These posts are about the songs that fell just short of crossing the key line of chart success, entering the Billboard Top 40. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 41.
The first song that Beatles took to the top of the U.K. charts was written while they were in transit on their first proper tour, supporting headliner Helen Shapiro on a stuffed bill that also included Danny Williams, Kenny Lynch, the Honeys, the Kestrels, the Red Price Band, and comedian Dave Allen. Casting about for song ideas, John Lennon and Paul McCartney riffed on the name of the letters column in New Music Express. They changed “From You to Us” to “From Me to You” and worked up a bluesy number that famed producer George Martin eventually helped them reshape to be closer to their foundational aesthetic. “From Me to You,” backed with “Thank You Girl,” was released as a single on April 12, 1963. Three weeks later, it claimed the top spot and remained there for seven weeks.
“From Me to You” was also the first Lennon/McCartney song to breach the U.S. charts, but it wasn’t the Beatles’ version. The band’s single was released in the U.S. by Vee-Jay Records, and it tanked, selling fewer than four thousand copies. Instead, it was a cover version by Del Shannon that initially ushered the famed songwriting team onto Billboard‘s weekly accounting of the nation’s most popular songs. Shannon recorded it after hearing the Beatles play it live at Swinging Sound ’63, an all-star concert staged at Royal Albert Hall less than a week after the single’s U.K. release. Shannon figured he was doing these mop-topped kids a favor by giving them a little extra exposure. Lennon brokered the deal, presumably because McCartney was preoccupied with flirting with Jane Asher, the actress who’d been sent to show by Radio Times to write an article about the Beatles. Shannon’s take on “From Me to You” peaked at #77.
A few months later, everything was very, very different. By the spring of 1964, Beatlemania had fully taken hold in the U.S., and the hunger for their music was insatiable. Previously released tracks, originally ignored by U.S. audiences, were given new life. That included “From Me to You.” It was dropped onto the B-side of the January 1964 rerelease of “Please Please Me,” which was their first U.S. single almost a year earlier. This time, “Please Please Me” was a smash, racing to the upper reaches of the chart, where only other Beatles songs blocked it from climbing to the top position. As the flip side, “From Me to You” registered separately on the Hot 100, and it still wound up as a second-tier entry in the band’s catalog, at least in terms of chart position. “From Me to You” climbed no higher than #41. The single’s comparatively wan performance was hardly representative of enthusiasm for the Beatles at that moment. The same week “From Me to You” hit its peak outside of the Top 40, the Beatles held twelve spots on the Billboard Hot 100, including the top five songs on the chart. Their dominance was so total that two other artists were charting with songs about the Beatles.
Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Top 40 Smash Near Misses” tag.