The Brian Epstein production The Beatles Christmas Show made its debut on December 24, 1963, at the Astoria Cinema in Finsbury Park, London. The show consisted of musical performances by the Beatles, other Brian Epstein-managed Liverpool acts (Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas, Cilla Black, Tommy Quickly and the Fourmost), Australian singer/entertainer Rolf Harris and the satirical pop group Barron Knights with Duke D’Mond, as well as comedy and pantomime sketches, some of which the Beatles took part in. The Beatles set for the show consisted of Roll Over Beethoven, All My Loving, This Boy, I Wanna Be Your Man, She Loves You, Till There Was You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Money and Twist And Shout. On opening night, there was only one performance.

After returning to Liverpool on Christmas day to be with their families, the Beatles returned to London for Christmas show performances on December 26 – 28. As was normally the case, there were two separate shows on these evenings. There was no performance on Sunday, December 29. The Beatles Christmas Show, which ran through January 5, 1964, sold a total of 100,000 tickets for its 30 performances.

Meanwhile, across the Pond, Capitol records released its first Beatles single, I Want To Hold Your Hand, on December 26, 1963. Although the British B-side This Boy was a fabulous song, Capitol wanted rockers on both sides of the disc, so the company released its single with I Saw Her Standing There on the flip side. The single was packaged in an attractive picture sleeve.

Capitol had originally planned to issue the single on January 13, 1964, but moved up the release date to the day after Christmas due to demand caused by radio stations playing I Want To Hold Your Hand off the Parlophone single or tape dubs of the U.K. disc (see last week’s 50th anniversary post). The change of the release date came about due to the actions of Walter Cronkite, a 15-year-old girl in Silver Spring, Maryland (Marsha Albert) and a disc jockey in the nation’s capitol (Carroll James of WWDC).

Capitol’s decision to move the release date forward to the day after Christmas was significant. Kids were out of school for the holidays and were listening to the radio when stations immediately began playing the record. Many had received money as holiday presents, which could be used to buy Beatles records. And during the holiday season, their parents could take them to the record stores and other retailers that sold discs. With Capitol’s manufacturing and distribution capabilities, the I Want To Hold Your Hand single was widely available for purchase. By the time the Beatles arrived in America on February 7, 1964, for their Ed Sullivan Show appearances, the country was already under the influence of Beatlemania, with I Want To Hold Your Hand at the tops of the charts. The Capitol single, as well as records released by other labels, was getting saturation air play throughout America. The Beatles were the talk of the country. When they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, over 73 million people tuned in. Had the record been released as scheduled on January 13, 1964, it might not have become a hit quite so quickly and there would have been less time for Beatlemania to grip the country prior to their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. So, on this 50th anniversary of the release of I Want To Hold Your Hand by Capitol, let us thank Walter Cronkite, Marsha Albert and Carroll James for jump-starting Beatlemania in America.

This week’s questions cover The Beatles Christmas Show and the release of I Want To Hold Your Hand in America.

  1. Of the acts appearing in The Beatles Christmas Show, which artists had recorded Lennon-McCartney songs in 1963?
  2. Name the Lennon-McCartney songs recorded in 1963 by acts participating in The Beatles Christmas Show other than the Beatles.
  3. What three influential New York radio stations quickly added I Want To Hold Your Hand to their playlists?
  4. Which of the New York radio stations has been credit as being the first to play Capitol’s I Want To Hold Your Hand single?
  5. Who was the photographer that took the photo used on the Capitol picture sleeve for I Want To Hold Your Hand?


The above EMI ad ran in the program for the 1963 Beatles Christmas Show.

1. Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas, Cilla Black, Tommy Quickly, the Fourmost and, lest we forget, the Beatles all recorded Lennon-McCartney songs in 1963.

2. Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas recorded Do You Want To Know A Secret, I’ll Be On My Way, Bad To Me, I Call Your Name and I’ll Keep You Satisfied in 1963. That same year, Cilla Black recorded Love Of  The Love, the Fourmost recorded Hello Little Girl and I’m In Love, and Tommy Quickly recorded Tip Of My Tongue.


4. WMCA is credited as being the first New York radio station to play I Want To Hold Your Hand.

5. The photo used on the Capitol picture sleeve for I Want To Hold Your Hand was taken by Dezo Hoffman.

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