Up on the always-excellent retro-future blog Modern Mechanix is this 1964 article on the Beatles.  From our perch in the present, where the Fab Four bestride the twentieth century musical world like mighty Colossuses Colossii giants, there’s a definite alternate-world quality to this article, which argues that the Beatles are what we’d today call a boy band, and treats them with the same dismissive condescension that boy bands traditionally attract.

 

Author Hugo Beigel (Ph.D.) dislikes the Beatles. (Side note: this article was published several months after their triumphant Spring 1964 tour of the US, so we’re not even talking “I Am The Walrus” hippie/weird Beatles, but “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” clean-cut/poppy Beatles.) This may partially be coded racism (“jungle beats” indeed, Dr. Beigel), but mostly he comes across as an old man resenting the youngsters and their heathenish ways (“The Beatle records themselves are an attack on cultured ears”).

 

Setting aside his taste in music, it’s instructive to look at why he doesn’t like the Beatles, and the conclusions he draws about what the Beatles’ appeal must be.  His main complaint is what he sees as the inappropriate sexualization of young adolescents, particularly girls.  This he blames not on the Beatles per se, but on the mid-Sixties music scene as a whole, with the Beatles as a sort of prime exemplar: worst among equals.  Dr. Beigel doesn’t like all that dancing:

 

The self-forgetfulness of the young adorers is similar to sexual abandon. Shrill shrieks break through the moaning—”Yeah, yeah, yeah”—that seem to push toward a climax. Boys here and girls there jump up and down as if they couldn’t hold the contents of the bladder any longer. Some, breathlessly exhausted, drum the rhythm on a neighbor’s chest; others move buttocks, hips and pelvis as if they were galloping on a horse. For some the performance ends when they faint.

 

(Without descending into TOO much snark, let me just say that I sincerely hope Dr. Beigel didn’t live to see the rave scene. Dude would have been traumatized.)

 

He doesn’t like the Beatles merchandising, either, especially as it intersects with the sex thing:

 

Beatle dolls (made of plastic) are passionately hugged in bed. Smaller ones, made of sugar candy, are enjoyed with immense delight. There are even chocolate-cake Beatles that appeal especially to children as young as 5 or 6.

 

Sound familiar?  I was reminded of New Kids On The Block, who were the boy band of the day when I was in the target demographic.   I can’t say that I remember chocolate cake NKOTB, though I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone in my seventh grade class did get one for her birthday–maybe that one girl who had all the action figures AND the jean jacket.

 

And Dr. B. really doesn’t like the fandom.

 

The ages of Beatle fans spread as far down as 9 years and include about 30 per cent boys. The solid nucleus consists of girls, 12 to 15 years old….

 

Now we’ve hit upon it. Girls like the Beatles.  Preteen and teen girls.  What do we know of girls in Dr. Beigel’s world?

 

  • They were sweet innocent girl-children before those evil marketers turned them full of lustful thoughts.
  • They’re highly suggestible, especially to marketing.
  • They will obsessively follow any old fad that’s sold to them, regardless of quality–nay, despite quality.
  • Even though they themselves may say that their love for the Beatles is driven by the music, not lust for the mop-tops themselves (and they do, consistently), Dr. Beigel can tell that they’re wrong.  It’s lust.  Because it can’t be the music.

 

I am not going to argue for the unsung musical genius of, say, O-zone, but I do think it’s telling how little has changed in the criticisms that “serious” music critics have against genres they deem “non-serious”.  Preteen and teen girls like them, there’s merchandizing, therefore it’s ipso facto non-serious music and can safely be dismissed out of hand–even when the band in question is, by any measure, extraordinarily good.  People seem to have a real problem with the idea of women as knowledgeable, even expert, participants in culture–I’m reminded of Geek Feminism’s search for a definition of “hardcore gamer”: the more they pressed gamers, the more the definition seemed to be “not women”.

 

Finally, let’s leave you all with this thought: teenaged girls discovered the Beatles. Huzzah!