It was this week in 1964 that the British invasion of America was conclusive. The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” had jumped from No.27 on the Hot 100 to the No.1 spot. In the four places behind it? More Beatles’ records. It was an unprecedented takeover of the Billboard chart.
The story of the Beatles and their early American record labels is a complex one. It all started when Vee-Jay released “Please Please Me” on February 7, 1963. The only reason they released it, however, was because EMI’s US label, Capitol, had passed on the opportunity. Vee-Jay, at the time, was a small family-run label, based in Gary, Indiana that specialized in African-American music.
Vee-Jay had a number of financial issues, so when the Beatles next single, “She Loves You,” was ready for release in the United States, it was leased by EMI to a small Philadelphia label called Swan Records. (Capitol had again refused the opportunity to release it.)
Swan put out “She Loves You” on September 18, but it found very little interest with record buyers, mainly because so few radio stations played it. It was only in January when NBC’s The Jack Paar Program screened footage of The Beatles performing “She Loves You” that anyone really became aware, by which time the Beatles really were on a roll.
Capitol finally woke up to the possibilities of The Beatles and released “I Want To Hold Your Hand” the day after Christmas 1963. Three weeks later it entered the Billboard chart and on February 1, 1964, it made No.1 where it stayed for seven weeks, only to be replaced by Swan Records’ “She Loves You,” which held onto the top spot for two weeks and, it’s said, kept the company going a lot longer than many of its independent rivals.
Then, after the excitement of The Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Vee-Jay Records, through their subsidiary Tollie Records, put out “Twist and Shout,” and it reached No. 2 on April 4, 1964. (“Twist and Shout” only failed to make No.1 because the Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” stopped it!)