The Beatles, comprised of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, are a band as intertwined with our society as music at large. The group found fame in the early sixties as the hottest new pop music prospect but soon morphed into one of the most comprehensive groups the world has ever seen. Compiling a canon of work that boasts not only anthemic moments of pure joy but also avant-garde experimentations and visceral expressions.
It’s a catalogue that few artists can match, and they owe much of their joy to one man — Bob Dylan. The singer-songwriter also found fame in the early sixties, but he came from a very different viewpoint. Born out of the Greenwich folk scene, Dylan was the voice of his generation and wrote songs from the societal experiences he saw around him. After one meeting between the two sets of maestros, Dylan sat down with the band and encouraged them to employ similar techniques when writing lyrics. He wanted them to make pop music more personal.
The band duly obliged, creating a reem of songs that would not only please a growing audience who were putting more and more faith into pop music but confirm the Fab Four as potent musicians. It’s surprising then that, when asked by NME to pick his favourite Beatles song, Bob Dylan didn’t turn his attention to the latter stages of the band’s work but, instead, noted his love and admiration for one of their early classics, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’.
The naturally obscure Dylan has never been one to overcomplicate his feelings and didn’t exactly offer a lot as to why he thinks ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ is their greatest song, or at least his favourite. But what he did offer proves that he is a sincere appreciator of the band: “They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid… I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go.”
There’s no denying that the track has become a rich piece of The Beatles iconography. While it is certainly more poptastic than the rest of their work, the song did come from an organic place. “We wrote a lot of stuff together, one-on-one, eyeball to eyeball,” said McCartney of the song’s inception.
“Like in ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, I remember when we got the chord that made the song,” he notes, sharing Dylan’s sentiment. “We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, ‘Oh you-u-u… got that something…’ And Paul hits this chord, and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that – both playing into each other’s nose.”
It became the band’s first number one in the US and cemented their place as British invaders of rock and roll. It may have also been the moment they turned the great Bob Dylan into a fan.