1964 - Beatlemania
The British chart topping band embarked on a world tour that saw their celebrity status shoot into the stratosphere, attracting massive crowds of screaming fans wherever they performed.
By the time the successful British rock n rollers set off on their first visit across the Atlantic in February 1964, I Wanna Hold Your Hand was at Number One, and 3,000 people had gathered to greet their plane at John F. Kennedy airport in New York.
When they have their first live performance on the Ed Sullivan Show two days later, a staggering 34% of the population of the USA tuned in to watch in an age where TV’s were still something of a novelty. What was being called the “British Invasion” had began in earnest.
The term Beatlemania had been coined a little earlier back in England, and was first seen in print when the Daily Mail published an article called BEATLEMANIA: It’s happening everywhere…even in sedate Cheltenham.”
Particularly after the trip to the US, Beatlemania became charcterised by the high-pitched screaming and near-hysteria of the vast crowds of teenage girls who came to see the band as the four lads from Liverpool with floppy hair became unlikely international sex symbols. After one gig in Hull in the UK it was reported that over 40 pairs of knickers had to be cleared away.
The reasons for this explosion of almost manic obsession with the band have been debated and analysed ever since. Some ideas have been their coinciding with the post World War Two baby boom, when there were far more teenage girls than there had ever been before, even in the recent days of Elvis or Frank Sinatra.
Another has been the non sexually-threatening long hair, youth and British charm of the group, far more appealing to the new generation of girls than the sexually voracious Elvis or other older performers. There are a multitude of other ever more wacky explanations, though in the end the novelty and brilliance of the Beatles’ music is perhaps the most convincing.
Beatlemania also embodies the 60s and its rebellious counter-culture. The fathers and elder brothers of Beatles fans scorned what they saw as their unmanly appearance and music, but that made their appeal even stronger, particularly after they took a darker and more psychedelic path later in the decade.
For more details and images from events in 1964, check out History0x