50 Years of Beatles: The Beatles Take Paris!

In January 1964, only a few scant weeks before the Beatles took America by storm, the band mates settled in for an extended stay in Paris. For the group, the Parisian visit proved to be a magical experience, with the Beatles playing 18 shows at the Olympia Theatre between Jan. 16 and Feb. 4.

On the first evening, the band performed a sold-out concert before a raucous audience, playing such numbers as “She Loves You,” “Twist and Shout,” and “Long Tall Sally.” But the real highlight for John, Paul, George and Ringo occurred later that night in their suite at the George V Hotel, when the band mates learned that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had topped the American charts three short weeks before their legend-making appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show."

For the Beatles, it was a dream come true. As Paul McCartney later recalled, the Beatles received a congratulatory telegram from Capitol Records and “we didn’t come down for a week.” With their longtime roadie Mal Evans in tow, they became ecstatic, jumping up and down in their hotel suite out of sheer joy. As George Harrison remembered, “It was a great feeling because we were booked to go to America directly after the Paris trip, so it was handy to have a No. 1. We’d already been hired by Ed Sullivan, so if it had been a No. 2 or No. 10 we’d have gone anyway, but it was nice to have a No. 1.”

The Beatles’ unforgettable Paris visit also included a Jan. 29 session at EMI’s Pathé Marconi Studio, where the band mates had been scheduled to record German-language versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.” Flush with their amazing spate of success, the Beatles staged a brief mutiny -- and much to the chagrin of producer George Martin. As Martin later recalled, “I barged into their suite, to be met by this incredible sight, right out of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Jane Asher -- Paul’s girlfriend -- with her long red hair, was pouring tea from a china pot, and the others were sitting around her like March Hares. They took one look at me and exploded, like in a school room when the headmaster enters. Some dived into the sofa and hid behind cushions, others dashed behind curtains. ‘You are bastards!’ I screamed, to which they responded with impish little grins and roguish apologies.”

With their mutiny having been peaceably quelled, the Beatles joined their renowned producer at Pathé Marconi, where they not only completed the German-language tracks that would become “Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand” and “Sie Liebt Dich,” but also began work on a new song, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which McCartney had composed on a borrowed upright piano in the group’s suite. By April, “Can’t Buy Me Love” would be a smash hit across the globe, nearly matching the phenomenal success of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

But as February 1964 dawned on the Beatles in Paris, they had their sights firmly set on New York City and their upcoming appearance on Ed Sullivan’s popular variety show. And as history well knows, the four lads from Liverpool were destined to receive a welcoming party that -- even in their wildest dreams -- they could never possibly have imagined.
 

Kenneth Womack is the author of numerous works of nonfiction, including "Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles" (2007). He has also written three novels, including "John Doe No. 2" and the "Dreamland Motel" (2010), "The Restaurant at the End of the World" (2012), and "Playing the Angel" (2013). A professor of English and integrative arts at Penn State Altoona, Womack was selected in April 2013 to serve as the sixth Penn State laureate.

Penn State Altoona will host an international Beatles celebration Feb. 7-9, 2014, during the 50th anniversary of the band's legendary performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." 

Contacts: 
Last Updated April 04, 2014