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Interview: Dr. Candy Leonard on how Beatlemania changed everyone's lives

Candy Leonard, author of "Beatleness."
Candy Leonard, author of "Beatleness."
Courtesy Candy Leonard

Introduction: Candy Leonard is the author of a forthcoming book “Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World," a scholarly analysis of the Beatlemania phenomenon. The book discusses “what it was like to grow up with the Beatles and shows the impact of 'beatleness' as an ever-evolving stimulant in young lives," according to an official description. Leonard is a first-generation Beatle fan with a Ph.D in Sociology. “Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World” will be published by Skyhorse/Arcade Publishing in August.

Q: How did all the Beatlemania craziness in 1964 lay the groundwork for what happened later?
Candy Leonard: “What the press called 'Beatlemania' was, for millions of fans, the start a personal and intimate lifelong relationship with the Beatles. Everything about them gave young people the impression that the Beatles were on their side, and so it was a relationship built on trust from the very beginning. In early April of 1964, fans were in a Beatles echo chamber, total immersion in the five songs - 'Can't Buy Me Love,' 'Twist and Shout,' 'She Loves You,' 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' and 'Please Please Me' - occupying the top five slots. These early hits are often considered simplistic relative to the Beatles whole body of work, but to the children listening, some as young as four and five, who with the arrival of the Beatles, had just discovered pop music and top 40 radio, each of these two or three minute bouncy bursts of energy was a little story about how the world of big kids and teenagers works. How thrilling is that to a kid brother or sister to suddenly have this really important thing in common with the big kids — and with the rest of the culture that was going crazy over them. The Beatles gave them that special feeling, along with the infectious music.

“To young teenagers who were feeling the first twinges of young love, or those a little older and in the dating world, those songs provided a model of how sensitive, intelligent young men think about and relate to women. And teenagers who were already into music could hear that this was a different sound.

"So only two months into the six year journey, the Beatles were already giving fans an extraordinary experience that felt like a necessity. The incessant exposure to these five early songs, and the new range of positive emotions and new ideas they elicited deepened the trust fans had in them. And of course this deepening trust and engagement continued throughout the six year journey.”

Q: Could what happened in 1964 conceivably happen to any other band -- or did it?
Candy Leonard: “It can’t happen again because it was the result of a unique confluence of forces —demographics, new communications technologies, a strong economy, and a lot of cultural cognitive dissonance left over from the Kennedy era. And, of course, the brilliance of the music and the brilliance of their charisma. The scale of the fan base, the scale of their megaphone, and the scale of their artistry were key.”

Q: Who was the real genius behind the Beatles' rise -- the Beatles themselves or Brian Epstein?
Dr. Candy Leonard: “They were all geniuses, and so when they came together to achieve a common goal – to be bigger than Elvis – their genius was even greater than the sum of the parts. I think the case can be made, 'no Brian, no Beatles,' or at least not as we knew them. The whole Beatle machine was a brilliant operation, relatively unsophisticated young people having to figure out strategies and logistics previously only required for large corporations and heads of state. But the demand was there because they had the goods. Certainly clever marketing was — and continues to be — a big part of it, but it would be wrong to say it was all hype. It wouldn't have happened if they weren’t offering something so delicious and nutritious, that quickly became vital to millions of young people across the world.”

Q: How does your book look at the Beatles' success?
Dr. Candy Leonard: “My book 'Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World' is a cultural analysis of the Beatle phenomenon from the perspective of first-generation fans of different ages and genders. It’s based on hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with fans, and shows how the Beatles became a unique source of emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual nurturance in the lives of millions of children and adolescents, and created a relationship that was historically unique. I look at that relationship against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, political assassinations, and the other events of those turbulent years — and show how the interplay between the Beatles, the fans, and the culture, did, in fact, 'change everything.' It puts the reader right there to watch the Beatles and 'the sixties' unfold. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com and will be published in August.

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