Meet the Beatles : A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and the World

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-01-21
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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The Beatles have profoundly touched the lives of millions. But have you ever wondered why? Why did they become the most powerful artists in history and one of the twentieth century's major symbols of cultural transformation? Meet the Beatles answers those questions and more as it examines the ways the lives of John, Paul, George, and Ringo were inextricably tied to the cultural revolutions their music helped inspire. From their long hair and interest in India to their drug use and admiration for strong women, the Beatles changed the way we look, the way we feel, and even the way we think. This is the book for those who have always been infatuated with the Beatles, as well as those who want to learn for the first time what it all really meant.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
The British Are Coming!p. 9
Liverpool: Roots and Regretsp. 39
A Communal Gang of Artistsp. 60
Astrio, Hamburg, and the Great Transformationp. 79
The Parental Outsiders: Mona and Brianp. 90
Reshuffling the Band with Humorp. 105
First Rumblings of a Gender Revolutionp. 122
Engraved upon the Heart of its Nationp. 138
Here, There, and Everywhere in 1964p. 148
Hair, Orugs, and Rock and Rollp. 170
Sgt. Pepper's Cosmic Counterculturep. 195
Out of Syncp. 211
Love is all you Needp. 227
Growing Older, Losing Faithp. 251
Postscriptp. 268
Sourcesp. 275
Acknowledgmentsp. 329
Indexp. 331
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Meet the Beatles
A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and the World

Chapter One

The British Are Coming!

In the beginning there was the scream.

It was high-pitched, wailing, the sound of pigs being slaughtered, only louder. So me in England compared it to the air raid sirens that had been so prevalent during the war only two decades before. Oddly, it was both joyous and hysterical; it could be heard sometimes over a mile away. It was continuous, yet punctuated by crescendos. Its decibel level was so high that it broke the equipment measuring it, and the next day, some found their ears still continued to ring.

"I've never heard a sound so painful to the ear," one observer at thetime said. "Loud and shrill. It was like standing next to a jet engine. It physically hurt."

Of course, years earlier there had been stories about the girls who shouted for Sinatra and then for Elvis. But this screaming was different—the beginning of a new era, an expression of cultural change.

"We screamed because it was a kick against anything old-fashioned," remembered Lynne Harris, a fan of the Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where they were essentially the house band in the early sixties. "They represented what we could do with our lives."

"It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn," said Bob Dylan."This was something that never happened before."

At first, the screams were triggered whenever the Beatles played their music, especially when they sang falsetto together and shook their long hair; the screaming was a kind of similar answer to the high tones the girls were hearing. Soon, however, it grew to encompass anything connected to the group—their impending arrival at a hotel or airport, their appearance on a movie screen. Without it, at least initially, the group might well have been seen as just another flash in the pan. It became so much a part of the trademark of the Beatles that when the band produced its own Anthology history series in the 1990s, the episodes began with just the screams and everyone knew exactly what they were, what they were for, and what they referenced. Years later, Neil Aspinall, their confidant and roadie, would say of their tours, "It was just a permanent scream."

"You literally had to hold on to your seat," said Marcy Lanza, a fan atthe time." The noise was so loud that everything swayed and vibrated."

It drove some in the inner circle a bit crazy. "Shurrup!" John Lennon, all of twenty-three in 1964, would yell at the top of his lungs in response, but no one could hear him. George Harrison, then only twenty, was the first Beatle to begin to succumb to the pressure of the constant screaming mobs."He was a dedicated musician, and he would spend his time in the dressing room tuning everyone's instruments," remembered Tony Barrow, their press agent. "And then they went on stage and no one could hear and it didn't matter what they did. His personality changed; he became a less tolerant person—snappish. H e couldn't come to terms with it at all."

But that would come the following year. On February 7, 1964, George was still happy at the sight of more than a thousand screaming British fans at Heathrow Airport outside London to see the Beatles off on Pan Am Flight 101 for New York at 11:00 a.m. The screams were so loud that some in the Beatles' party initially mistook the sound for jet engines. Unbeknownst to the group, the band's arrival at the newly renamed Kennedy Airport eight hours later was already being announced nonstop on the airwaves to a shivering New York beginning to awaken to a gray day. "It is now six thirty a.m. Beatles time," the DJ on WMCA said." They left London thirty minutes ago. They're out over the Atlantic Ocean, headed for New York. The temperature is thirty-two Beatle degrees."

The group was already the biggest entertainment phenomenon Britain had ever known. The British knew all about the reaction the Beatles engendered in their listeners, which had started unexpectedly at a dance outside of Liverpool in Litherland at the end of 1960 and had eventually come to cover the whole of their island three years later. In the past year, the Beatles had sold more records in Britain than anyone ever, with four number 1 singles—"Please Please Me," "From Me to You," "She Loves You," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand"—and two hit albums. They had been the stars of their own thirteen-week series on BBC radio—Pop Go the Beatles—and in 1963 they had already toured their own country four times, playing to sellout, clamoring audiences everywhere.

In October 1963, the group had headlined on TV's Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium—England's version of The Ed Sullivan Show—and the riotous fans outside had prompted one tabloid wag to label the new phenomenon "Beatlemania." Three weeks later, they were the stars of the prestigious Royal Command Performance in London, where John Lennon had delighted the upper-class audience and members of the royal family by announcing, "For our last number, I'd like to ask for your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry?" By the end of the year, they dominated their nation's airwaves, newspapers, and conversations. One British newspaper announced that the name of the Beatles was "engraved upon the heart of the nation."

But that was Great Britain, which in 1963 was in a different universeas far as the United States and the world entertainment market wereconcerned. And the Beatles knew it too. Rock and roll was virtually theexclusive province of American musicians, and no English rock act hadever come close to "making it" in the States ...

Meet the Beatles
A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and the World
. Copyright © by Steven Stark. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and the World by Steven D. Stark
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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