This is a guest review by Amy McGrath Hughes for a new Beatles book that is being released today – February 11, 2021.
For all the terminology associated with being a female fan of The Beatles, I’m happy to say that “aca-fan” is one I believe needs more press. Accordingly, Dr. Christine Feldman-Barrett’s newly published ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ (Bloomsbury, 2021) seeks to inform a wide, multi-generational audience that may not wholly understand the role of women in ‘Beatlefandom.’
The definition of “aca-fan” or academic fan stems from Feldman-Barrett’s research into how we define the span of women (either first generation or beyond) who were deeply affected by The Beatles impact on their lives. Through countless interviews that range from women who saw the band during their brief lifespan or who discovered them through recordings and film or from family members, Feldman-Barrett brings into focus the multi-layered emotions felt by each discovery and life-changing course of action.
However, Feldman-Barrett begins by discussing The Beatles unique understanding of the female fan, especially those they befriended in Liverpool. These girls were their stalwart supporters at a time when ‘young women’ were still expected to finish school, get married and raise a family. Although many did go down that avenue, so too did many seek to break out of the norm, establish an identity and pursue a career. The Beatles in many respects, through their performances or correspondences, helped them to achieve what was considered a fairly lofty, nearly unattainable goal. In return, these working girls from Liverpool (who the group considered friends) set the pattern for years to come: whether they were fan club secretaries (like Liverpudlian Freda Kelly) or journalists (such as the Evening Standard’s Maureen Cleave), these smart women were there from the start and stayed the course helping to spread The Word.
The Beatles also broke rank with how they chose to interact with an audience and the choices of songs they played. While there is considerable knowledge about their upbringing and how their generation viewed women’s role in society (as noted above), the stage presence they achieved through showcasing ‘girl group’ songs (The Shirelles, The Cookies, The Marvelettes) gave them a devoted female following amidst the perception of the rough and tumble atmosphere of club-going, heretofore thought to be a taboo ritual. Although these perceptions proved to be barrier-breaking, Feldman-Barrett ironically notes that although The Beatles showcased these songs to a wide audience, their eventual stratospheric rise in effect caused the demise of this genre.
Another interesting angle that Feldman-Barrett explores is the internal relationships of The Beatles: most notably with Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg and then their early pairings (Cynthia Powell, Maureen Cox, Pattie Boyd, Jane Asher) and consequently as the band starts to disintegrate, the rise of the two most prominent partners: Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman. How these two strong female personalities become inextricably tied to their spouses’ outlook on women’s role in society as the 70s begin is examined in detail. Ono in particular was and has been unfairly portrayed in the media and Feldman-Barrett seeks to rectify that trope in these pages.
The dominant narrative that permeates this history though, are the multi-generational women who Feldman-Barrett interviewed; as either a first generation fan (one who was there during The Beatles lifespan) or into later years and even past the death of John Lennon, what comes across is the same passionate involvement they all have: whether they became professional musicians during the 60s (such as the all-girl Nursery Rhymes and The Pleasure Seekers who fought against stereotypical male-dominated ‘rock bands’) or parlayed their interest in The Beatles into a professional vocation (as tour guides in Hamburg, Liverpool and New York City) or as Feldman-Barrett points out, pursued higher education in the actual study of The Beatles, via university courses devoted to their cultural impact on society, and pop culture in particular.
These women gained tremendous insight into what had been up to that time (and even into the 70s, 80s and 90s) a love of The Beatles that moved past the mislabeling of ‘hysterical screaming teenager’ or ‘obsessed fan’ and have turned it into their life’s work. ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ is a deep dive scholarly approach that is informative, thought-provoking and should create more open dialogue not only for academia-minded individuals, but also for those who seek unique perspectives on how The Beatles shaped their (and our) generation.
I rate this book: 4 out of 4 beetles!
It’s been a while since I wrote a review for this site. It’s not that I haven’t been reading! How can anyone not be doing more reading with a pandemic right outside our doors? It’s just that I haven’t been reading books about the Beatles. So, until I feel inspired to pick up a book about our boys from Liverpool, here’s what’s come and gone on my end table over the past 5 months.
It was exactly 5 months ago today that I posted about the link between Ernest Hemingway and John Lennon, along with a review of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 4. Well, since then, I have gone back and read Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway. I believe Amazon calculates it at a total of 1800+ pages, but that’s deceiving because of the indexes in the books. Still, these books have been a great way to pass the time while trying to stay home. Ernest’s parents were avid savers all of the letters they received from their oldest son from when he was a very young boy…when he could barely spell. And one of the funny things is, that he mentions often in his letters to friends, family and colleagues (well into his adulthood) that he is still a lousy speller, as is his good friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom he exchanges letters with often. I’ve become so enamored with reading Ernest’s letters to Fitzgerald, that I just recently bought a used copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters so I can read both sides of their story. And, not only have these books given me an interest in Hemingway’s life, I also ordered a copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway so that I can be more familiar with the stories that he’s writing throughout these first 4 volumes of letters (which only takes the reader up to Hemingway being just 32 years old and him having just published A Farewell To Arms (required reading when I was in high school)). Eventually, I’ll pick up a copy of Volume 5 to read while the world awaits volumes 6, 7, 8, etc. No telling how many will be published since each book is only covering 2-3 years (in 500+ pages each), but I am truly looking forward to reading them all. Not just for the letters to Fitzgerald, but the letters to other famous writers and letters to family about his daily life.
Last week on January 27th, it was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s 265th birthday. I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite classical composer (that honor would probably go to Franz Liszt), but I’ve had a strange fascination with him ever since the movie Amadeus came out in 1984. But anyone that has seen the movie has to be left wondering, “Was this musical genius really that erratic?”. And because I won’t be happy until I find out the true story, I just picked up a copy of Mozart: The Reign of Love…an 800+ page biography.
I’m really looking forward to reading all three of the above books, but not quite sure when (or in what order), I’ll get to them. I refuse to allow myself the privilege of buying volume 5 of the Hemingway letters until I finish what’s piled on my end table.
There was one other book that I read in January. I had bought a copy of the novel – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness back when it was first published in 2011, but it has sat, unread by me, on my bookshelf every since. Needless to say, my boredom from sitting around during this pandemic, combined with the cold weather outside, finally inspired me to read it. I hate to say it, but it probably would have been best if I just left it on my shelf to look good! I found it rather disappointing. Not only because the author covers the span of just 2 months in the lives of a witch and a vampire, but for some reason, I was not aware that the book was part of a trilogy and that I would have to read two more volumes to find out what happens. Hmmm…she covered 2 months in 500+ pages in the first book…do I really want to read another 500 pages to find out what happens in the next 2 weeks of these fictional characters? The answer is NO! I know some people find fiction and fantasy books an escape from the strife of real life, but I’m not one of them. You can figure out from all my talk early in this post, that I’m a fan of non-fiction and biographies. I need to come away from a book feeling like I’ve learned something. I’m not going to rate this book because of my own bias and knowing that some people really love these types of seires. I believe I told one friend that this book seems like an adult version of Twilight meets Harry Potter. But what would I know…I’ve never read either of those either!
Welcome back to Episode 28 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s guest is Jim Morin who saw the Beatles on Saturday, September 12, 1964 at Boston Garden.
This Friday, January 9, 2021 at 7 am (EST), Marc Silber will interview Peter Asher live on YouTube:
“Marc Silber Interviews Peter Asher, a legendary record producer and performer about his book “The Beatles from A-Zed”. He takes readers on an alphabetical journey of insights into the music of the Beatles and individual reminiscences of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Peter Asher met the Beatles in the spring of 1963, the start of a lifelong association with the band and its members. He had a front-row seat as they elevated pop music into an art form, and he was present at the creation of some of the most iconic music of our times. Join Marc as he delves into the A-Zed of this amazing group to find their creative secrets!”
Welcome back to episode 27 of I Saw The Beatles! Our guest on this episode is Claudia Kilburn of the great Pacific Northwest. Claudia Saw The Beatles play at the Seattle Coliseum in 1964. You can also find her story in the book: We’re Going To See The Beatles by Garry Berman.
The readers and Beatles freaks around the world have spoken…and the Best Beatles Book of 2020 is…
Congratulations to Peter Asher! His book – The Beatles A to Zed: An Alphabetical Mystery Tour will be featured on our homepage for all of 2021 with a link to buy it on Amazon!
Happy New Year to everyone…let’s hope it’s a good one!
Welcome to the 2020 Holiday and Gratitude episode of I Saw The Beatles! There are so many people that have made this podcast a success that I needed an entire episode to thank them all. A special Thank You goes out to Beth Lennon for making all of this possible and to Cliff Hillis for his remarkable intro/outtro music made especially for I Saw The Beatles! And to Amy Hughes for designing our logos!
While perusing Facebook this morning, I saw an ad for Great Courses Plus offering a free online course about The Beatles. I decided to save all my readers the hassle of clicking on a Facebook ad (that only encourages more unwanted ads) and look into it myself.
The course is called England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles and includes 12 lectures. Each lecture is about 25 minutes:
Fateful Intersections in Liverpool
Finding the Beat in the Beatles
Nowhere Men: The Dark Side of the Beatles
Beatles for Sale: Brian Epstein’s Genius
The Cold War, JFK, and the Beatles
The Beatles Conquer America
The Englishness of A Hard Day’s Night
Help! The Beatles at the Top in 1965
Crossroads: The Beatles in 1966
The Summer of Sgt. Pepper’s
Hello, Goodbye: The End of the 1960s
From what I can make out from the website, once you’re registered and give them your credit card information, your 14 Day FREE Trail will begin. But here’s the fine print on the site with how to avoid having to pay for anything:
If you cancel, service access will terminate at the end of the current paid billing period. If you cancel during the free trial, access will remain until the end of the free trial period.
There is no refund for early termination.
I’m not sure how long this course has been offered, but the 26 reviews of it only go back one month, so it appears fairly new. It also appears to be the online Beatles related course on this site.
I feel the need to note that this is not an affiliate article. I get nothing for mentioning this course to you and am only doing to bring attention to something of interest to Beatles fans. So if you need something to do while staying home during the pandemic, you may want to check this out. I know I will be signing up…and then canceling the next day while still enjoying my 14 day free trail!