Beatlemania is a term that originated during the 1960s to describe the intense fan frenzy directed toward British rock band the Beatles during the early years of their success. The phenomenon began in 1963 and continued past the band's breakup in 1970. The band stopped performing live in 1966, as the screaming fans made it impossible to put on a good performance.
There are multiple competing theories as to why the Beatles attracted such a fan base, with no clear agreement. After the Beatles, the term mania was used to describe the popularity of later acts.
The use of the word mania to describe fandom pre-dates the Beatles by more than 100 years. Beginning in 1841, fans of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt showed a level of fanaticism similar to the Beatles. Poet Heinrich Heine coined the word Lisztomania to describe this. At the time, the word was used to indicate that the fan behaviour was a genuine mental illness, an implication that was not part of the later Beatlemania. Like the later Beatlemania, there was no agreement on why Liszt had such a fanatical fan base.
Andi Lothian, a former Scottish music promoter, claims that he coined the term Beatlemania while speaking to a reporter at the Caird Hall Beatles concert that took place as part of the Beatles' mini-tour of Scotland, on 7 October 1963. An early printed use of the word is in The Daily Mirror on 15 October 1963 in a news story about the previous day's Beatles concert in Cheltenham. Beatles' publicist Tony Barrow credited the press for the term, but saw the phenomenon as beginning with the band's appearance on the London Palladium TV show on 13 October 1963, at which point he no longer had to contact the press but had the press contacting him instead. Maureen Lipman reported that after attending a concert in Hull that year, she heard that the arena "cleared away 40 pairs of abandoned knickers" from fellow young women fans. In early January 1964, TV talk show host Jack Paar gave Americans their first prime-time glimpse of Beatlemania in the UK by showing clips of their concerts and crazed fans.
Beatlemania was already evident when the band arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in February 1964, but became common in the United States after the Beatles performed on several editions of The Ed Sullivan Show the same month; an estimated 73 million people tuned in to their February 9 appearance. Their tour of the U.S. was characterised by intense levels of hysteria and high-pitched screaming by female fans both at concerts and during the band's travels. The extent of Beatlemania in the United States is evidenced by their sales. During the 6½ years between the appearance of the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" single on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Let It Be LP, the Beatles had the Number One single in the US for a total of 59 weeks and topped the LP charts for 116 weeks. In other words, they had the top-selling single one out of every six weeks, and the top-selling album one out of every three weeks. The Beatles had large amounts of people, especially female fans, who enjoyed screaming while their idols sang.
For the Beatles, the excitement of the mania eventually began to wear off, and by mid-1966 they were worn out by constant touring, press attention, and ever-larger concert crowds. George Harrison lamented, "The more fame we got, the more girls came to see us, everybody making a noise so that nobody could hear us." The Beatles had also become major targets of public outcry for the first time when John Lennon's "More popular than Jesus" remark spread to the United States. The world experienced its last major Beatlemania event on 29 August 1966 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. On that evening the foursome performed their last live concert in front of a crowd of 25,000 at the end of the Beatles' 1966 US Tour. That night, the Beatles retired from touring and live performing.
Cultural observers and psychologists have long speculated about why Beatlemania became so intense, even in comparison to other waves of celebrity fandom.
In February 1964, Paul Johnson wrote in the New Statesman—in an article that the magazine now describes as its "most complained-about piece"—that the mania was a modern incarnation of female hysteria, and that the wild fans at the Beatles' concerts were "the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures." A 1966 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology rejected this conclusion. The researchers found that Beatles fans were not likelier to score higher on Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory's hysteria scale, nor were they unusually neurotic. Instead, they described Beatlemania as "the passing reaction of predominantly young adolescent females to group pressures of such a kind that meet their special emotional needs."
One factor in the intensity of Beatlemania may have been the Post–World War II baby boom, which gave the Beatles a larger audience of young fans than previous stars like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Some commentators have argued that the Beatles' famous moptop haircuts signaled androgyny and thus presented a less threatening version of male sexuality to teenage girls intimidated by sex. They wore presentable suits and were seen as less "sleazy" than Elvis to middle-class whites.
A popular narrative in Beatles literature is that the band's arrival in America was immaculately timed, with a nation mourning the assassination of John F. Kennedy and trying to rediscover its optimism. However, this narrative was challenged in a Slate column as being expedient and implicitly Americentric.
The term later became the name of various tribute bands dedicated to singing the songs of the Beatles, many with impersonators of the group. The term has had a number of derivatives with the suffix "mania", usually short-lived, to describe a similar phenomenon toward other bands, such as "Rollermania" in the early 1970s for the Scottish band Bay City Rollers, "Menudomanía" in the 1980s to describe frenzy across Latin America for the boyband Menudo, and "Spicemania" in the 1990s for the Spice Girls.
More recently, the "mania" suffix is often placed at the end of sports figures' names when they acquire sudden popularity, such as Hulkamania during the professional wrestling career of Hulk Hogan, or "Tebowmania" for football player Tim Tebow in 2011.
- Beatlemania in the United Kingdom
- The Beatles in the United States
- The Beatles' influence on popular culture
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- Spice Mania BBC
- Spice Mania in the 90s BBC
- André Millard, Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.
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