May 11, 2015
The Beatles were ‘good-looking boys with great haircuts’ but brought nothing new to music, academics decide
And as any teenager could tell you, pop music operates in spheres far beyond quantifiable chord changes and rhythmic patterns. Can you scientifically calculate how much of The Beatles appeal lay in their irreverent gang camaraderie and how that played with the coming-of-age of the post-war Baby Boom generation? Is there a mathematical measurement for the impact of their long forward-combed hair style (and should that be in inches or centimetres)? And what part did America’s collective shock at the assassination of President John F Kennedy play in their response to the arrival of these upbeat, free-spirited, funny, irreverent Englishmen in a traumatised nation?
“Irreverent gang camaraderie” pays lasting dividends, btw.
But still, the naysayer is accidentally making the same point as the professors:
That a lot of The Beatles appeal was a combination of visuals rather than audibles; timing; and personnel:
The Beatles were easily “marketed” as four real, distinct individuals rather than a group of interchangeable anonymous musicians.
As someone smarter than I am observed, this gave the public four different “objects” to “purchase,” rather than just one.
However, this formula isn’t foolproof; maybe The Damned were too obvious about it.
A former associate of Brian Epstein now says the band’s well-to-do manager purchased 10,000 copies of their 1962 single “Love Me Do” just to get it onto the charts. (It couldn’t have hurt that Epstein’s family owned a record store.)
After that, Capital Records, the Beatles’ U.S. label, was impressed enough by the group’s “overnight” success in the UK (in particular their cheeky “Command Performance” for the queen) to spend $50,000 in New York City alone to promote their first American visit — ten times the amount usually budgeted for new bands.
Fifty thousand dollars translates into more than $375,000 in 2014 money, which buys a lot of Beatle wigs and bobble heads.
Meanwhile, Epstein’s stateside promoters arranged a deal with radio stations WMCA and WINS “in which every fan who turned up at JFK would be given one dollar and a free Beatles t-shirt. (…) Capitol had also arranged for posters and car stickers, bearing the legend ‘The Beatles are coming’, to be distributed throughout New York City.”
Even then, one revisionist has analyzed the Billboard charts and concluded that in the United States, Beatlemania wasn’t a national craze so much as one confined largely to the East Coast.