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Book Review: “The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia” by Richard Mills

This review is written by Amy Hughes…

The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia Richard Mills

The Beatles and academia may not appear mutually connected, but be that as it may, I have in my casual research of reading material on the band, found a treasure trove of essays, papers and with scholars, their ability to take an in-depth analysis into what is loosely defined as fandom.

Author Richard Mills is the Programme Director and a Senior Lecturer at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, UK. In The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia (Bloomsbury, 2019 & 2021), Mills has delivered an intrinsic study on how the stages of fandom move and progress, using diverse categories to illustrate essentially the title of his book.

I want to add a few words here: this book is primarily an academic study and is a globally researched project that reflects how the band’s influence imparts nostalgia not from a whimsical standpoint, but as a deep-seated thought-provoking exposition that leans on the reader to get underneath the superficial.

Having noted that, I was taken with Mills’ observation on the beginnings of The Beatles’ sexual attraction to their first fans: the ‘Beatles Monthly.’ As it was the authorized inside track to ‘the boys’ at their start, Mills details the fan letters, the photos and the (mostly, early on) young girl obsession with them. Whether it was their clothes, their hair, their humor, their ‘British-ness,’ young fans were given a packaged version of their ‘lads,’ while letting loose the repressed feelings that were a staple of the times: they screamed and cried at their concerts. As has been noted in more recent books, these girls were the first real supporters of The Beatles and their reaction(s) reported by a (mostly) older, male press did not help to explain the deep-seated attraction and calling they felt in wholly and explicit terms.

While those girls grew up and began careers (with a little help from their friends, The Beatles), Mills moves onto the next phase: fan conventions. The gut-wrenching hysteria was left behind for a next gen communal gathering, a positive environment (as with The Fest For Beatles Fans and International Beatles Week) and more to the point, a place where fans (male and female) have a shared understanding of each others’ love for the band. The atmosphere most notably was one of indifference in the 1970s, until John Lennon’s murder in 1980. Nearly immediately after, the psychological understanding of fan ‘obsession’ changed. Mills goes into detail his reasons for who Mark Chapman was (a mentally disturbed individual) and also into the background of Michael Abram, the schizophrenic person who nearly killed George Harrison in 1999.

Mills correctly identifies that both of these men were not ‘fans’ or could even intellectually connect the dots to their victims. They could not break the cycle of singular isolation and became fixated with an alternative mindset. Fan conventions are diametrically opposite in their group atmosphere and jovial celebration of life. The clear demarcation of the two worlds is one that Mills gives great attention to.

One group of people that can cause a divisive issue are what Mills terms the ‘super-fan journalist.’ He takes to task the most prominent authors of Beatles non-fiction (Hunter Davies, Philip Norman and Ian MacDonald) and proceeds to dissect the apparent and not-so-apparent bias that permeates their writings. Davies (the author of The Beatles authorized biography, 1968) and Norman (author of Shout! from 1981) are given the harshest criticism and not without merit: each has had blatant prejudice against certain Beatles and both have heavily revised their opinions in the intervening years. MacDonald on the other hand did not pretend to write a history of the group per se, but offered his stylistic, one-of-a-kind prose that has grown in favor since first published in 1994 (MacDonald died by suicide in 2003). Mills offers up MacDonald as someone who did not pretend to understand The Beatles’ lives, but instead retrospected their work, thereby creating progressive nostalgia for a new generation of fans.

The next chapters concern more modern practices of coercing the well-known entity of The Beatles by wrapping them into new technology and writing: as YouTube has allowed 21st century manipulation of their image via audio and visual mashups and next gen bloggers have re-imagined real-life events by inserting The Beatles (and their associates) into slash & tribute fiction, i.e. time-travel, McLennon and the like. Mills also analyzes award-winning ‘fanfic’ couched in the love for re-writing history vis-a-vis Kevin Barry’s 2015 novel ‘Beatlebone. Be that as the written word allows critical examination of an alternate universe, we have witnessed in this progressive nostalgia, the ultimate immersion experience come to fruition: tribute bands. Every stylistic angle – from the mop-top era to Sgt. Pepper and even painstakingly recreated classics such as The Analogues’ note-for-note live recreations of the ‘White Album’ – are given due credit. The respect that fans have fostered onto excursions and tours in cities like Liverpool, London and Hamburg fold into the reverence and outwardly devoted atmosphere when it’s shared with family and friends. These are the multiple incidents and ideas that Mills has encapsulated and demonstrated for students and practitioners of Beatle fandom.

Transformative nostalgia when applied to The Beatles universe is continually expanding and moving ahead. As recognized in these pages and acknowledged by so many, Mills has detailed the changes and moves into the unexpected areas of ‘Beatledom.’ With a caveat noted at the start of my review that this publication is more likely appreciated by the scholarly among us…

I give this 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Turning Points in Rock and Roll” by Hank Bordowitz

Turning Points in Rock and Roll Hank BordowitzIt’s been quite a while since I posted a review and Turning Points In Rock And Roll by Hank Bordowitz is to blame. I don’t remember where, when or why I bought this book, but I found it on my bookshelf and figured I’d give it a read. Some people can read more than one book at a time, but I’m not one of them. So, while the ‘need to read’ pile grew, I slowly made my way through this book.

It may sound like I’ve already dissed this book, but it’s not true. The good thing about this book is that you can take your time reading it and with my busy schedule the last month or so, this book fit right in. Written in 2004 and with 227 pages divided into 20 chapters, it’s easy to digest a chapter at a time and set it down for awhile. The book starts with “1877-1977 – Edison Invents the Phonograph: Recorded Music goes from Science Fiction to Big Business” and ends with “1995 – MP3, Napster, and the End of the World as We Know It”. In between, it covers Les Paul, Elvis, American Bandstand, Chuck Berry, Beatlemania, Monterey Pop Festival and so much more.

This book is for every rock and roll fan. And though some of the chapters sound very specific, the author leads you through how each turning point affected others and the future of rock and roll. Alan Freed, Blackboard Jungle, Transistor radios where all a part of the growth of rock and roll and Hank Bordowitz does a great job of leading the reader from the early beginnings to what we hope isn’t the end of rock and roll. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Lisztomania vs. Beatlemania

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It’s the battle of all battles…the 19th century vs. the 20th century! It’s Franz Liszt vs. The Beatles! It’s Lisztomania vs. Beatlemania. Who drove more women to fits of passion? Who wore their hair longer? Who caused the biggest mob scene? Well, the truth of the matter is they both did and the similarities are remarkable…

Lisztomania – coined on April 25, 1844 by journalist Heinrich Heine in an article he wrote about the upcoming concert season in Paris. It was actually considered a medical condition!

Beatlemania – the term was coined on October 21, 1963 for a feature story by Vincent Mulchrone in The Daily Mail with the headline “This Beatlemania”.

  • Franz_Liszt_by_Herman_Biow-_1843Franz Liszt was born in Hungary on October 22, 1811, a century before the Beatles were even born.  By age 9, he was said to be a child prodigy. His father withdrew him from school and set out to find the best piano teachers in Europe to take his son as their student. In 1822, at 11 years old, Liszt gave his first public concert in Vienna.  His performance was awarded with a kiss on the forehead by Ludwig Von Beethoven.

  • The Beatles were not quite as young as Liszt when they got their start.  The original Fab Four, as they joined the band, were teenagers when they started out.  John Lennon was 16 when he created his band The Quarrymen in Liverpool, John met Paul in July 1957 when Paul was 15 and George Harrison joined the band in a year later after having just turned 15.
  • The American music critic, James Huneker has been quoted as  in the 1880’s saying that he could inspect the chairs after a Liszt concert and be able to tell where the women sat!
  • Comparatively, in 1963, The Beatles concert in the town of Kingston upon Hull, the manger of the Regal theater was quoted as saying, “they’d cleared away 40 pairs of abandoned knickers at the cinema” after the show.
  • Franz Liszt was one of the first famed musicians to wear his hair longer than was considered acceptable in the mid-1800’s.  It was customary during his time for composers/musicians such as Bach, Beethoven and Mozart to wear wigs. Instead, Liszt just wore his natural blond hair at shoulder length.  This didn’t go unnoticed by the press at the time, with such quotes as “But what struck the Russians most was his great mane of blond hair, reaching almost down to his shoulders.  No Russian would have dared to wear his hair in such a style…” by composer Vladimir Stasov, and The Musical World wrote in 1867 – “Even the unmistakably grizzling, though still thick, long flowing hair, which the scissors of the Tonsure have not dared to touch, detract but little from the heart-entrancing charm of his unusual individuality”  in the Musical Opinion & Music Trade Review (April 1, 1886) “...His head is crowned by exceptionally luxuriant, long gray hairs, now well nigh white.” In 2011, on Liszt’s 200th birthday, the Toronto Star described Franz Liszt as “…a dashing Hungarian pianist with long, flowing hair who could make his audiences swoon before he had played a single note.”
  • Though The Beatles’ long hair was never questioned in Europe, during their first American press conference in the U.S. at JFK airport, the Beatles were asked five questions concerning their long hair: “Does all that hair help you sing?”, “You feel like Sampson? If you lost your hair, you’d lose what you have? ‘It’?”, “How many of you are bald, that you have to wear those wigs?”, “Aren’t you afraid of what the American Barbers Association is going to think of you?”, and “Listen, I got a question here. Are you going to get a haircut at all while you’re here?” The gained the nickname MopTops and Beatles wigs were soon on the shelves for all the fans that wanted to look like them.
  • Liszt’s valet, Spiridion, is rumored to have sold the hairs he combed from his master’s head to female admirers.
  • The Beatles fan club secretary, Freda Kelly, mailed locks of the Fab Four’s hair clippings to fans that would make such a request.
  • On January 4, 1840, after performing at the National Theatre in Pest, Hungary, Liszt exited the venue and found a crowd of young fans with flaming torches filling  the square and shouting “Eljen! Eljen!” (Hurrah! Hurrah!).  After sitting in his horse-drawn coach for several minutes, but unable to move through the crowd, Franz said, “I can’t stand this any longer.  Let’s get out and stop behaving like aristocrats in our coach!” He then walked among his fans to his hotel, but they would not disperse until well after midnight after he had appeared twice on his balcony.limo
  • Due to the crushing mobs of fans, The Beatles rarely ever exited their limousines without large amounts of security, as seen here in 1964 at the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough, UK.
  • Franz Liszt’s fan collected his half-smoked cigar butts and one fan was even to have said to have worn one in a small locket around her neck. Another Lisztomaniac excitedly picked up and proceeded to finish smoking a still burning cigar butt that Liszt had thrown to the ground, wallowing in every puff. At another recital, “When he asked for a glass of water and put it down without draining it, the delirious beauties in the hall rushed forward at the end of the recital, picked up the glass and pressed it to their lips so as to quell their passion by taking a sip of the water he had left.”
  • Beatles fans clamored to clippings from the shirts of the Fab Four that they gave to Freda Kelly to distribute to fan club members. They also collected clippings from the hotel bed linens that JPGR had slept upon while touring.
  • Liszt was quite the rebel in his day when it came to playing and composing music. He refused to follow the rules and customs of the time when it came to writing and performing. At one performance, he said, they needed to bring in a second and third piano because his raucous playing would quickly cause the pianos to go out of tune.
  • When George Martin first took on the job as the producer for the Beatles, he was astonished at their technique when it came to playing and creating their sound. Because none of them were formally trained in music, they developed new and unheard of styles of creating the sound they wanted. At first, Martin wanted to correct them, but he soon realized that it was their lack of musical education that made them so unique.
  • Liszt fan’s wore cameos with his portrait. After one concert, he bragged that 50 portraits of himself had been sold in 24 hours!
  • Beatles fans wore “I Love The Beatles” buttons and no one can ever imagine how many pictures of the Beatles have been sold.
  • In June 1863, Liszt moved into the monastery of Madonna del Rosario at Monte Mario. The Vatican took advantage of having a celebrity living among them and frequently asked Franz to play charity concerts to raise money for their various events.
  • In February 1968, the Fab Four went to Rishikesh, India, to study  Transcendental Meditation  at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  They were soon to find out that the Yogi wanted 25% of their next album’s profits to be tithed into his Swiss bank account.

So there you have it, a few of the many of the similarities of a 19th century classical composer and that of the greatest rock band of the 20th century. Can anyone say who had a greater impact on their fans? Given the limited media available to Franz Liszt (no TV or radio), he did quite well making the women of Europe swoon at the very mention of his name.  And the very mention of the Beatles or the showing or their image, can still make both young and older women’s hearts beat a little faster.

I’m going to call this contest a draw! Both are winners…

And speaking of winners, if you’ve made it this far, leave a comment in this post and you’ll be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card! The winner will be announced in my next blog post on July 17th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review: “Lisztomania” (1975)

Several months ago, I went to a lecture that compared the Beatles to classical composer Franz Liszt.  It would seem that Mr. Liszt (b. 1811 – d. 1886) was the rock star of his day!  In April 1844, while reviewing the European music scene that season, writer Heinrich Heine coined the term ‘Lisztomania‘ to describe the frenzy and fainting that occurred when Liszt performed.

I’ve always enjoyed the music of Franz Liszt and you’ve probably heard it yourself.  Here is a video of Liebestraum:

Or, if you prefer, here is a video of Bugs Bunny playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody:

Lisztomania, was written and directed by Ken Russell, the same guy who had already directed The Who’s classic – Tommy.  The posters for Lisztomania even promoted this movies as ‘Tommy’s Tommy‘!  Unfortunately, even with Roger Daltrey as the star in this film too, this movie doesn’t even come close to the genius of Tommy and makes one think that Russell should have quit while he was ahead.  Even Ringo Starr, who plays the part of The Pope and who had been praised for many of his previous acting roles is mediocre at best.

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Both the acting and the music in this film are terrible.  The only redeeming quality is seeing a naked, young Roger Daltrey!  I can also say that all of Liszt’s women/lovers in the film actually existed in real life and that his daughter really married composer Richard Wagner.  But where Ken Russell came up with idea to put Nazis and Hitler in the film…I’ll never understand.  And for that reason…

I rate this movie, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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I rate Roger Daltrey’s naked boday, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Just Published: ‘From Me To You’ – a novel set to the hysteria of Beatlemania! | PRLog

Just Published: ‘From Me To You’ – a novel set to the hysteria of Beatlemania!. Garry Berman and Kelly Marie Thompson are excited to announce the release of their first novel written via email about 1960’s pen pals during the British invasion. – PR12504099

Source: Just Published: ‘From Me To You’ – a novel set to the hysteria of Beatlemania! | PRLog

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