Monday, January 14, 2013
Well, sister, I'm 43 and feel like 15. Or 180. It changes from moment to moment.
Slate reproduces this great letter written by a 15-year-old in 1964 to US Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz, insisting that her beloved Beatles be allowed back into the country, mostly for her own health and well-being. (Apparently the government tightened restrictions against foreign entertainers, fearing our home-grown talent was being shut out unfairly. Fear Gerry and the Dreamers! FEAR THEM!)
The letter's funny, but I link because of the comments, which are truly iconic in their internetty-ness.
We are used to this kind of fandom today, after 50 years of the best minds in marketing trying to gin it up on command. But it's always worth remembering two things about the Beatles phenomenon in 1964: how surprising it apparently was, and its scale. That kind of omnipresence was simply unimaginable; there had been crazes—Valentino, Lindbergh, Elvis—but nothing like this. It was the confluence of a bunch of one-time factors, and it was authentically arrived at. There have been dark murmurings in the years since about Capitol and/or NEMS seeding the US market or somehow priming the explosion of Beatlemania. As much as it soothes and flatters people who missed the boat, or are simply sick of hearing about it, manipulated Beatlemania is not really borne out by what happened after that.
It was a one-time thing, and silly, and amazing, and there was even some art in there, too. On the other hand, it seems to have been physically quite demanding for some 15-year-old girls.