A look at the reasons behind the obsession for the pop-group, The Beatles.
Beatlemania in the 1960s The Beatles were a mystical happening that many people still don’t understand. Phenomenoligists had a ball in 1964 with Beatlemania, a generally harmless form of madness which came from Britain in 1963. The sole cause of Beatlemania is a quartet of young Englishmen known as the Beatles. In the less than one year that they achieved popularity in England to the time they came to America, The Beatles achieved a popularity and following that is unprecedented in the history of show business in England. They became the first recording artists anywhere in the world to have a record become a million-seller before it’s release. They became the target of such adoration by their fans that they had to cancel all one-night bookings because of riots in early 1964. Beatlemania had reached unbelievable proportions in England, it became a form of reverse lend-lease and spread to the United States. Capitol records followed the Beatles’ single record with the release of an album, “Meet the Beatles,” in late January of 1964. That event was followed by the Beatles themselves, who arrived in New York February 8, 1964 for three appearances with Ed Sullivan. The first show was scheduled for Sunday, February 9, the second was telecast from Miami a week later, and the third pre-taped for an airing in March. These concerts were the most watched television programs ever (70 million viewers) until recently. The Beatles’ arrival in the United States was presaged by a deluge of advance publicity. Newsweek, Time, and Life have chronicled Beatlemania, UPI, and the AP(Associated Press) had done their part for the cause (including an AP wirephoto of J. Paul Getty sporting a Beatle wig), and even Vogue shoved high fashion aside momentarily in it’s January, 1964 issue and carried a full-page photo of the group. Baltimore’s respected Evening Sun took notice of the coming of the Beatles on it’s editorial page at that time. Said the Sun: “The Beatles are coming. Those four words are said to be enough to jelly the spine of the most courageous police captain in Britain… Since, in this case, the Beatles are coming to America, America had better take thought as to how it will deal with the invasion… Indeed, a restrained ‘Beatles, go home,’ might be just the thing.” Precisely how, when, and where Beatlemania got started nobody- not even their late manager Brian Epstein(who died of a drug overdose in 1967) can say for sure. The Beatles are a product of Liverpool, which had a population of some 300 rock and roll bands( or “beat groups,” as Liverpudlians are wont to call them). The beat groups hawked their musical wares in countless small cellar clubs, old stores and movie houses, even in a converted church, nearly all of which are in proximity to the Mersey River. Out of all these groups came, somehow, the Beatles. And they had to go to Germany to do it. In order to better their Liverpool take-home pay of around $15. per week apiece, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo (so called because of his penchant for wearing at least four rings) Starr took a tramp steamer to Hamburg and a job which moved them up a bit financially, if not in class. There, in a raucous and rowdy strip joint, the Indra Club, the Beatles became the first entertainers to play louder than the audience. There, too, they were “discovered” by English promoter and talent agent, Brian Epstein, who has since become deservedly known as “the fifth Beatle.” Under Epstein’s shrewd guidance, the Beatles soon found themselves signing a contract with Britain’s giant Electric ; Musical Industries, Ltd., the largest recording organization in the world and major stockholder in Capitol Records, Inc.; headlining concerts throughout Britain; and appearing on television. Their first recording, “Love Me Do,” was issued by EMI’s Parlophone label in October, 1962. It sold a respectable 100,000 copies, and it was the last time a Beatle single sold less than half million copies. The first million-seller, “She Loves You,” came out in the spring of 1963. It was followed by two albums, “Please, Please Me” and “With the Beatles.” Both LP’s sold over 300,000 copies.1 Then, finally, came the unprecedented success of the newest single record, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” In between there was three extended play ( a 45 r.p.m. disk containing four tunes) recordings which also racked up sales of several hundred thousand apiece. All this resulted in what is universally known in Britain as Beatlemania and, as Newsweek said of young Liverpudlians, “the sound of their music is one of the most persistent noises heard over England since the air-raid sirens were dismantled.” Their popularity reached a head of sorts when, in November of 1963, at the request of the Royal Family, The Beatles headlined the annual command performance at the Prince of Wales theater. It was a glittering affair and, probably out of deference to attending royalty (including the Queen Mother-she found them “young, fresh, and vital” – and Princess Margaret), notable for the absence of even a small riot. Despite their apparent appointment as Purveyors of Rock and Roll to the Crown, the Beatles have taken the whole thing in stride. Said Beatle John Lennon to the lords and ladies at the command performance: “People in the cheaper seats clap your hands, the rest of you just rattle your jewelry.” It was not only their good looks and wonderfully unique music that made them so popular with the young ladies (and men too!). It was their witty charm that was reflected in the quote from the Royal Command Performance. Here is part of what was said at LaGuardia airport on February 7, 1964: “Will you sing for us?” someone asked. “We need money first,” John Lenin shot back. “What’s your message for American teenagers?” “Our message is…buy some more Beatle records,” returned Paul McCartney. “What about the movement in Detroit to stamp out the Beatles?” “We’re starting a movement to stamp out Detroit.” “Do you hope to take anything home with you?” “Rockefeller Center.” “What do you think of Beethoven?” “I love him,” said Ringo Starr. “Especially his poems.” “Don’t you guys ever get a haircut?” “I just got one yesterday,” retorted George Harrison. Added Ringo: “You should have seen him the day before.” There’s a little bit of Beatle history. One could say that they did not just come out of nowhere , like many people believe. It took hard, diligent work to go where they went. Because of this “Came out of nowhere to steal the hearts of young girls” quote that was often used in the 1960’s, many psychiatrists felt the need to examine further. Anthony Corbett, a noted English psychologist praised the Beatles as having provided “a desperately needed release for the inhibitions which exist in all of us.”2 Dixon Scott of the London Daily Mirror interviewed a well-known psychiatrist (unnamed because of medical ethics) in an attempt to get to the root of Beatlemania. “We are all chaotic and mixed up inside,” the psychiatrist told Scott. “We are anxious to have a greater freedom to live. We have a greater feeling of the need to express ourselves…in the past we have been controlled automatons…but you cannot hold nature back forever. All the parts in use had to seek an outlet and rhythm is one of these outlets…then along came the Beatles with their fresh beat and fresh innocence.” The psychiatrist then came to the crux of the problem: “A revolution is taking place,” he said. “It amounts to freedom with a sense of responsibility and honesty. The fans recognize the honesty that shines from the Beatles.” “While other pop stars have thought in artificial terms of reaching out to their audiences, the Beatles are giving honestly, as well as receiving.” In a lengthy article in the New York Times, Frederick Lewis of that paper’s London bureau, examined the sociological implications of Beatlemania and came up with other theories. “They (The Beatles) are working class and their roots and attitudes are firmly of the north of England. Because of their success, they can act as spokesman for the new, noisy, anti-establishment generation which is become a force in British life,” Lewis wrote. “The Beatles are part of a strong-flowing reaction against the soft, middle class south of England, which has controlled popular culture for so long.” Beatlemania has touched all corners of English and American life and all types of people. Obviously , it had an enormous effect on America. The proof can be shown in the millions upon millions of records they have sold in the last 32 years that they have been making records (in the present tense because they are still releasing records today). In the first Beatles fanzine in America, it shows how crazy America was at this time over the Beatles. It has life stories, full page pictures, how to do the Beatle dance, and the Beatle haircut. The big contest was to win a call from the Beatles. And at the end there was some wallet size photos for the girl’s purses. It is obvious that the Beatles influenced everyone’s lives. From the shrieking girls, to the parents of those girls, and the police officers that tried their best to contain the uncontrollable(girls). Their popularity diminished after they stopped touring in 1966, which was due to the strain and stress of touring that they had endured. But their impact was to last forever. The wanting of the reunion has been so big that they are reuniting to collaborate for a new album. It will undoubtedly be a best seller. After all these years, people still love them. 1 According to “The Beatles”- The first American Beatle Fan-zine. 2 All quotes courtesy of “The Beatles”- The First American Beatle Fan-zine.