Before “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles were a nifty little phenomenon, a scrappy quartet of Liverpool kids with a taste for American R&B and a fervent cult following. Then that thrilling, urgent opening riff erupted out of every transistor radio speaker it could reach, and all of a sudden they were the Beatles: the most important pop act in the world, the group that turned the declining rock ‘n’ roll fad into the sound of the future, the band that made girls scream, boys grow their hair and every other pop musician realize they had to step their game up in a hurry.
The miraculous part is that the Beatles stayed great for another six years, reshaping pop again and again. “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” though, is the best example of how John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s voices and songwriting gifts could intertwine so closely as to be inseparable. The Beatles’ great subject, as they declared at the end of their partnership, was love; this is a song about falling in love that’s as joyful as the feeling it describes.
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