The American Singer With the 1st Lennon-McCartney Song on the Billboard Pop Charts
Before Beatlemania and the “British Invasion,” The Beatles struggled to break into the U.S. market. That wasn’t unusual in 1963. At the time, you’d find rock bands like The Surfaris (“Wipe Out”) and singer-songwriters like Roy Orbison in the American top 40. British acts weren’t a big factor.
So while The Beatles were celebrating their first No. 1 hit in the U.K., “Wipe Out” (No. 7) and Orbison’s “Falling” (No. 26) were making runs on the Billboard pop charts in summer ’63. “Please Please Me,” the first single by the Fab Four, was nowhere to be found. It had come and gone without notice.
However, you could find “From Me To You,” another song penned by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, further down on the Billboard Hot 100 by July ’63. The thing was, it wasn’t The Beatles’ version on the U.S. chart. An American act had beat them to it.
The Beatles missed the Billboard pop charts with ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘From Me To You’
The Beatles’ first crack at the U.S. market came in February ’63. After Capitol Records declined to release “Please Please Me,” Chicago-based Vee Jay Records stepped in and put out the single. But with little promotion and minimal interest from DJs it didn’t sell at all.
In fact, according to Beatles Bizhat, “Please Please Me” couldn’t even break 8,000 sales. With that performance in record stores and little in the way of airplay, the single didn’t enter any of the three U.S. charts. “From Me To You,” which followed in May, didn’t fare much better.
In terms of sales, the Vee Jay release of “From Me To You” barely hit 20,000 units. However, it did show some semblance of life on the radio, thanks to the promotion of DJ Dick Biondi, then working in Los Angeles at KRLA. That was enough for a showing on one Billboard chart.
According to Billboard, “From Me To You” peaked at No. 116 on Billboard’s “Bubbling Under Singles” chart late that summer. (The chart was reserved for acts that narrowly missed the pop charts.) But at the same time “From Me To You” had entered the Hot 100.
Del Shannon cracked the Billboard Hot 100 with ‘From Me To You’ in summer ’63
By 1963, Michigander Del Shannon had already clocked three top-20 hits, including his No. 1 single “Runaway” from 1961. So when he told Lennon he planned to cover “From Me To You” after a London gig, John had reason to be enthusiastic. After all, it could mean exposure in the U.S.
But Lennon couldn’t have planned for the two songs to be competing on the charts at the same time. That’s what happened, and Shannon’s version of “From Me to You” was the winner. At its peak in July ’63, it made it to No. 77 on the Billboard pop charts.
That marked a first for what became a long line of Lennon-McCartney compositions. In the coming decade, The Beatles would be the ones performing their own hit songs as they racked up one No. 1 hit after another.
On that front, cover artists didn’t come close to the success The Beatles had performing their own music. Only Elton John and Peter & Gordon ever managed to top the Billboard charts with a Lennon-McCartney track.