already released on their first two singles.[nb 3] After the moderate success of “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” met with a more emphatic reception. Released in January 1963, two months ahead of the album of the same name, the song reached number one on every chart in London except Record Retailer, where it stalled at number two. Recalling how the Beatles “rushed to deliver a debut album, bashing out Please Please Me in a day”, Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine comments, “Decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh, precisely because of its intense origins.” Lennon said little thought went into composition at the time; he and McCartney were “just writing songs à la Everly Brothers, à la Buddy Holly, pop songs with no more thought of them than that—to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant.”
Released in March 1963, the album initiated a run during which eleven of their twelve studio albums released in the United Kingdom through 1970 reached number one. The band’s third single, “From Me to You”, came out in April and was also a chart-topping hit, starting an almost unbroken string of seventeen British number one singles for the Beatles, including all but one of the eighteen they released over the next six years. Released in August, the band’s fourth single, “She Loves You”, achieved the fastest sales of any record in the UK up to that time, selling three-quarters of a million copies in under four weeks. It became their first single to sell a million copies, and remained the biggest-selling record in the UK until 1978, when “Mull of Kintyre”, by McCartney’s post-Beatles band Wings, surpassed it in sales. Their commercial success brought increased media exposure, to which the Beatles responded with an irreverent and comical attitude that defied the expectations of pop musicians at the time, inspiring even more interest.[nb 4] As their popularity spread, a frenzied adulation of the group took hold. Greeted with riotous enthusiasm by screaming fans, the press dubbed the phenomenon “Beatlemania”.
McCartney, Harrison, Swedish pop singer Lill-Babs and Lennon on the set of the Swedish television show Drop-In, 30 October 1963
In late October, the Beatles began a five-day tour of Sweden, their first time abroad since the final Hamburg engagement of December 1962. Upon their return to the UK on the 31 December, “several hundred screaming fans” greeted them in heavy rain at Heathrow Airport wrote Lewisohn. Around fifty to a hundred journalists and photographers as well as representatives from the BBC also joined the airport reception, the first of more than one hundred such events. The next day, they began their fourth tour of Britain within nine months, this one scheduled for six weeks. In mid-November, as Beatlemania intensified, police resorted to using high-pressure water hoses to control the crowd before a concert in Plymouth.
Please Please Me maintained the top position on the Record Retailer chart for thirty weeks, only to be displaced by their follow-up, With the Beatles, which EMI delayed the release of until sales of Please Please Me had subsided.[nb 5] Recorded between July and October, With the Beatles made better use of studio production techniques than its predecessor. It held the top spot for twenty-one weeks with a chart life of 40 weeks. Erlewine described the LP as “a sequel of the highest order—one that betters the original”.[nb 6] The album caught the attention of music critic William Mann of The Times, who suggested that Lennon and McCartney were “the outstanding English composers of 1963”. The newspaper published a series of articles in which Mann offered detailed analyses of the music, lending it respectability. With the Beatles became the second album in UK chart history to sell a million copies, a figure previously reached only by the 1958 South Pacific soundtrack. In writing the sleeve notes for the album, the band’s press officer, Tony Barrow used the superlative the “fabulous foursome”, which the media widely adopted as the “Fab Four”.
EMI’s American subsidiary, Capitol Records, hindered the Beatles’ releases in the United States for more than a year by initially declining to issue their music, including their first three singles. Concurrent negotiations with the independent US labels Vee-Jay and Swan led to the release of the songs in 1963, but legal issues with royalties and publishing rights proved an obstacle to the successful marketing of the group in the US.[nb 7] American chart success began after Epstein arranged for a $40,000 US marketing campaign and secured the support of disk jockey Carrol James, who first played the band’s records in mid-December 1963, initiating their music’s spread across US radio. This caused an increase in demand, leading Capitol to rush-release “I Want to Hold Your Hand” later that month. Released 26 December 1963, with the band’s previously scheduled debut there just weeks away, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sold a million copies, becoming a number one hit in the US by mid-January.
A black and white image of four men are standing in front of a crowd of people at the bottom of an aeroplane staircase.
The Beatles arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport, 7 February 1964
The band left the United Kingdom on 7 February 1964, with an estimated four thousand fans gathered at Heathrow, waving and screaming as the aircraft took off. Upon landing at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, an uproarious crowd estimated at three thousand greeted them. They gave their first live US television performance two days later on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by approximately 73 million viewers in over 23 million households, or 34 percent of the American population. According to the Nielsen rating service, it was “the largest audience that had ever been recorded for an American television program”, wrote biographer Jonathan Gould. The next morning, the Beatles awoke to a negative critical consensus in the US, but a day later their first US concert saw Beatlemania erupt at Washington Coliseum. Back in New York the following day, the Beatles met with another strong reception during two shows at Carnegie Hall. The band then flew to Florida and appeared on the weekly Ed Sullivan Show a second time, before another 70 million viewers, before returning to the UK on 22 February.