In 1964 The Beatles took America by storm when they came across the Atlantic to play their British rock music on their first U.S. tour. In doing so, the four young chaps from Liverpool opened the flood gates for many other British musicians and brought about rapid changes in popular youth culture. At the time journalists, along with most everyone else, were torn as to whether The Beatles, with their long hair and teenage aimed music, were just a harmless pop band or a threat to American society. This difference of opinions is reflected in the news stories written in 1964.
The first news article I found entitled “Americans Decide The Beatles Are Harmless” was published in the London Times on February 10, 1964. The article explains the highly built up image of The Beatles and goes on to state that once Americans “had satisfied their highly stimulated curiosities about these four remarkable young men,” the feeling was “one of relief”. The band had basically been given a bad reputation, to the point that Americans were outraged about them without having ever seen them play. Fears were also heightened because in 1964 the last major teen occurred with Elvis. When another craze was finally adopted by teenagers; its results would be “uncontrollable.” Once The Beatles were televised from “coast to coast” in America, people dispelled rumors. The article quotes a New York critic saying, “We can put away our spray guns. The Beatles are harmless.” Another quote from the Washington Post explains that “The Beatles are not such bad chaps after all. They behaved in a more civilized manner than most of our own rock-and-roll heroes.” An interesting point in the article links The Beatles to better British-American understanding. The author believed that the band had opened Americans eyes to the merits of foreign nations. After the long and arduous cold war, perhaps Americans had lost touch with the outside world and the Beatles were remedying this. The author even ends this point by proposing that, in bringing this new understanding, The Beatles may perhaps help America’s problem with Cuba.
The second article I found seems cynical, even bitter about the arrival of the Beatles in America. It is entitled “After Beatles Came the Deluge,” and appeared in the Los Angeles Times on December 6, 1964. The article basically addresses the British Invasion before it was called that. In winning over adults and disarming critics, The Beatles opened “the door for all their hairy mates back home. The blokes are entering the door by the dozen now.” The author’s use of British slang serves to belittle the bands, making them sound silly. The term “hairy” refers to their longer hairstyles of the Beatles and others which many American teenagers were already emulating at the time, as “suddenly, almost anything British was desirable to American teen-agers.” The article goes on to describe one of the bands that followed The Beatles into America, The Rolling Stones. “The Stones are not handsome or even cute. One of them looks like a chimpanzee. Two look like very ugly Radcliffe girls. One resembles the encyclopedia drawings of pithecanthropus erectus.” The irony is that this obviously unsavory description of The Stones probably did more to heighten their popularity than to belittle them, as they were publicized to be the ugly antithesis of the Beatles. The article ends by assuring the American public that rock and roll is not taking over the music industry by summoning record sales of the year. The author points out that Sinatra and big band record sales were equal to that of “teen beat” groups like The Beatles and The Stones. What the author fails to realize, however, is that the popularity of these rock bands had only just begun earlier that year and would rise steadily for the rest of the sixties while also reforming teen culture into the “adversary culture” by 1965.
These two articles are composed very differently and leave the reader with different meanings. Firstly, the London article quotes many American papers and makes the point that the Beatles had been accepted fully in America. Perhaps in showing a few examples where American papers had accepted the Beatles the author felt he had enough to make Londoners believe that this was really the case. The second article, however, shows that The Beatles were still met with much resistance, and would be for much of their careers. Secondly, it is clear in reading these two stories that the London article championed the Beatles while the Los Angeles article reviled them. This discrepancy of ideas represents a change in journalism that occurred in the sixties. More and more people were becoming disheartened with the government. Just “getting the facts” or the official story was not enough to hold people over anymore. “…objectivity in journalism, came to be looked on as the most insidious bias of all. For objectivity reproduced a vision of social reality which refused to examine the basic structures of power and privilege.” A shift toward more interpretive journalism was occurring. As a result, we get two articles that leave the reader with exact opposite interpretations of The Beatles in America.