How the Beatles Changed a Generation

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Ali GreerResearch PaperHST 367
How One Band Changed a Generation
    The 1960’s is a decade remembered for its counterculture, social revolution and an emergence of a new kind of popular culture. If you asked me what my first thoughts were when I hear the decade 1960s, I automatically think about the Beatles. Has a decade ever had such a defining musical group that represents not only a shift to more rebellious music such as Rock n Roll, but an influence so great that they are still talked about to this day? The Beatles not only changed music but they affected culture in ways that had not been challenged by a musical group before. I asked my mom what she remembers about the Beatles. She was only 6 when they performed on the Ed Sullivan Show but she still remembers. She said that, “The Beatles didn’t define a generation, they created one”.     The first way that the Beatles challenged everyday popular culture was that the fact that they were British. Before the Beatles traveled across “the pond”, the U.S. had been a tough break for aspiring British pop groups. The Beatles wanted to teach the world that pop music could be intelligent and that British groups could do that just as well as American music groups. Some could argue that the Beatles did not start a phenomenon, they somehow perfected the cultural significance of 1950’s musicians before them like Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Before settling with their signature rock sound, The Beatles started in the Skiffle genre, a type of music with jazz, blues and roots influences. By 1960, Lennon wanted to move away from Skiffle to more of a Rock n Roll sound. Lennon and McCartney perfected their writing skills and relied less and less on on outside material. This was a groundbreaking ideal in the music industry and it had a lasting impact on culture. It urged other big name music acts such as the Rolling Stones to start writing their own music. Lennon and McCartney would eventually become one of the most famous songwriting partnerships in music history.     The Beatles first appeared on American television on February 9, 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show. 40 % of the country, about 73 million viewers tuned in to see Paul, John, George and Ringo perform for the first time in America. This is still considered one of the most important moments in television history. Now one may ask, how did so many people know about this little band from Britain? The record I Want to Hold Your Hand was leaked in advance to American radio stations. The record label could not prevent DJs from the playing the record therefore the album was officially released on December 26, 1963. 250,000 copies were sold in the first three days of its release. It’s unclear who actually leaked the record beforehand, but this publicity stunt was hugely successful for the Beatles. Mobs of people were waiting for the Beatles when they arrived at JFK airport. When asked how did you find America, Ringo Starr jokingly said “Turn left at Greenland.” The media took to covering this frenzy as best as it could. Newsweek printed an article on February 24 ,1963 reviewing the Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The last paragraph ended with this, “the odds are they will fade away, as most adults confidently predict.” No one could predict the upcoming effects that the Beatles would have on American culture. The Beatles had arrived in America during a confusing time. President Kennedy had been assassinated just a few months prior, the threat of a war in Vietnam was eminent and Americans needed something new. And the Beatles were just what they needed. They rejuvenated pop music for Americans. They were seen as modern and sleek. “Beatlemania was so strong because the times and the youth of America were simpler and more naïve.” This simplicity of society would play a big role in the Beatles influence on culture because it would allow them to change their style so freely without doubt from the nation. Society would accept...
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