Dr Martin King
“The images persist: four guys in suits or smart raincoats being chased by hundreds of fans, girls frenzied at their merest glimpse, sloping bobbies-arms linked, teeth gritted, straining to hold back the throng.” Mark Lewisohn’s (2002) evocative description of one of the key images of the 1960s helps to focus attention on the phenomenon that was Beatlemania. Beatlemania remains, this paper will argue, the celebrity yardstick: an alliance between fans, the media and a cultural phenomenon unlike any other in UK pop history. The paper will argue that it is through Beatlemania that The Beatles were established as a global entity and that all that followed - their transgression of traditional expectations about the role of the male pop star, their role as men of ideas, their impact on the cultural landscape of the 1960s and their symbiotic relationship with the decade-stems from this. The paper will explore the nature of Beatlemania in an attempt to explain why it remains the ultimate expression of celebrity. This includes discussion of the relationship between the Beatles and their fans, their appeal in terms of gender fluidity, early song lyrics as a form of communication with fans, the influence of 1960s’ girl groups and manager and mentor Brian Epstein’s role in creating a fan-friendly “product”. The paper will use examples from the Beatles’ first feature film A Hard Day’s Night (1964) as a text through which to read both the joys and trappings of quasi-religious fan worship.