Tuesday, May 22, 2012

André Millard's "Beatlemania"

André Millard is a professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the author of several books, including The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book on Beatlemania focuses on an important turning point in the career of the Beatles. Some people think that their big break came on the Ed Sullivan Show during their first American tour but the event I wrote about was way more important because it marked not only the beginning of Beatlemania, but also the maturity of an amateur garage band into something we could recognize as the Beatles.

Litherland Town Hall is situated in a grimy suburb north of Liverpool. It was a long bus ride from the city center on 27 December 1960. Although their recent stay in Hamburg had been a great success the Beatles were still broke The promoter, Brian Kelly, paid them only about $10 to play for the night! He wasn’t expecting much. He billed them as ‘Direct from Hamburg’ because there wasn’t much else to say about them: no record, no manager and no fans.

It was a bitterly cold night and (contrary to many reports) there weren’t that many in the hall. The Litherland audience was not easy to please and it had a nasty reputation for drunken brawls, but as soon as the Beatles hit their first power chord the audience rushed to the front of the hall and the excitement never let up. They had once struggled to stand out in the crowded Liverpool ‘beat’ scene where hundreds of guitar bands competed for gigs and girls, but they came back from Hamburg transformed: one envious fellow musician in the crowd noted that they “wore black leather, had brand new instruments and played brilliantly.” They were now a hard-rocking, loud and aggressive group, and as John Lennon proudly remembered when it came to ‘straight rock’ there was nobody on Merseyside who could touch them.

They were so different from the other groups, and their previous incarnations as the Quarry Men and Silver Beatles, that many in the audience were convinced they were a German band! They tore the house down and had a hard time getting out of the hall and catching the last bus for home. From this point onwards they started to attract fans—kids who went specifically to see the band rather than just dance and drink. The Beatles were on their way....
Learn more about Beatlemania at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue