The Beatles In America

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Submitted: August 19, 2017

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Submitted: August 19, 2017

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The Beatles In America

 

Nearly half a century later, and The Beatles are still one of the most listened to and influential bands of the generation. From their distinctive sound to their British charm, America could not help but fall in love with the ‘fab four’. When The Beatles touched down in New York City on the seventh of February 1964, no one, not even the band, could have possibly anticipated what was to come. Throughout the sixties the band changed and influenced the States with their music, as well as heavily influencing political and cultural standards of the time, virtually helping to mould American history.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of The Beatles was their cultural effect on America and the great impact they had in shaping American culture. A quote from Steven Stark (in When the Beatles Changed Everything 2014, para. 7) says that, “in a country in which popular culture is extremely important, there’s nobody else more important than The Beatles”. The birth of ‘Beatlemania’ in America opened up a generation gap in 1964, allowing teenagers to find their place between childhood and adulthood (Puterbaugh 1988). The Beatles’ popular music and rock ‘n’ roll sound catered to this new way of thinking and awareness, and in turn had American youth seeking hope and salvation within the band (Taich 2009). Once teens found their position in life, the music began to influence them in ways unlike anything that had been seen before. Young women began going into a frenzy; screaming, disregarding the law, becoming hysterical and flocking in numbers to get a slight of The Beatles (Taich 2009), and schoolboys began dreaming about electric guitars, clean suits and that signature long ‘mop’ hair the band became so famous for (Puterbaugh 1988). Alongside this new found awareness and social placement amongst youth, the band broke down a wall that once separated teen music from adult music. Once this barrier had been taken down, and the musical audience was not just limited to teens, The Beatles started to gain recognition for their music as an art form, and as a result introduced alternative avenues for cultural expression (Tomasky 2014).

When The Beatles are thought of the first thing that people think of is their music. The music The Beatles wrote and produced was heavily influenced by the genres of music they would listen to, such as rock, pop and blues, and as music evolved so did The Beatles’ sound (Polson 2016). They became known for their willingness to experiment, and for the band it was important they wrote their own lyrics, which at the time most pop acts were not (Sneed 2014). The Beatles created a unique sound for themselves that was, and still is, unmistakable; “the sound was totally new – so full of joy and excitement” (Tomasky 2014, para. 5).  As well as their sound, The Beatles influenced other British bands to make their mark in America, in an article written by Tierney Sneed (2014, para. 7) states that, “the legacy of The Beatles’ trip to America, was first and foremost, that they had succeeded where other British pop stars had failed”. Before touching down in the States, many British artists had never been able to find success within the music industry in America, “the reputation that was out there in Great Britain was that you can’t make it in America”, quoted from Michael Cheney (Sneed 2014, para. 8). Therefore, The Beatles and record companies within the States did not believe the band would make it very far. However, once The Beatles proved there was an increasing desire in America for British music, a number of British artists followed them across the Atlantic in what became known as ‘The British Invasion’ (Sneed 2014, para. 17). In turn, the band influenced music and musical history throughout America with their experimentation, different sounds and instruments, pushing boundaries and taking risks that other bands at the time were not game enough to do.

In addition to being extremely influential musically, The Beatles impacted quite heavily on social and political views throughout the sixties. When the band touched down in America it was only months after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Vietnam War and global tension over the Berlin Wall (Sneed 2014). With everything going wrong in America at this time, a lack of stability and an increase of confusion left the people, in particularly the youth, searching for guidance (Collins 2012). Gordon Thompson - a professor at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs once said that, “For Americans at this point it was one crisis after another”, and the epic rise of The Beatles success during this period had teenagers looking to the band for guidance and enlightenment (Sneed 2014, para. 12). By incorporating political views, movements and ideas within their music, the band were the first to really legitimize music as an outlet for political expression and participation (Collins 2012). This link between pop music and politics sparked a whole new level of consciousness and awareness, which in turn generated a greater set of political demands from young Americans (Tomasky 2014). The band became known during the sixties as ‘political activists’, their music not only talking to the youth, but for the youth (Taich 2009). For many Americans the Beatles were, ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’, arriving at a time when they were needed the most (Sneed 2014, para. 11).

In conclusion, the worldwide phenomenon that is The Beatles played a massive role in shaping American music, influencing political views and creating a cultural shift throughout the sixties and the years that followed. The Beatles in America opened up a new way of thought and expression through their art, created acceptance and gave hope where it was needed, and exceeded all expectations and beliefs of how music could influence a nation. From their style, to their charisma, to their extensive cultural and political impact, the ‘fab four’ no doubt made their mark in American history. A quote from Steven Stark sums it up best, “Rock music was not the soundtrack to a generation, it WAS the generation. It would change our politics, our culture our fashion, and The Beatles were the crown princes of this movement” (When The Beatles Changed Everything 2014, para. 9).

 

References List:

 

CBS Interactive Inc. 2014, When The Beatles Changed Everything, viewed 11 July, 2017, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/when-the-beatles-changed-everything/


Collins, M 2012, ‘The Beatles’ Politics’, The British Journal of Politics & International Relations, vol. 16, pp. 291-309, viewed 11 July, 2017, Wiley Online Library.

 

Polson, J 2016, ‘How The Beatles changed Music and Music history’, Science Leadership, viewed 18 July, 2017, https://scienceleadership.org/blog/how_the_beatles_changed_music_and_music_history--by--jamie_poslon

 

Puterbaugh, P 1988, ‘The British Invasion: From The Beatles to the Stones, The Sixties Belonged To Britain’, Rolling Stone, viewed 11 July, 2017, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-british-invasion-from-the-beatles-to-the-stones-the-sixties-belonged-to-britain-19880714

 

Renwick, S 2013, ‘It’s… The Beatles!’ A Cultural reflection of the 60s through the music of The Beatles, viewed 12 July, 2017, http://newhistories.group.shef.ac.uk/wordpress/wordpress/its-the-beatles-a-cultural-reflection-of-the-1960s-through-the-music-of-the-beatles/

 

Sneed, T 2014, ‘How America Changed The Beatles’, U.S. News & World Report,  viewed 11 July, 2017, https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/24/the-beatles-changed-american-music--and-america-changed-the-beatles

 

Taich, A 2009, Beatlemania: The Defiance of a Generation, viewed 31 July, 2017, http://www.popmatters.com/feature/115702-beatlemania-the-defiance-of-a-generation/

 

 

 

 

 


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