In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
On the July afternoon in 1963 when the Beatles were settling in to record “She Loves You,” a horde of screaming girls broke into their studio and had to be chased out. And “She Loves You” sounds like the sort of song that you might record after being rescued from an adoring mob. It’s got a nervous, exhilarated energy to it — always pushing forward, never settling down. And after a lifetime of thinking of Ringo Starr as a goofy conductor on a kids’ TV show, it’s instructive to hear him let loose here. In those early Beatles days, he was an absolute motherfucker, and the breathless momentum that he generated had a lot to do with what made those songs so great.
The hook from “She Loves You” is what everyone remembers. And even though the phrase “yeah yeah yeah,” had shown up in plenty of pop songs before “She Loves You,” it still became a kind of totem with this track, with grown-ups immediately dismissing the band’s yeah-yeah-yeah music and kids adapting it in their own songs whenever possible. But there’s lyrical subtext to the song, too. The song’s narrator, sung in harmony by both Lennon and McCartney, is telling a friend that he didn’t fuck up a relationship, that the girl still wants to be with him. But there’s a note of jealousy in the way they sing it, and maybe a hint of warning, too. The Beatles don’t have to sing that, if the friend fucks it up, they’ll swoop in and steal the girl. They’re the Beatles. They probably already did steal the girl.
“She Loves You” had been out in America for months before the Beatles actually hit here. The smaller Swan label had released it, when Capitol, the American branch of EMI, decided not to. But after “I Want To Hold Your Hand” opened the floodgates, Swan printed up a whole lot more copies, and the American buying public realized that “She Loves You” was almost as catchy as “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The rush was on.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s big band jazz legend Count Basie’s cover of “She Loves You,” from the 1966 tribute album Basie’s Beatle Bag: