|History of the Beatles|
Beatlemania was the intense fan frenzy directed towards the English rock band the Beatles in the 1960s. Their popularity started growing in the United Kingdom in late 1963. By the next year, their worldwide tours were characterised by intense levels of hysteria and high-pitched screaming by female fans, both at concerts and during the band's travels.
In February 1964, the Beatles arrived in the US, and their televised performances on The Ed Sullivan Show were viewed by approximately 73 million people. In addition to establishing the Beatles' international stature, their arrival changed attitudes to popular music in the US, whose own Memphis-driven musical evolution had made it a global trend-setter. From 1964 to 1970, the Beatles had the top-selling US single one out of every six weeks, and the top-selling US album one out of every three weeks. In 1966, the frenzy became so much that they stopped touring and became a studio-only band.
The use of the word "mania" to describe fandom predates the Beatles by more than 100 years. It has continued to be used to describe the popularity of musical acts, as well as popularity of public figures and trends outside the music industry.
- 1 Explanations and precursors
- 2 1963: UK success
- 3 1964–1965: US success
- 4 1966: Final tours and controversies
- 5 Audience maturation and sustained popularity
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
Explanations and precursors
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 assertion. 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."
Beginning in 1841, fans of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt showed a level of fanaticism similar to that of 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.
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 Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley ever had a decade earlier. 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, while their presentable suits meant they seemed less "sleazy" than Elvis to middle-class whites.
1963: UK success
"Please Please Me" and first UK tours
With the success of their second single, "Please Please Me", the Beatles found themselves in demand for the whole of 1963. In the UK, the song reached number 2 on the Record Retailer chart (subsequently adopted as the UK Singles Chart), and topped both the NME and Melody Maker charts. The band released their first album, also titled Please Please Me, in March 1963. They appeared on ABC TV's Thank Your Lucky Stars show on 11 January (televised 19 January) and recorded for the BBCs Here We Go on 16 January and the BBC's Saturday Club and Talent Spot on 22 January.
As well as completing four nationwide tours in 1963, they performed at a great many one-off shows across the UK throughout the year, often finishing one show only to travel straight to the next show in another location—sometimes even to perform again the same day. The music papers were full of stories about the Beatles, and magazines for teenage girls regularly contained interviews with the band members, colour posters and other Beatle-related articles. Lennon's August 1962 marriage to Cynthia Powell was also kept from public view as a closely guarded secret.[nb 1]
On 2 February 1963, the Beatles opened their first nationwide tour at a show in Bradford, featuring Helen Shapiro, Danny Williams, Kenny Lynch, Kestrels, and the Red Price Orchestra. Heading the tour bill was the 16-year-old Shapiro, followed by the other five acts, the last of which was the Beatles. The band proved immensely popular during the tour, as Gordon Sampson, a journalist with the tour, observed. His report did not include the word "Beatlemania", but the phenomenon was evident, with Sampson writing that "a great reception went to the colourfully dressed Beatles, who almost stole the show, for the audience repeatedly called for them while other artists were performing!" For the Beatles' second nationwide tour, which began on 9 March at the Granada Cinema in London, the group appeared on a bill headed by the American stars Tommy Roe and Chris Montez. Both US artists had already firmly established themselves in the UK singles charts. Throughout the tour, however, the crowds repeatedly screamed for the Beatles, and for the first time in UK history, the American stars were less popular than a homegrown act. While enjoying the overwhelming display of enthusiasm, the Beatles also felt embarrassment for the American performers at this unexpected turn of events, which persisted at every show from the first day to the last.
The Beatles began their third nationwide tour on 18 May, the bill this time headed by Roy Orbison. Orbison had established even greater UK chart success than either Montez or Roe, with eight previous chart entries of his own—four of them entering the top 10. However, at the tour's opening show, staged at the Adelphi Cinema, Slough, the American star proved less popular than The Beatles, just as had happened with Roe and Montez throughout the previous nationwide tour. As events unfolded it became obvious this was not going to change, and a week into the tour the covers of the souvenir programs were reprinted to place The Beatles above Roy Orbison. Despite The Beatles' ascent to the top of the bill, Starr was impressed with the response Orbison still commanded. Starr recalled, "We would be backstage, listening to the tremendous applause he was getting. He was just doing it by his voice. Just standing there singing, not moving or anything." The tour had a duration of three weeks, and ended on 9 June.
Follow-up records and coinage of "Beatlemania"
From April to October 1963, when the Beatles starred on Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium, the UK's top variety show, the band had two further UK hit singles, "From Me to You" and "She Loves You", each successively building the excitement of Britain's teenagers. On 13 October, the Beatles' performance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium was televised live and watched by 15 million viewers. One national paper's headlines in the days following finally gave the phenomenal and increasingly hysterical nationwide interest in the Beatles a name, one which from that day on would be adopted universally: "Beatlemania". Publicist Tony Barrow saw Beatlemania as beginning with the band's appearance on the program, at which point he no longer had to contact the press but had the press contacting him instead. He credited "the press" for coining "Beatlemania" to describe the phenomenon.
Andi Lothian, a former Scottish music promoter, said he coined "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. On 21 October, an early, printed use of the word appeared in The Daily Mail for a feature story by Vincent Mulchrone headlined "This Beatlemania". On 30 October, the band, returning from a five-day Swedish tour, were greeted at Heathrow Airport in heavy rain by thousands of screaming fans, 50 journalists and photographers, and a BBC TV camera crew. The wild scenes at the airport caused the British Prime Minister, being chauffeured in the vicinity, to be delayed, his car obstructed by the crowds. Meanwhile, the current Miss World, passing through the airport herself, was completely ignored by journalists and public alike.[nb 2]
On 1 November, the Beatles began their fourth and final nationwide tour of 1963. It produced much the same reaction from those attending as the previous three had done, with a fervent, riotous response from fans everywhere the band went. Police attempting to control the crowds employed high-pressure water hoses, and the safety of the police became a matter of national concern, provoking controversial discussions in Parliament over the thousands of police officers putting themselves at risk to protect the Beatles. On the first tour date, at the Odeon in Cheltenham, the volume of sound created by the screaming crowds was so great that the Beatles' amplification equipment proved unequal to it, so much so that the band members were unable to hear any sounds they were making themselves, whether speaking, singing, or playing their instruments. As a result, they were unable to count songs in or perform in unison. The next day, another instance of the term "Beatlemania" appeared in The Daily Mirror for a news story headlined "BEATLEMANIA! It's happening everywhere... even in sedate Cheltenham".
On 4 November, the Beatles sang before Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at the Royal Variety Performance, sharing the bill with Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier. Harrison said at the time: "I don't want to sound ungrateful, but why are the Beatles on the same stage as a mass of show business greats?... We're just four normal folk who have had a couple of hit records." The tour continued for the next six weeks, with stops in Dublin and Belfast, and ended on 13 December.
1964–1965: US success
American political climate
In the eleven weeks before the Beatles' arrival in the US, the nation had been in mourning, in fear, and in disbelief over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.[nb 3] Many commentators suggest a link between Americans' reactions to the Kennedy assassination and the Beatles' arrival, often arguing that the Beatles reignited the sense of excitement and possibility that momentarily faded in the wake of the assassination. In 2015, Slate writer Jack Hamilton disputed this narrative as "willfully dismissive" of prior and concurrent music developments. Hamilton consulted music journalist Greil Marcus, who contributed the Beatles' entry in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (1980), and Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn. Marcus remembered hearing "Please Please Me" when it was a regional hit in San Francisco a year earlier and stated: "for me there was never at the time any connection between the malaise or shock over the assassination and the arrival of the Beatles." Lewisohn said that no connection was made at the time in the UK, and "The coincidence only became apparent with hindsight."
Arrival in the US and Ed Sullivan performances
In the US, Capitol Records, owned by the band's record company EMI, had for most of the year declined to issue any of the singles. The phenomenon of Beatlemania in the UK was regarded with amusement by the US press, once it made any comment. When newspaper and magazine articles did begin to appear towards the end of 1963, they cited the English stereotype of eccentricity, reporting that the UK had developed an interest in something that had come and gone a long time ago in the US: rock and roll. Headlines included "The New Madness" and "Beatle Bug Bites Britain", and writers employed word-play linking "beetle" with the "infestation" afflicting the UK. The Baltimore Sun, reflecting the dismissive view of most adults, editorialized, "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."
The Beatles' American television debut was on 18 November 1963 on The Huntley-Brinkley Report, with a four-minute long piece by Edwin Newman. On 22 November, the CBS Morning News ran a five-minute feature on Beatlemania in the UK which heavily featured their then current UK hit "She Loves You". The evening's scheduled repeat was cancelled following the assassination of John F. Kennedy the same day. On 10 December, Walter Cronkite decided to transmit the piece again on the CBS Evening News. American chart success began after disc jockey Carroll James of AM radio station WWDC, in Washington, DC, obtained a copy of the British single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in mid-December and began playing it on-air. Listeners repeatedly phoned in to request a replay of the song while local record shops were flooded with requests for a record they did not have in stock. James sent the record to other disc jockeys around the country sparking similar reaction. On 26 December, Capitol released the record three weeks ahead of schedule. It sold a million copies, becoming a number-one hit in the US by mid-January. Epstein arranged for a $40,000 US marketing campaign which Capitol obliged due to Ed Sullivan's agreement to headline the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
On 3 January 1964, The Jack Paar Program ran Beatles concert footage licensed from the BBC "as a joke". It was watched by 30 million viewers. On 7 February, an estimated 4,000 Beatles fans were present as Pan Am Flight 101 left Heathrow Airport. Among the passengers were the Beatles, on their first trip to the US as a band, with their entourage of photographers and journalists, and Phil Spector. When the group arrived at New York's newly renamed John F. Kennedy Airport, they were greeted by a second large crowd, with Beatles fans again estimated to number four thousand, and journalists, two hundred. From having so many people packed in a little space, a few people in the crowd got injured. The airport had not previously experienced such a large crowd. After a press conference, where they first met disc jockey Murray the K, the Beatles were put into limousines—one per Beatle—and driven to New York City. On the way, McCartney turned on a radio and listened to a running commentary: "They have just left the airport and are coming to New York City ..." After reaching the Plaza Hotel, the Beatles were besieged by fans and reporters.
On 9 February, the Beatles made their first live US television appearance. 73 million viewers—about two-fifths of the total American population—watched the group perform on The Ed Sullivan Show at 8 pm. According to the Nielsen ratings audience measurement system, the show had the largest number of viewers that had been recorded for a US television program. On 11 February, the Beatles' first US concert took place, at Washington Coliseum, a sports arena in Washington, D.C. The concert was attended by 8,000 fans. They performed a second concert the next day, in Carnegie Hall, New York, which was attended by two thousand fans. Both concerts were intensely well received. Following the Carnegie Hall concert, the Beatles flew to Miami Beach and on 16 February made their second television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which this time was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. As it had done on 9 February, the television broadcast attracted around 70 million viewers. On 22 February, the Beatles returned to the UK. Arriving at Heathrow airport at 7 am, they were met by an estimated 10,000 fans.
On 15 February, the first Beatles album issued on Capitol, Meet the Beatles, hit number one on the Billboard 200, and maintained that position for 11 weeks of its 74-week chart stay. On 4 April, the group occupied the top five US single chart positions, as well as 11 other positions in the Top 100. As of 2013, they remain the only act to have done so, having also broken 11 other chart records in the Billboard Top 100 and Billboard 200. David P. Szatmary states, "In the nine days, during the Beatles' brief visit, Americans had bought more than two million Beatles records and more than 2.5 million US dollars worth of Beatles-related goods. They purchased blue-and-white Beatles hats, Beatles T-shirts and beach shirts, Beatles tight-fitting pants, Beatles pajamas and three-button tennis shirts, Beatles cookies ..." The Beatles' Second Album, also on Capitol, topped the charts on 2 May and kept its peak for five weeks of its 55-week chart stay.
British Invasion, A Hard Day's Night and first US tours
The developments not only established the popularity of British bands, but also affected the musical style of US bands – including those subsequently formed in Memphis, Tennessee.[nb 4] By mid 1964, several more UK acts had come to the US, including the Dave Clark Five, Billy J. Kramer, and Gerry & the Pacemakers, and ultimately one-third of US top ten hits in 1964 were performed by British acts. The music press forged a rivalry between the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, largely because of the contrast between the Beatles' initial clean-cut personas and the Rolling Stones' "bad boy" image. Beatles biographer Barry Miles writes that it was media-invented sensationalism and that "there was actually no contest between the two groups in anything other than chart positions." In terms of US record sales, the closest competing act to the Beatles was the Beach Boys. Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson recalled feeling that the Beatles "eclipsed" his band's successes as well as "the whole music world" to that point.[nb 5]
August 1964 saw the US premiere of the Beatles' first feature-length motion picture, A Hard Day's Night, which involved the band playing themselves in a mock-documentary. The accompanying soundtrack album spent 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200, the longest run of any album that year, during its 56-week chart stay. That month, the band returned to the US for a second visit, this time remaining for a month-long tour. Epstein was unsure about the group's popularity in the US, and avoided booking them into stadiums.. A request was received from the White House press office, which asked for the Beatles to be photographed with the new US president, Lyndon B. Johnson, laying a wreath on the grave of John F. Kennedy. The request was politely declined by Epstein, as it was not the group's policy to accept "official" invitations.
The Beatles performed 30 concerts, starting in San Francisco and ending in New York, 23 cities in all. One of the major stipulations was that the band would not perform for segregated audiences or at venues that excluded African Americans. The tour was characterised by intense levels of hysteria and high-pitched screaming by female fans, both at concerts and during the band's travels." At each venue, the concert was treated as a major event by the local press and attended by 10,000~20,000 fans whose enthusiastic response to the Beatles produced sound levels that left the music only semi-audible. Some Billboard headlines were: "The U.S. Rocks and Reels from 'Beatles' Invasion'"; "Chicago Flips Wig, Beatles' and Otherwise"; "New York City Crawling with Beatlemania" and "Beatle Binge in Los Angeles." The tour earned the Beatles over a million dollars in ticket sales. It also stimulated a further increase in record sales, and resulted in the sale of a considerable quantity of Beatle-related merchandise.
In June 1965, after completing a two-week European tour of France, Italy and Spain, the Beatles attended the London premiere of Help!, their second film, and then returned to the US for another two-week tour. The tour commenced at Shea Stadium, New York City on 15 August 1965. The circular stadium had been constructed the previous year with seating arranged in four ascending decks, all of which were filled for the concert. It was the first time in history that a large outdoor stadium had been used for such a purpose, and the event sold out in 17 minutes. The rest of the tour was highly successful, with well-attended concerts on each of its ten dates. The opening concert at Shea Stadium attracted an audience of 55,000, the largest of any live concert that the Beatles would perform. The band arrived by armoured car.
1966: Final tours and controversies
In June 1966, Yesterday and Today, one of Capitol's compilation albums, caused an uproar with its cover, which portrayed the grinning Beatles dressed in butcher's overalls, accompanied by raw meat and mutilated plastic baby dolls. The next month, during a tour of the Philippines the month, the Beatles unintentionally snubbed the nation's first lady, Imelda Marcos, who had expected them to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace. When presented with the invitation, Epstein politely declined on the band members' behalf, as it had never been his policy to accept such official invitations. They soon found that the Marcos regime was unaccustomed to taking no for an answer. The resulting riots endangered the group and they escaped the country with difficulty.
In August, following the release of their new album Revolver, the Beatles returned to the US for what would be their last tour. The tour coincided with a storm of US public protest against the Beatles, caused by a published quote from a remark Lennon had made about Christianity. Because of the severity of the protests, which included Beatles' records being publicly burned and claims being made that the Beatles were "anti-Christ", Epstein had considered cancelling the fourteen-concert tour, fearing for their lives. Nevertheless, the tour went ahead. There were disturbances, and one performance was brought to a temporary halt when a member of the audience threw a firecracker, leading the Beatles to believe they were being shot at. In other incidents, telephone threats were received, and the Ku Klux Klan picketed the Beatles' concerts.
The tour ended with a concert at Candlestick Park. Although commercially successful, the tour had been affected by the prevailing mood of controversy, and there had been rows of empty seats at some venues. Their final concert marked the end of a four-year period dominated by touring and concerts, including nearly sixty US appearances, and over 1,400 internationally.
Audience maturation and sustained popularity
In New York 1964, after the last concert of their first US tour, the Beatles were introduced to Bob Dylan, a meeting brought about at the instigation of the New York journalist Al Aronowitz, who arranged for Dylan to visit the Beatles at their hotel before they returned to the UK. Beatles author Jonathan Gould argued the musical and cultural significance of this meeting, before which the musicians' respective fanbases were "perceived as inhabiting two separate subcultural worlds".[nb 6] As a result, Gould continues, the traditional division between folk and rock enthusiasts "nearly evaporated", as the Beatles' fans began to mature in their outlook and Dylan's audience embraced the new, youth-driven pop culture.
The Beatles, from the end of their 1966 US tour until their break-up in 1970, gave no further commercial concerts, instead devoting their efforts to creating new material in the recording studio. Between 1964 and 1970, they maintained 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. For the annual best-band poll conducted by NME between 1963 and 1969, 1966 was the only year that the Beatles did not win, coming second to the Beach Boys. Billboard reported that the result was "being taken as a portent that the popularity of the top British groups of the last three years is past its peak." Similarly, when the double A-sided single "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" was issued in February 1967, it failed to reach number one in the UK, and British press agencies speculated that the group's run of success might have ended, with headlines such as "Beatles Fail to Reach the Top", "First Time in Four Years" and "Has the Bubble Burst?"
Released in May 1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band became a major critical and commercial success. According to Jonathan Gould, the record immediately "revolutionise[d] both the aesthetics and the economics of the record business in ways that far outstripped the earlier pop explosions triggered by the Elvis phenomenon of 1956 and the Beatlemania phenomenon of 1963." From what began as the Beatlemania fad, the group's popularity grew into what was seen as an embodiment of sociocultural movements of the decade. In Gould's belief, as icons of the 1960s counterculture, they became a catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fuelling movements such as women's liberation, gay liberation and environmentalism. Commentators Mikal Gilmore and Todd Leopold traced the inception of their socio-cultural impact earlier, interpreting even the Beatlemania period, particularly on their first visit to the US, as a key moment in the development of generational awareness.
As of 2009, the Beatles remain the best-selling band in history, with estimated claimed sales of over 600 million records worldwide. According to music critic Richie Unterberger, they held the rare distinction of being artists that were "simultaneously the best at what they did and the most popular at what they did. ... the Beatles grabbed hold of the international mass consciousness in 1964 and ... never [lost] their ability to communicate their increasingly sophisticated ideas to a mass audience. Their supremacy as rock icons remains unchallenged to this day, decades after their breakup in 1970."
- The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – 2016 documentary film on the Beatles' peak touring years
- Apple scruffs – a loosely-knit group of Beatles fans who were known for congregating outside the Apple Corps building and at the gates of Abbey Road Studios
- The Fest for Beatles Fans – twice-annual Beatles convention first held in New York in 1974
- Kolya Vasin – one of the main popularizers of the Beatles' work inside the USSR and Russia
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- When Lennon's son Julian was born on 8 April 1963, Lennon, visiting the hospital to see his wife and meet his new son for the first time, attempted to disguise himself to prevent people in the hospital from recognising him. Lennon's attempt to keep the secret was not successful as other patients could see it was him.
- When the American TV presenter Ed Sullivan, numbered among those held up at Heathrow, was told the reason for the delay, he asked, "Who the hell are The Beatles?".
- The assassination came after a fifteen-year build-up of Cold War tension. The motivation and identity of the assassin would be doubted by many Americans for decades, despite the Warren Commission's issued report in September 1964. As the nation tried to restore a sense of normality, teenagers in particular struggled to cope, as their disbelief began to be replaced by a personal reaction to what had happened.[incomprehensible] In school essays, teenagers wrote that "then it became real", and "I was feeling the whole world is going to collapse on me", and "I never felt so empty in all my life".
- Since the 1920s, the US had dominated popular entertainment culture throughout much of the world, via Hollywood movies, jazz, the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley and, later, the rock and roll that first emerged in Memphis.
- Another group, the Byrds, were widely celebrated as the American answer to the Beatles, but their record sales never approached the level of the Beatles nor the Beach Boys.
- Dylan recalled in 1971: "I just kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power."
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