I can’t tell you when I first heard the Beatles. I remember seeing The Beatles cartoon series during its original network run, and the music didn’t seem unfamiliar or strange, but I was also maybe seven years old. As a radio listener in the early 70s, I heard them often enough so that I bought the blue 1967-1970 compilation at some point in maybe 1974.
Neither can I tell you when I first heard the reissued “Got to Get You Into My Life” in 1976. Probably during the first full week of June, when it first appears on the survey from WLS in Chicago (although its first listing at ARSA is from KTKT in Tucson, Arizona, during the week of May 28). It makes the Hot 100 on June 12 at #54 and goes 29-18-12-10 after that. On July 17, it reaches #8, during the same week Paul’s “Silly Love Songs” slips to #9. On July 24, “Got to Get You Into My Life” hits its Hot 100 peak, #7, where it stays for three weeks. (In all of those weeks, it shares the Top 10 with the Beach Boys’ “Rock and Roll Music,” the first time the two bands have been in the Top 10 together since 1966.) On August 14, it slides to #19, and begins a leisurely six-week fall: 23-38-53-60-59-99 and then out, gone from the chart dated October 2, 1976. Final tally is 16 weeks on the Hot 100, 11 in the Top 40, and five in the Top 10.
The song hit #1 at WLS in Chicago on July 7, where it stayed for three weeks. It also recorded local #1s in Louisville, Dayton, and Anniston, Alabama. Between the Fourth of July and the middle of August, you could not have listened to Top 40 radio anywhere in America for more than a couple of hours without hearing it.
(“Got to Get You Into My Life” was the first single from the Rock and Roll Music compilation, which would eventually reach #2 on the Billboard album chart, trailing only Wings at the Speed of Sound.)
A weird little oddment surrounding the chart history of “Got to Get You Into My Life” is that WAKY in Louisville listed the B-side, “Helter Skelter,” without “Got to Get You Into My Life,” on its chart from April 19 through May 24. The songs are listed together on the WAKY chart dated June 7 (although the May 31 chart is missing from ARSA). I’ve read that “Helter Skelter” was originally intended to be the plug side, and the chart listing from WAKY indicates that could be true. But “Helter Skelter” is enigmatic and dark. Its connections to the Manson Family were well-known, thanks to Vincent Bugliosi’s 1974 book with the same title and the TV miniseries based on it, which had aired in the spring of 1976. Given all that, it’s unlikely that “Helter Skelter” would have hit the way “Got to Get You Into My Life” did. A hot-n-happy summertime single from the Beatles? Yes please.
If “Got to Get You Into My Life” marked the brief resurgence of American Beatlemania, it was nothing like what happened in the UK during 1976. In March, EMI reissued 22 Beatles singles, seven of which ended up on the British charts: “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude,” “Paperback Writer,” “Get Back,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Help,” and “Back in the USSR.” But I don’t know if any of those songs would have become big American hits in 1976. We’d been there and done that.
However: the novelty of a “new” Beatles song (originally from Revolver) made “Got to Get You Into My Life” a no-brainer for American radio. There’s nothing else in the Beatles’ catalog like it, thanks to the horn section, three trumpets and two tenor saxophones, closely miked. (The horns lead people to describe it as “Motown-influenced,” although it was written and recorded at a time when the Beatles noodled with the idea of recording at Stax.) The song’s hard-hitting introduction jumped off the radio and would not be ignored. Ringo thwacks his kit with authority, George’s lead guitar is jangly and dissonant, and Paul brings it like a soul singer. It sounds like a 70s record.
One of the many things I remember fondly about the summer of 1976 was experiencing the Beatles on the radio in real time, which I had missed by virtue of discovering WLS only weeks after “The Long and Winding Road” dropped off the charts. Decades later, “Got to Get You Into My Life” still has powerful summer-of-76 mojo. If you’re looking for me today, I’ll be over here listening to it again.
(The picture at the top of this post was snagged from the great Retro Music Ads.)