2 - The Beatles and Globalization
2 - The Beatles and Globalization
Leaving their influence on popular music aside, the cultural aspects that The Beatles were credited as having influenced include films, hair styles, pop art, fashion, conceiving popular music as an art form, and the introduction of eastern philosophy into western society.
These subjects can be analyzed and studied. What is more difficult to determine is The Beatles’ metaphysical relationship with the rest of the world.
For instance, the Beatlemania phenomenon of teenage girls screaming hysterically was unique. More than any other symbol, this powerful image stuck in our collective minds over the decades. It served to focus global attention on them – the first clear act of “globalization.”
How did it manifest? What actually was it that caused those teenage females to scream uncontrollably? Why did it not have the same affect on teenage males? Then, almost as quick as it began, it was over. If it started for a reason – one has to assume there was one – why did it not continue?
Professor Ian Marshall of Penn State University believes Beatlemania personified the struggle to assert the individual self within the context of a community. Early on, The Beatles’ individual selves were merged by their community – that community consisting of the band itself and the massive culture of Beatlemania that threatened to devour them whole. Only when Beatlemania died down, were they allowed to become individuals.
It is interesting to note how the moment they became famous –The Beatles could no longer interact with the public. Before Beatlemania they had an incredible rapport with the audience and connected very well with them. As soon as they became famous they had to isolate themselves from the world – musically – and in their very physical being. As the generations go by they are still absorbed into the global mind of the entire world.
How The Beatles “connected” with the world
The Beatles were the first “global phenomenon.” For them the world was already a global village ready to be conquered – decades before the word “globalization” was coined.
For a group that was very much secluded from the general public, there is an extraordinary number of stills and images of them. They never seem to look the same in any two pictures. The photos of them– in addition to the music – is the only thing the public could grasp. The photos served to “globalize” them.
But why? What made them so special?
They are a peculiar entity. They are one – and many. They are both plural and singular. They are in our historical memory – but also very much here in the present.
Professor Michael Weis of Illinois Wesleyan University says that without the success of marketing themselves to a broad market – not just young people – their ability to impact globally would have been limited.
It could be argued that their cultural contributions – on a global basis – were even more important than the music.
Weis says that The Beatles shaped people’s identities and influenced their actions. For instance, playing American music, speaking English and epitomizing the American dream, they made it easier for Americans to accept European culture.
“What is ironic is that they were able to sell America with the help of the still functioning infrastructure of the Commonwealth and lingering respect for the British Empire (as much as by television and film). They were instrumental in creating a global youth culture. Their music created a bond between diverse peoples. Fans, whose lives could not have been more different, became members of the global
Beatle community that connected them not only through styles of dress and music, but also by the new set of values they embraced.”
Weis says that when The Beatles recorded All You Need is Love in June 1967 for the “Our World” program, they were acting as midwives in the birth of the very concept of globalization. In their musical influences, world views, and even spirituality, they were some of the first “multiculturalists”.
“They embodied all the dominant themes of the 1960s: youth, optimism, experimentation, smashing through barriers and liberation. They were also warriors fighting the first battles between Modernism and Postmodernism – a battle that still rages today. When Lennon sang Revolution he angered those in the Leftist movement, but he was also expressing the end of the modern world – a world dominated by objectivity, science, the corporation, the nation-state, and the mechanization and institutional religion and the birth of a New Frontier. Something beyond modernity – beyond the rational.”
The Beatles and our global memory
Just how “connected” The Beatles were to us is reflected in how we’ve reserved a place for them in our global, collective memory.
This was measured by a study sponsored by The British Association for the Advancement of Science which conducted the largest ever international online survey by asking people to blog their memories of The Beatles. The goal was to create the world’s largest database of autobiographical memories using The Beatles as a focal point.
University of Leeds psychologists Professor Martin Conway and Dr. Cartiona Morrison initiated the survey; they used the role The Beatles and their music played in our personal histories to measure and better understand the workings of human memory on a global basis.
Three thousand people between the ages of 17 and 87 in 70 countries were surveyed. The majority of respondents were between the ages of 55 and 65, who would have been teenagers during The Beatles heydays in the 1960s. Participants were asked to blog the most vivid memory that came to mind relating to a Beatles album, song, news story or band member.
As the researchers assumed, the majority of memories related to the teenage years of people’s lives, which demonstrates what is called “a classic reminiscence bump.” The bump occurs slightly earlier in the lifespan than for autobiographical memories, suggesting that music, or at least The Beatles’ music, is important in the storage of particularly early memories.
Besides the devastating murder of John Lennon, memories were overwhelmingly positive. This demonstrated that memory and emotion are linked, as well as showing positive emotions are the ones primarily associated with shaping memory.
An interesting aspect of the study is that there were relatively minor differences between nationalities in terms of the moods, feelings, scenes and situations they projected. More than anything, this demonstrates to what level The Beatles had global influence as cultural icons.
Dr Morrison concludes: “It is important to note how vividly people could recall memories sometimes from more than 40 years ago, especially when many eloquent and vivid memories appear to have been little recalled in decades. This shows the power of music in shaping and reliving sometimes long-neglected memories. What interested us were the levels of emotionality in the uploaded memories. For instance, in particular, we suspected that women have more emotional memories but the data didn’t bear this out. We suspect this may represent the universality of The Beatles as a force in people’s lives.”