Fanatical Maniacs, Yesterday and Today

Beatles 4 EverThe Beatles fascinate me. Sure, I love their music, and it would be a sin to not appreciate their effect on popular music. But I’d be lying if I said they were one of my favorite bands. After spending all of my childhood and teenage years listening to and discussing them, I’m kind of burnt out on Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s. What I really love about the Beatles is where they stand in the history of pop culture, not pop music.

A Hard Day’s Night is one of my all time favorite movies. Every time I watch it, my mind is completely boggled by one factor: the girls. Screaming girls are one part of pop culture that has never made sense to me. True, I spent my entire teenage years going to concerts, standing in the front row, and soaking up every bit of contact I could with my favorite musicians, feeling like I was touching greatness. I’ll admit that I sobbed like a baby when Tina Turner hit the stage at the United Center on her final world tour. Yet all of this idolatry and focus on pop stars has never been something I could understand—it was always just something I felt.

Throughout A Hard Day’s Night John, Paul, George and Ringo are chased by groups of teenage girls. My question has always been this: If those girls had caught up with the boys, what would they have done? They seemed barely old enough to even have been taught the facts of life, so sex was out of the question. [That depends on which biographies you believe, ha ha. -Ed.]

After such a pursuit, merely saying hello and possibly getting an autograph surely wouldn’t have been completely satisfactory. The odds of becoming best friends with the preferred member of the Fab Four (to this day I know that girls still pick their favorite), or having him fall in love with her were next to impossible. So why put all of the effort into wanting something so distant and unlikely?

The performance scenes at the end (once they finally get to the television show they’re supposed to be taping) are absolutely mind blowing. The theatre—filled with girls who simply do not stop screaming, crying and waving—shakes and roars. I’ve read that the cameraman who was stationed in the uppermost balcony actually lost some of the teeth in his lower jaw because the vibrations were so strong.

I’ve always been highly judgmental towards these girls. How completely ridiculous to lower themselves to that level, to lose control, over a few cute boys playing instruments!

If you ask me, the Beatles’ biggest contribution to pop culture was not their music, but the teen idol culture they inspired. I am aware that the idea of the teen idol had existed before the Beatles (I’ve seen the footage of the girls going crazy for Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and others), but the Beatles are the ones who will always be identified with this kind of mania.

When I was a teenager, I fell very hard for a few bands, and I wanted nothing more than to get to know them. I’ve spent entire days sitting outside the Vic theatre waiting to see Wilco, and stuck around for hours for a chance to get to talk to Neko Case or Rhett Miller. Somehow, all of the stars fell into place for me, and I did actually get to know my idols personally. Well, not all of them; I still haven’t met Tina Turner or Bob Dylan.

No matter how much I got, though, I was always hungry for more. The Super Fan is the new Screaming Girl. Now, we prove our devotion to bands by going to see them on every date of a tour, singing along with all the songs (including ones that have yet to be recorded), as well as showing off to other fans when our rock stars (oh yes, they are ours, they belong to us) remember our names.

Getting a shout out from the stage has always seemed to be the goal. It can’t get any better than that. I’d like to think, though, that we’ve evolved a bit from yelling and screaming throughout the songs and have become more respectful of the musicians who are performing.

Over the past couple years, I have grown to be less judgmental of the poor saps, er, I mean, young girls in A Hard Day’s Night. I may chastise them for making complete fools of themselves, but I must admit I do begin to smile like an idiot and feel my face get flushed whenever there is a close up of John Lennon singing. I can’t deny that I’d probably be screaming and having heart palpitations just like the rest of those teenyboppers if I was in that situation.

Sure, I’d like to think that I’d be in the front row, singing along, dancing and flirting with John Lennon, but we all know that’s ridiculous.

It’s undeniable that they give off some sort of thing that just attracts everyone to them. This is still one of those questions that plagues me, and probably always will. I’ve tried to discuss all of the Why?s with my mother, who was around at the time (she was a George girl, in case you were wondering.) It all seems so useless, yet it’s a cycle that I find myself falling into even to this day.

Uncle Tupelo put it best: “There’s a young girl screaming, all the way in the back. Poor kid, never saw it coming, now she knows she’s been had.”

Rosie wrote her first term paper in college on the social issues that are touched on in A Hard Day’s Night.

5 thoughts on “Fanatical Maniacs, Yesterday and Today”

  1. In our culture – boys are subjects who are taught to act and girls are objects who are taught to be “fans” and to be possessed.

    Culturally speaking, boys have their identities wrapped up in what they do, and girls have their identities wrapped up in what they like – you can see this play out in a good number of ways in our culture, then and now.

    Granted these are generalizations, but I believe it is the message being disseminated in our culture and is nothing new.

    By the way, there were also boys chasing the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night….one of them was Phil Collins. d’oh!

  2. This Superfan mentality phenomenon does wane once you hit your 30s (for me, at least). I used to want to always get autographs from my favorite musicians (I got the top two: Alex Chilton and Scott Miller, plus other greats), but now that I’m older, I realize that despite the beauty of the art they create, despite the joy that art might bring me, these folks are just doing a job, and they don’t need fanboys like me getting in their faces for an autograph or a witty vignette on the recording of Radio City after they’ve just given 110% on a stage for my benefit.

    That said, I’m glad I came to this realization AFTER getting their autographs!!

  3. i was glad that the court allowed the restraining order against me to be set aside so i could edie brickell last year. i swear one visit to her home and you’re labeled a stalker.

  4. I was always a George person myself.

    Give her a good reason and I am sure Chan Marshall will call you back. Don’t give up hope.

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