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Beatlemania was the intense fan frenzy surrounding the English band the Beatles in the 1960s. The group's popularity grew in the United Kingdom throughout 1963, propelled by the singles "Please Please Me", "From Me to You" and "She Loves You". By October, the press adopted the term "Beatlemania" to describe the scenes of adulation that attended the band's concert performances. From the start of 1964, their worldwide tours were characterised by intense levels of hysteria and high-pitched screaming by female fans, both at concerts and during the group's travels.

In February 1964, the Beatles arrived in the United States and their televised performances on The Ed Sullivan Show were viewed by approximately 73 million people. It established the Beatles' international stature, changed attitudes to popular music in the US and sparked the British Invasion phenomenon. As in Britain and other countries, the Beatles dominated the national sales charts at an unprecedented level. In 1965, their concert at New York's Shea Stadium marked the first time that a large outdoor stadium had been used for such a purpose. The event attracted an audience of 55,000, the largest of any live concert that the Beatles performed.

By 1966, John Lennon controversially remarked that the group were "more popular than Jesus now". Soon after, the Beatles' travels were further entangled by mob revolt, violence, political backlash and threats of assassination, as well as more extreme displays of deity-like worship. They were so overwhelmed that they stopped touring and became a studio-only band. Although commentators speculated that the move would lead to a decline in popularity, their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was critically acclaimed and revolutionised the music industry.

The Beatles are regarded as the most influential band of all time.[1] Their fans were predominately young adolescent females, sometimes called "teenyboppers", but came to include listeners who traditionally shunned youth-driven pop culture, which helped bridge divisions between folk and rock enthusiasts. In succeeding decades, the receptions of other acts – particularly boy bands – have drawn comparisons to Beatlemania. None, however, have replicated the breadth and depth of the Beatles' fandom.

Explanations and precursors[edit]

Members of the media swarm the Beatles at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in June 1964, as fans await them on top of the airport terminal.

From 1963, the Beatles provided one of the first opportunities for female teenagers in Britain to exhibit spending power and publicly express sexual desire, while the group's image suggested a disregard for adults' opinions and parents' ideas of morality.[2] In the description of author and musician Bob Stanley, the band's domestic breakthrough represented a "final liberation" for the nation's teenagers and, by coinciding with the end of National Service, the group "effectively signaled the end of World War II in Britain".[3]

During the 1840s, fans of Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt showed a level of fanaticism similar to that of the Beatles. Poet Heinrich Heine coined "Lisztomania" to describe this.[4] Once it became an international phenomenon in 1964, Beatlemania surpassed in intensity and reach any previous examples of fan worship, including those afforded Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.[5] One factor in this development may have been the post–World War II baby boom, which gave the Beatles a larger audience of young fans than Sinatra and Presley had a decade earlier.[4] In their 1986 book Re-making Love: The Feminization of Sex, authors Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs argued that the Beatles' famous moptop haircuts signalled androgyny and thus presented a less threatening version of male sexuality to teenage girls, while their presentable suits meant that they seemed less "sleazy" than Presley to middle-class whites.[5] According to author Peter Doggett, psychologists during the 1960s were especially drawn to the significance of the long hair preferred by the Beatles and the bands that emerged soon after their breakthrough:

Did this give the group a glow of femininity which made them less threatening to pubescent or prepubescent girls? Did their flowing locks allow their male fans to view them with the same mixture of lust and longing that they would have harboured for young women? Were the hirsute groups expressing their own latent homosexuality? Or, in contrast, so confident a grasp of their own heterosexuality that they could afford to disguise it behind the veneer of androgyny? Were both musicians and fans locked into a mutual display of narcissism, concealing a vacuum of self-doubt? Such intriguing debates preoccupied academics for years to come, as if teenagers and their idols were aliens beyond our ken.[6]

In February 1964, Paul Johnson wrote an article in the New Statesman which stated 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".[7] The article became the "most complained-about piece" in the magazine's history.[8] A 1966 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology rejected Johnson's 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".[9]

1963: UK success[edit]

"Please Please Me" and first UK tours[edit]

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 two on the Record Retailer chart (subsequently adopted as the UK Singles Chart),[10] and topped both the NME and Melody Maker charts.[11] The band released their first album in March 1963, also titled Please Please Me.[12] They appeared on ABC TV's Thank Your Lucky Stars show on 11 January (televised 19 January) and recorded for the BBC's Here We Go on 16 January and the BBC's Saturday Club and Talent Spot on 22 January.[13]

The Beatles completed four nationwide tours in 1963 and performed at a great many single shows around 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.[14][15] 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.[16] Lennon's August 1962 marriage to Cynthia Powell was kept from public view as a closely guarded secret.[17][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.[13] Heading the tour bill was 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, however, as journalist Gordon Sampson observed. His report did not use the word "Beatlemania", but the phenomenon was evident. Sampson wrote 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!"[18] The Beatles' second nationwide tour began on 9 March at the Granada Cinema in London, where the group appeared on a bill headed by American stars Tommy Roe and Chris Montez, both of whom had firmly established themselves in the UK singles charts.[19] Throughout the tour, the crowds repeatedly screamed for the Beatles, and the American stars were less popular than a homegrown act for the first time. The Beatles enjoyed the overwhelming enthusiasm, but they also felt embarrassment for the American performers at this unexpected turn of events, which persisted at every show on the tour.[20]

The Beatles outside the Birmingham Hippodrome, November 1963. Because the crowds were so thick, they had to be smuggled into the venue with assistance from local police.[21]

In May, the Beatles achieved their first number 1 single on the Record Retailer chart with "From Me to You". According to Stanley, they provided a sense of liberation for fans of both sexes, in that: "The boys could make as much noise as possible; the girls had something with dirt under its fingernails they could scream at."[3] 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 four hits in the top 10,[22] but he proved less popular than the Beatles at the tour's opening show staged at the Adelphi Cinema, Slough. It soon became obvious that 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 Orbison. Starr was nonetheless impressed with the response that Orbison still commanded, saying: "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."[23] The tour lasted three weeks and ended on 9 June.[24]

Follow-up records and coinage of "Beatlemania"[edit]

The Beatles starred on Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium on 13 October 1963, the UK's top variety show.[26] Their chart-topping single "She Loves You" included a "Yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain that became a signature hook for their European audiences; in addition, the song's falsetto "Ooh!"s elicited further fan delirium when accompanied by the vocalists' exaggerated shaking of their moptop hair.[27] The band's performance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium was televised live and watched by 15 million viewers. One national paper's headlines in the following days coined the term "Beatlemania" to describe the phenomenal and increasingly hysterical interest in the Beatles – and it stuck.[26] Publicist Tony Barrow saw Beatlemania as beginning with the band's appearance on that program,[27] at which point he no longer had to contact the press but had the press contacting him.[28]

McCartney, Harrison, Swedish pop singer Lill-Babs, and Lennon on the set of the Swedish television show Drop-In, 30 October 1963

Scottish music promoter Andi Lothian said that he coined "Beatlemania" while speaking to a reporter at the band's Caird Hall concert, which took place as part of the Beatles' mini-tour of Scotland on 7 October.[29][30] The word appeared in the Daily Mail on 21 October for a feature story by Vincent Mulchrone headlined "This Beatlemania".[31] According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, this national attention was belated recognition of a fan frenzy that the group had attracted in the north of England since the start of the 1960s. Lewisohn says that some who attended the Beatles' 27 December 1960 show in Litherland claim that Beatlemania was "born" there, while Bob Wooler, who regularly presented the Beatles at Liverpool's Cavern Club, wrote in August 1961 that they were "the stuff that screams are made of" and were already playing to "fever-pitch audiences" at the Cavern.[32]

The band returned from a five-day Swedish tour on 31 October 1963[33] and 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 delayed the British prime minister, being chauffeured in the vicinity, as his car was obstructed by the crowds. The Miss World of the time was passing through the airport, as well, but she was completely ignored by journalists and the public.[34][nb 2]

An admirer from their pre-fame days in Liverpool was shocked to witness a Beatles performance in 1963, at which every note of their music was buried beneath the screams of young girls. Why didn't they listen to their idols? she asked. "We came to see the Beatles", a fan replied. "We can hear them on records. Anyway, we might be disappointed if we heard them in real life."[36]

– Author Peter Doggett

On 1 November, the Beatles began their fourth nationwide tour of 1963.[37] It produced much the same reaction from those attending, with a fervent, riotous response from fans everywhere they 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.[38] On the first tour date, at the Odeon in Cheltenham, the volume of sound from the screaming crowds was so great that the Beatles' amplification equipment proved unequal to it – the band members could not hear themselves speaking, singing or playing.[34] The next day, the Daily Mirror carried the headline "BEATLEMANIA! It's happening everywhere ... even in sedate Cheltenham".[31] The Daily Telegraph published a disapproving article in which the scenes of adulation were likened to Hitler's Nuremberg Rallies.[33] Adults, who had been accustomed to wartime deprivation in their youth, expressed concerns at the frenzied reaction given to pop groups such as the Beatles.[39] Alternatively, a Church of England clergyman remarked that a Beatles version of the Christmas carol "O Come, All Ye Faithful", sung as "O Come, All Ye Faithful Yeah Yeah Yeah",[25] might restore the popularity and relevance of the church in Britain.[40]

On 4 November, the Beatles sang before the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret at the Royal Variety Performance, sharing the large bill with non-pop acts including Marlene Dietrich and Harry Secombe.[41] Harrison expressed surprise to find the group sharing the limelight with such show business greats. "We're just four normal folk who have had a couple of hit records", he said.[42] Maureen Lipman attended a concert in Hull as a sceptic, but 50 years later she recalled her "road to Damascus moment" when Lennon sang "Money (That's What I Want)": "Someone very close to me screamed the most piercing of screams, a primal mating call … I realised with an electric shock that the screaming someone was me. I continued to scream for the next 40 minutes. The rest of the concert is a blur." She heard that the arena "cleared away 40 pairs of abandoned knickers" from other young female fans, "and life, as I knew it, was never the same again".[43] The tour continued until 13 December, with stops in Dublin and Belfast,[44] and marked the "pinnacle of British Beatlemania", according to Lewisohn.[45]

1964–1965: International success[edit]

US breakthrough and "I Want to Hold Your Hand"[edit]

EMI owned Capitol Records, but Capitol had declined to issue any of the band's singles in the US for most of the year.[46] The American press regarded the phenomenon of Beatlemania in the UK with amusement.[47] Newspaper and magazine articles about the Beatles began to appear in the US towards the end of 1963, and they cited the English stereotype of eccentricity, reporting that the UK had finally developed an interest in rock and roll, which had come and gone a long time previously in the US.[47] Headlines included "The New Madness"[48] and "Beatle Bug Bites Britain",[47] and writers employed word-play linking "beetle" with the "infestation" afflicting the UK.[47] The Baltimore Sun reflected the dismissive view of most adults: "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."[49] Rather than dissuading American teenagers, such disapproval from adults strengthened their connection with the band.[49]

The Beatles' American television debut was on 18 November 1963 on The Huntley–Brinkley Report, with a four-minute report by Edwin Newman.[50][51] On 22 November, the CBS Morning News ran a five-minute feature on Beatlemania in the UK which heavily featured their UK hit "She Loves You". The evening's scheduled repeat was cancelled following the assassination of President Kennedy the same day. On 10 December, Walter Cronkite decided to run the piece on the CBS Evening News.[52] American chart success began after disc jockey Carroll James obtained a copy of the British single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in mid-December and began playing it on AM radio station WWDC in Washington, DC.[53] Listeners repeatedly phoned in to request a replay of the song, while local record shops were flooded with requests for a record that they did not have in stock.[54] James sent the record to other disc jockeys around the country, sparking similar reaction.[49] On 26 December, Capitol released the record three weeks ahead of schedule,[54] and it sold a million copies and became a number-one hit in the US by mid-January.[55] Epstein arranged for a $40,000 American marketing campaign,[53] which Capitol agreed to due to Ed Sullivan's agreement to headline the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.[56]

First visit to the US and Ed Sullivan Show performances[edit]

In advance of the Beatles' arrival in the US, Time magazine reported that the "raucous sound" of the band's screaming fans made their concerts "slightly orgiastic". The seating at venues would be soaked in urine after each show and, in Doggett's description, "Sociologists noted that witnessing a pop group provoked orgasms amongst girls too young to understand what they were feeling."[36] According to David Holbrook, writing in the New Statesman, it was "painfully clear that the Beatles are a masturbation fantasy, such as a girl presumably has during the onanistic act – the genial smiling young male images, the music like a buzzing of the blood in the head, the rhythm, the cries, the shouted names, the climaxes."[57] On 3 January 1964, The Jack Paar Program ran Beatles concert footage licensed from the BBC "as a joke" to an audience of 30 million viewers.[49] On 7 February, an estimated 4,000 Beatles fans were present as Pan Am Flight 101 left Heathrow Airport.[58] Among the passengers were the Beatles on their first trip to the US as a band, along with Phil Spector and an entourage of photographers and journalists.[59] On arrival at New York's newly renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport, they were greeted by a crowd of 4,000 Beatles fans and 200 journalists.[60] A few people in the crowd were injured, and the airport had not previously experienced such a large crowd.[61] The band held a press conference where they met disc jockey Murray the K, then they were put into four limousines (one per Beatle)[62] 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."[63] When they reached the Plaza Hotel, they were besieged by fans and reporters.[64]

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 1964

The Beatles made their first live US television appearance on 9 February,[65] when 73 million viewers watched them perform on The Ed Sullivan Show at 8 pm – about two-fifths of the American population.[66] According to the Nielsen ratings audience measurement system, the show had the largest number of viewers that had been recorded for an American television program.[67] The Beatles performed their first American concert on 11 February at Washington Coliseum, a sports arena in Washington, DC, attended by 8,000. They performed a second concert the next day at New York's Carnegie Hall, which was attended by 2,000, and both concerts were well received.[68] The Beatles then flew to Miami Beach and made their second television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 16 February, which was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach with another 70 million viewers. On 22 February, the Beatles returned to the UK and arrived at Heathrow airport at 7 am, where they were met by an estimated 10,000 fans.[68]

An article in The New York Times Magazine described Beatlemania as a "religion of teenage culture" that was indicative of how American youth now looked to their own age group for social values and role models.[69] The US had been in mourning, fear and disbelief over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963,[70] and many historians identify a link between the public shock and the adulation afforded the Beatles eleven weeks later.[71] At the time, some commentators suggested that the Beatles reignited the sense of excitement and possibility that had faded in the wake of the assassination.[72] Other factors cited by contemporary pundits included the threat of nuclear war, racial tensions in the US, and reports of the country's increased involvement in the Vietnam War.[73] In 2015, Slate writer Jack Hamilton quoted music critic Greil Marcus as saying that he remembered hearing "Please Please Me" when it was a regional hit in San Francisco in 1963, and that he had never made any connection between "the malaise or shock over the assassination and the arrival of the Beatles".[71] In the same article, Lewisohn said that no connection was made at the time in the UK, and "The coincidence only became apparent with hindsight."[71] Writing for Mojo in 2002, Lewisohn said that while some people dismiss the Kennedy association as "psychobabble", "it does make sense."[74]

The first Beatles album issued by Capitol, Meet the Beatles, hit number one on the Billboard Top LPs chart (later the Billboard 200) on 15 February, and it maintained that position for 11 weeks of its 74-week chart stay.[75] On 4 April, the group occupied the top five US single chart positions, as well as 11 other positions in the Top 100.[76] As of 2013, they remained the only act to have done so, having also broken 11 other chart records on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200.[77] 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."[78] The Beatles' Second Album on Capitol topped the charts on 2 May and kept its peak for five weeks of its 55-week chart stay.[79]

British invasion[edit]

The Beatles' popular success in America established the popularity of British bands and affected the musical style of American bands, including those subsequently formed in Memphis, Tennessee.[80][nb 3] By mid 1964, several more UK acts had come to the US, including the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, Billy J. Kramer and Gerry & the Pacemakers.[82][83] Completing what commentators termed the British Invasion of the US pop market, one-third of all top ten hits there in 1964 were performed by British acts.[84] The Beatles' chart domination was repeated in countries around the world during 1964, as were the familiar displays of mania wherever the band played.[85] When the group toured Australia in June, the population afforded the visit the status of a national event.[86] A crowd of 250,000 welcomed the Beatles to Melbourne; this figure was the largest recorded gathering of Australians in one place,[87] and twice the number of people that had greeted Queen Elizabeth II on her royal visit in 1963.[88]

A Hard Day's Night and first US tour[edit]

Holding a press conference in the Netherlands, June 1964

The Beatles starred as fictionalised versions of themselves in their first feature-length motion picture, A Hard Day's Night, which premiered in the US in August 1964.[89] The accompanying soundtrack album spent 14 weeks at number one on the Billboard Top LPs chart during a 56-week stay – the longest run of any album that year.[90] The band returned to the US for a second visit in August, this time remaining for a month-long tour.[91] The White House press office asked the Beatles to be photographed with President Lyndon B. Johnson laying a wreath on the grave of John F. Kennedy, but Epstein politely declined,[82] as it was not the group's policy to accept "official" invitations.[92]

I went absolutely mad round about 1964. My head was just so swollen. I thought I was a God, a living God. And the other three looked at me and said, Excuse me, I am the God. We all went through a period of going mad.[93]

Ringo Starr

The Beatles performed 30 concerts in 23 cities, starting in California and ending in New York.[91] The opening concert was held on 19 August 1964 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, a sold-out venue filled with 17,130 people.[94][95] One of the major stipulations was that the band would not perform for segregated audiences or at venues which excluded blacks.[96] The tour was characterised by intense levels of hysteria and high-pitched screaming by female fans, both at concerts and during their travels."[78] At each venue, the concert was treated as a major event by the local press and attended by 10,000 to 20,000 fans whose enthusiastic response produced sound levels that left the music only semi-audible.[91] 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".[78] When the Beatles played in Chicago on 5 September, a local policeman described the scenes of adulation as "kind of like Sinatra multiplied by 50 or 100".[97] At Jacksonville on 11 September, 500 fans kept the Beatles trapped in the George Washington Hotel car park after the group had given a press conference at the hotel. With only a dozen police officers on hand, it took the band 15 minutes to move the 25 feet from the lift to their limousine.[98]

Police escort Harrison and McCartney through fans gathered at the George Washington Hotel in Jacksonville, Florida, September 1964.

The tour earned the Beatles over a million dollars in ticket sales, and stimulated a further increase in record and Beatles-related merchandise sales.[91] Reports at this time likened the intensity of the fans' adulation to a religious fervour.[99] Derek Taylor, the band's press officer, was quoted in the New York Post as saying, "Cripples threw away their sticks [and] sick people rushed up to the car ... It was as if some savior had arrived and all these people were happy and relieved." In a report from London for the Partisan Review, Jonathan Miller wrote of the effects of the Beatles' extended absence overseas: "They have become a religion in fact ... All over the place though there are icons, devotional photos and illuminated messiahs which keep the tiny earthbound fans in touch with the provocatively absconded deities."[99] American social commentators Grace and Fred Hechinger complained that adults had failed to provide youth with an adequate foundation for their creativity, and they especially deplored the tendency for "creeping adult adolescence", whereby parents sought to share their children's "banal pleasures".[100]

After the last concert of the 1964 tour, the Beatles were introduced to Bob Dylan in New York. In his book Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America, author Jonathan Gould comments on the musical and cultural significance of this meeting, since the Beatles' fan base and that of Dylan were "perceived as inhabiting two separate subcultural worlds".[101][nb 4] As a result, according to Gould, the traditional division between folk and rock enthusiasts "nearly evaporated" over the following year, as the Beatles' fans began to mature in their outlook and Dylan's audience embraced the new, youth-driven pop culture.[103]

Help! and Shea Stadium performance[edit]

The Beatles' August 1965 performance at Shea Stadium (pictured in 1964) was the first of its kind.

The Beatles attended the London premiere of their film Help! in July 1965, after completing a two-week tour of France, Italy and Spain, and then returned to the US for another two-week tour.[104] The tour commenced at Shea Stadium in New York City on 15 August. The circular stadium had been constructed the previous year with seating arranged in four ascending decks, all of which were filled for the concert.[104] It was the first time that a large outdoor stadium had been used for such a purpose, and the event sold out in 17 minutes.[105] The rest of the tour was highly successful, with well-attended concerts on each of its ten dates.[104] The concert at Shea Stadium attracted an audience of 55,000, the largest of any live concert that the Beatles performed.[104]

The Beatles at a press conference during their August 1965 North American tour

That same year, the band's influence on American youth was the subject of condemnation by Christian conservatives such as Bob Larson and David Noebel,[106] the latter a Baptist minister and member of the Christian Crusade.[107] In a widely distributed pamphlet titled Communism, Hypnotism, and the Beatles, Noebel wrote that patriotic Americans were "in the fight of our lives and the lives of our children", and urged: "Let's make sure four mop-headed anti-Christ beatniks don't destroy our children's mental and emotional stability and ultimately destroy our nation."[107]

On 26 October, 4000 fans gathered outside Buckingham Palace in central London while the Beatles received their MBEs from the Queen. As the crowd chanted "Yeah, yeah, yeah!", some fans jostled with police officers and scaled the palace gates.[108] The impossibility of travelling without being mobbed led to the Beatles abandoning live television appearances to promote their singles.[109] In November 1965, they filmed promotional clips for their double A-side single, "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out", which could be played on shows such as Ready Steady Go! and Top of the Pops, thereby saving the band the need to travel to TV studios around the UK and allowing them to focus on recording their new album, Rubber Soul.[110]

In her study of Beatlemania, sociologist Candy Leonard says that although Rubber Soul challenged some young fans, due to its more sophisticated lyrical and musical content, its release marked the moment when "the Beatles came to occupy a role in fans' lives and a place in their psyches that was different from any previous fan–performer relationship."[111] In the UK, the release was accompanied by speculation that the group's success would soon end, given that most acts there faded after two or three years at the top.[112] During the band's UK tour that December, some newspapers reported that the intensity of the fans' passion appeared to have diminished. In his review of the opening show in Glasgow, Alan Smith of the NME wrote that "Crazy Beatlemania is over, certainly", despite the prevalence of "fainting fits, and thunderous waves of screams".[113] By the end of the tour, however, following a series of concerts in London, Smith wrote: "without question, BEATLEMANIA IS BACK! ... I have not seen hysteria like this at a Beatles show since the word Beatlemania erupted into headlines!"[114]

1966: Final tours and controversies[edit]

Germany, Japan and the Philippines[edit]

The Beatles' performance at the Budokan in Tokyo (pictured 2009) caused controversy as the venue was considered sacred ground

After completing the recording for Revolver in late June 1966, the Beatles set off on a tour combining concerts in West Germany, Japan and the Philippines. German police used tear gas and guard dogs to control fans in Essen, and in Tokyo, there was fear of terrorism surrounding the band's stay, forcing the members to be placed under heavy security in response to death threats from the country's hardline traditionalists.[115] While in the Philippines in July, the group unintentionally snubbed first lady Imelda Marcos, who had expected them to attend her breakfast reception at Malacañang Palace in Manila.[116] Epstein had declined the invitation on the band's behalf, as it had never been his policy to accept such official invitations.[92] Riots resulted which endangered the group, and they escaped the Philippines with difficulty.[117]

According to author Steve Turner, the three-country tour represented the dark side of Beatlemania and the band's fame. Whereas crowds breaking through a police barrier would have been the biggest concern up until the previous year, "Now it was mob revolt, violence, political backlash, and threats of assassination."[118] In George Harrison's recollection:

Everywhere we were going [in 1966], there was a demonstration about one thing or another. In America the race riots were going on when Beatlemania had come to town. In Japan there were student riots, plus people were demonstrating because the Budokan ... was supposed to be a special spiritual hall reserved for martial arts ... [In Manila] the whole place turned on us ... there were all the government officials or police, who were trying to punch us ... and then underneath that were the young kids who were still around doing the mania.[119][excessive quote]

"More popular than Jesus"[edit]

The Beatles returned to the US in August for their last tour, following the release of Revolver.[120] The tour coincided with a storm of American public protest caused by Lennon's remark that the Beatles had become more popular than Christ.[121][122][nb 5] Epstein had considered cancelling the 14-concert tour, fearing for their lives because of the severity of the protests, which included Beatles' records publicly burned and claims that the Beatles were "anti-Christ".[121].[120] There were disturbances on the tour, and one performance was brought to a temporary halt when a member of the audience threw a firecracker, leading the Beatles to believe that they were being shot at.[120] They received telephone threats, and the Ku Klux Klan picketed some concerts.[120] Lennon's comments had caused no upset when originally published in the UK, in March.[124] However, John Grigg, in his column for The Guardian, had applied Lennon's description of Christ's disciples as "thick and ordinary" to the band's fans, saying: "Beatle maniacs are a distinct obstacle to higher appreciation of the Beatles."[125]

Last concert[edit]

Candlestick Park, the last concert venue the Beatles performed

The US tour ended with a concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco[120] and was commercially successful. All the same, it had been affected by the prevailing mood of controversy; there had been rows of empty seats at some venues[126] and, according to author Nicholas Schaffner, "The screaming had also abated somewhat – one could occasionally even hear snatches of music."[127] Comparing the Beatles' August 1966 Shea Stadium concert with the previous year's event, one commentator recalled that, as before, "when the Beatles sang, the looks in the girls' eyes were faraway", but "It was different ... This time, we boys were almost as entranced, and the experience was more unifying than dividing."[128] The band's final concert marked the end of a four-year period dominated by touring and concerts, including nearly 60 American appearances and more than 1,400 worldwide.[129]

The Beatles had become bored with all aspects of touring – including fans offering themselves sexually to the band, the high-pitched screaming, and regular confinement in hotel rooms – and they were frustrated that the quality of their live performances was so at odds with the increasingly sophisticated music they created in the studio.[130] Harrison was the first to tire of Beatlemania, while McCartney had continued to thrive on the adulation. McCartney finally ceded to his bandmates' insistence that the group stop touring towards the end of the 1966 tour.[131] Lennon said that their concerts had become "bloody tribal rites" where crowds came merely to scream.[132] He later complained: "On our last tour, people kept bringing blind, crippled and deformed children into our dressing room and this boy's mother would say, 'Go on, kiss him, maybe you'll bring back his sight.' We're not cruel. We've seen enough tragedy in Merseyside ... We're going to remain normal if it kills us."[133]

Post-touring fan culture and legacy[edit]

Response to revamped image[edit]

The Beatles photographed for their 1967 television film Magical Mystery Tour

The Beatles gave no more commercial concerts from the end of their 1966 US tour until their break-up in 1970, instead devoting their efforts to creating new material in the recording studio.[134] By late 1966, many young fans in the US had temporarily turned away from the Beatles, having found Revolver overly austere and lacking the fun aspect they expected of the band's music.[135] Sensing this, two Hollywood television executives created The Monkees, a show starring an eponymous four-piece band in the Beatles' mould[136] and evoking the spirit of their films A Hard Day's Night and Help![137] An immediate commercial success, the Monkees captured the teenybopper audience[138] and elicited the frenzied adulation of early Beatlemania.[139] For the younger Beatles fans, a weekly King Features cartoon series, titled The Beatles, maintained the innocent "moptop" image of previous years.[139]

Final public gatherings[edit]

In November 1966, a crowd of 200 fans demonstrated outside Epstein's home in London, with a 1000-signature petition demanding that the Beatles undertake another UK tour.[140] In late August the following year, 2000 fans protested outside Shea Stadium at the band's failure to perform in the US that summer.[141] Beatlemania continued on a reduced scale after the band's retirement from live performances and into their solo careers.[142] The last mass display of fan adulation took place at the world premiere of the Beatles' animated film Yellow Submarine,[143][144] held at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus on 17 July 1968.[145] The event was attended by the four band members; in author Barry Miles' description, "Fans as usual brought traffic to a standstill and blocked the streets."[145]

Records, artistry and social impact[edit]

Between 1964 and 1970, the Beatles 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.[146] They won the annual best-band poll conducted by NME every year between 1963 and 1969, except in 1966 when they came second to the Beach Boys.[147] 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".[148] A double A-side single containing "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" was issued in February 1967, but it failed to reach number one on the Record Retailer chart. 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?"[149] Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in May 1967 and became a major critical and commercial success. According to Gould, the record immediately revolutionised "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".[150]

The group's popularity and influence grew into what was seen as an embodiment of socio-cultural movements of the decade. In Gould's view, they became icons of the 1960s counterculture and a catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fuelling movements such as women's liberation and environmentalism.[151] A 1997 study titled "Beatlemania: A sexually defiant consumer subculture?" argued that Beatlemania represented a proto-feminist demonstration of girl power.[152] In their 1986 book, Ehrenreich, Hess and Jacobs comment that, but for the girls' hairstyles and clothing, the photos and footage of young Beatles fans in confrontation with police suggest a women's liberation demonstration from the late 1960s rather than a 1964 pop event. The authors add: "Yet if it was not the 'movement,' or a clear-cut protest of any kind, Beatlemania was the first mass outburst of the '60s to feature women – in this case girls, who would not reach full adulthood until the '70s – and the emergence of a genuinely political movement for women's liberation."[5] Derek Taylor, the band's press officer in 1964 and from 1968 until their break-up, described the relationship between the Beatles and their fans as "the twentieth century's greatest romance".[153]

The first band after the Beatles to receive widespread attention for its fan following in the UK was T.Rex,[154] a glam-rock group led by Marc Bolan.[155] In the early 1970s, the fan frenzy surrounding the band earned comparisons with Beatlemania and became known as "Bolanmania"[156] and "T.Rextasy".[155][157] Later in the decade, the British press coined the term "Rollermania" for female fans' adulation of the Bay City Rollers.[158] Writing in The Observer in 2013, Dorian Lynskey said, "the tropes of Beatlemania have recurred in fan crazes from the Bay City Rollers to Bros, East 17 to One Direction: the screaming, the queuing, the waiting, the longing, the trophy-collecting, the craving for even the briefest contact."[4] In their book Encyclopedia of Classic Rock, David Luhrssen and Michael Larson write that while boy bands such as One Direction continue to attract audiences of screaming girls, "none of those acts moved pop culture forward or achieved the breadth and depth of the Beatles' fandom."[159]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lennon's son Julian was born on 8 April 1963. Lennon visited the hospital to see his wife and meet his new son for the first time, but he attempted to disguise himself to prevent people in the hospital from recognising him.[17]
  2. ^ Ed Sullivan was also among those held up at Heathrow. He was told the reason for the delay and responded: "Who the hell are The Beatles?"[35]
  3. ^ Since the 1920s, the US had dominated popular entertainment culture throughout much of the world, via Hollywood films, jazz, the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, and the rock and roll that first emerged in Memphis.[81]
  4. ^ 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."[102]
  5. ^ This development followed the controversy surrounding the original artwork for the US-only LP Yesterday and Today in June. Soon withdrawn and replaced with another group portrait, the "butcher" cover portrayed the grinning band members dressed in butcher's overalls accompanied by raw meat and mutilated plastic baby dolls.[123]



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Further reading[edit]

  • André Millard, Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.