After constantly rejecting requests by both Brian Epstein and George Martin to release Beatles records in the United States, in November 1963 EMI label head Sir Joseph Lockwood sent a deputy to Los Angeles ordering EMI's subsidiary, Capitol Records to commence promoting and releasing Beatles records in the United States. Despite the "first album" claim on its cover, ten days prior to its release, Vee-Jay Records of Chicago beat Capitol to the punch with the release of the Beatles' American debut album Introducing... The Beatles, which had been delayed for release for various reasons since the previous summer. Perhaps as a result of the Vee-Jay release, Liberty Music Shops advertised in the New York Times of 12 January 1964 that Meet the Beatles! was available for purchase, an ad not authorised by Capitol. In 2003, Meet the Beatles! was ranked number 59 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and 53 in a 2012 revised list. In 2004, the album was released for the first time on compact disc in both stereo and mono as part of The Capitol Albums, Volume 1box set, containing the original US stereo and mono mixes. In 2014, Meet the Beatles! was issued on CD again, individually and included in the Beatles boxed set The U.S. Albums, wherein although following the running order for Meet the Beatles!, contained the UK mono and stereo mixes.
By November 1963, the Beatles had already recorded over 35 songs for EMI's UK Parlophone label, while Capitol Records in the US planned to release an album and a single, and more at a later date. The US rights to the Beatles first 14 tracks were held by Vee Jay Records along with a few others. "She Loves You" had been issued in America on the Swan label and also sold poorly. In Britain, Parlophone was already releasing their second Beatles album With the Beatles and had issued several singles which were not included on any UK albums with the exception of the first two. While the Beatles' first two British albums each contained 14 tracks, in the American market albums were typically limited to 12 tracks and it was expected for albums to include the current hit single. The first three tracks on the album include the December 1963 Capitol single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" along with the record's B-sides both in the United States, "I Saw Her Standing There," and in the UK with "This Boy" from the original November 1963 release. Neither "I Want to Hold Your Hand" nor "This Boy" had appeared on album at the time in the UK, while "I Saw Her Standing There" had been the lead-off track to the band's debut album. The other nine tracks on Meet the Beatles! are duplicated from its nearest UK counterpart album With the Beatles. Those were Beatles original songs and not cover versions of songs done by other artists with exception of "Till There Was You". The remaining five tracks from With the Beatles were songs originally recorded by other artists. Capitol determined that for their first album they would only include original and fresh material. There was fear that the remakes would turn Americans off of the Beatles. The other five songs would appear on Capitol's next American LP, The Beatles' Second Album, released in April 1964. The songs "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "This Boy" are in a duophonic stereo, as Capitol had not been provided proper stereo mixes.
The album was included in Robert Christgau's "Basic Record Library" of 1950s and 1960s recordings, published in .
In the U.S., the album debuted at No. 92 on the album chart for the week ending February 1, 1964. Two weeks later, it peaked at #1 where it remained eleven consecutive weeks, eventually replaced by The Beatles' Second Album. It sold 4,045,174 copies by December 31, 1964, and 4,699,348 copies by the end of the decade. It was certified Gold by the RIAA on 3 February 1964, and 5× Platinum on 26 December 1991.