First and Last: Beatles’ First Number One Hit Was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1964), and Their Last Was “Long and Winding Road” (1970)

As one can only expect, The Beatles have the record of the most number one songs in the Billboard Hot 100. They rank first with 20 chart toppers while Elvis Presley ranks second with 17 number ones. However, surprisingly Presley holds the record for the most weeks at number one with 79 while The Beatles rank second on this list with 59 weeks in the top slot. The Beatles first number one in the U.S. was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on February 1, 1964 which stayed in the top position for an astounding seven weeks. The band’s last number one hit was the double single “The Long and Winding Road/For You Blue” which topped the charts for two weeks beginning on June 13, 1970. From February 1, 1964 to January 26, 1970 The Beatles scored an amazing 20 number one hits in the U.S.

Two Beatles songs hold the record for the biggest jumps to number one. First, in 1964 “Can’t Buy Me Love” jumped from number 27 to number one; the second on this list is “Paperback Writer” in 1966 as it catapulted from number 15 to number 1. Ironically, the third song in this distinction is the 1971 song “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul and Linda McCartney which jumped from number 12 to number one; “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is actually tied for third place with “Tequila” by The Champs, which in 1959 also jumped from number 12 to number one.

The Beatles number one hit that spent the most weeks in the top slot was “Hey Jude” in 1969. The Beatles number one songs are:

1. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (February 1, 1964 – six weeks)
2. “She Loves You” (March 21, 1964 – two weeks)
3. “Can’t Buy Me Love” (April 4, 1964 – five weeks)
4. “Love Me Do” (May 30, 1964 – one week)
5. “Hard Days Night” (August 1, 1964 – two weeks)
6. “I Feel Fine” (December 26, 1964 – three weeks)
7. “Eight Days a Week” (March 13, 1965 – two weeks)
8. “Ticket to Ride” (May 22, 1965 – one week)
9. “Help!” (September 4, 1965 – three weeks)
10. “Yesterday” (October 9, 1965 – three weeks)
11. “We Can Work It Out” (January 8, 1964 – three weeks)
12. “Paperback Writer” (June 25, 1966 – two weeks)
13. “Penny Lane” (March 18, 1967 – one week)
14. “All You Need Is Love” (August 19, 1967 – one week)
15. “Hello Goodbye” (December 30, 1967 – three weeks)
16. “Hey Jude” (September 28, 1968 – nine weeks)
17. “Get Back” (May 24, 1969 – five weeks)
18. “Come Together/Something” (November 29, 1964 – one week)
19. “Let It Be” (April 11, 1970 – two weeks)
20. “The Long and Winding Road/For You Blue” (June 13, 1970 – two weeks)

Prior to its UK release on 29 November 1963, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had advance orders of more than 1,000,000 copies. The single definitely would have debuted in the top position on the UK charts, which would have been unprecedented. However, their hit “She Loves You” was at number one at the time and seemed to be losing its grip and prone for a dip, but a BBC special report on The Beatles caused “She Loves You” to have a second life and surge to prevent a drop from the number one position.

Beatles observers cite “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as a prime example of a song in which Lennon and McCartney closely collaborated. Of course, they were both lead vocalists on the track. On the Billboard Hot 100, up until that time it spent the longest stretch at number one apart from when the double-sided 45 release of “Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley stayed in the top slot for 11 weeks.

“The Long and Winding Road” was the twentieth and final number one hit for The Beatles, an achievement which has yet to be surpassed. The span of months between their first number one hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in February 1964, and “The Long and Winding Road” in May 1970 was 74; this represents an incredible average of a number one hit every 3.7 months in their dominance of the U.S. charts. The McCartney-penned song was issued as a single in May 1970, a full month after the band’s break-up.

Ironically, McCartney first offered the song to Tom Jones with the provision that he record the song as his next single. But, Jones opted to release his “Without Love” as his next single, shooting the song into the Beatles’ pool of songs for their next album. “The Long and Winding Road” famously was one of the five Beatles songs that McCartney played on his 1976 Wings Over America tour, which marked the first time since the quartet’s break-up that he played Beatles songs.