Wednesday 13 January 2016


It’s one of those questions to which everyone is (pretty) sure they know answer. What was The Beatles' first No.1 on the official UK charts?
Just about everyone knows that ‘Love Me Do’, their first single did OK on the charts, but didn’t reach the coveted top spot. So the answer has to be… ‘Please Please Me’ recorded at the end of November 1962 and released as their second single on 11 January 1963. But the truth is, according to the Record Retailer magazine chart, ‘Please Please Me’ only made No.2. However, the reason for their being some confusion is because the good old BBC did place the song at No.1 on their chart, which was determined by an average of various UK charts.

It was on Monday 26 November 1962, following a Sunday evening gig at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, that The Beatles headed to London to record ‘Please Please Me’, along with the B-side ‘Ask Me Why’. The next day, The Beatles were at the BBC’s Paris Studio, in London’s Lower Regent Street, for their first-ever London appearance on the UK’s national radio station. Having been released on 11 January, ‘Please Please Me’ charted a little over a week later, peaking at No. 2 in late February, where it stayed for two weeks and it made the No.2 slot again on 16 March for a single week.
In America Capitol Records turned down the opportunity to release The Beatles’ first two singles, and so a deal was done with Vee-Jay, a US label whose main claim to fame was that they had The Four Seasons on their label. A few weeks before the impending arrival of The Beatles in New York to appear on Ed Sullivan’s Show in February 1964, Vee-Jay reissued ‘Please Please Me’ with ‘From Me to You’ on the B-side (having originally released ‘Please Please Me’ in February, 1963 that at the time did not perform well). 

When The Beatles set foot on American soil, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday 7 February 1964, it marked the beginning of what has come to be called, ‘the British invasion’. The following morning The Beatles, minus George who was unwell, did a press photo-call in New York’s Central Park. After lunch there were rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show, and the band’s road manager, Neil Aspinall, stood in for George at a TV camera call. 

The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast from Studio 50 on Broadway and West 53rd Street in Manhattan and The Beatles taped what became their third appearance on the show here the following day. On The Beatles 1’s DVD and Blu-ray the clip of the band performing, ‘Please Please Me is taken from the Sullivan show that was transmitted on Sunday 23 February.’
On the evening following the afternoon’s videotaped session, The Beatles performed live to a studio audience of 728 people. More significantly, the Sunday evening Sullivan Show was seen by 73 million Americans in over 23 million homes. It remains one of the most watched broadcasts in TV history. Brian Epstein’s deal with the Sullivan Show resulted in The Beatles being seen on American TV on three consecutive Sunday nights – an unprecedented PR opportunity. 

Their performance on the Sullivan Show of ‘Please Please Me’ was a significant reason behind the single peaking at No.3 on the week of 21 March 1964. Two weeks later ‘Please Please Me’ was at No.5 on the charts, but in the four places above it were, ‘I Want Ro Hold Your Hand’ at No.4, ‘She Loves You’ at No.3, ‘Twist and Shout’ at No.2 and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ at No.1. It is not a feat that has ever been repeated, nor shall it.

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