Monday, April 20, 2009

THREE QUICK THOUGHTS/DO THEY MEAN ANYTHING?

1. Any one but me ever notice that in the 1940s during the peak in Frank Sinatra’s first great wave of popularity when his audiences were mostly teenage girls (the famous “bobbysoxers”), the girls would swoon in their seats while Frankie crooned and then erupt in screams after he finished a song.

2. In the 1950s, during Elvis Presely’s first great wave of fame and influence, the teenage girls that made up most of his audiences would react to every curl of his lip, every lift of a shoulder or thrust of a hip with screams, and then subside until he made another move, so that for the most part, they could still hear the song, just with these slight interruptions of sporadic screaming.

3. In the 1960s, when the Beatles took the world by storm, their audiences too were composed of mostly teenage girls who would begin screaming the minute the fab four took the stage and not stop until they’d left, making it impossible not only for the audience—the girls themselves—to hear what the Beatles might be singing, but even for the four lads to hear themselves, which led to their stopping performing in public.

9 comments:

douglang said...

Michael, I believe that what your thoughts mean is that Frank and Elvis and The Beatles were all part of a process of feminization in our culture, and that teenage girls caught on to this right away at every stage.

Lally said...

Doug, That's one perspective that's actually been touted by some historians. The aspect I'm interested in is that somehow the connection to the actual music diminished and to the physicality, not just presence, but actual being of the singers became paramount. I love the music of all these guys, but was initially put off by the reality of their audiences being mostly young girls (my older sisters in Frankie's case, my contemporaries in Elvis's and the teenyboppers emerging in the wake of my generation in the third. I didn't want to be identified as "feminized" but I couldn't resist the originality of the musical performances, the innovation and influence, as well as the uniqueness of their individual interpretations of the popular traditions. Plus the transformation of popular culture into something transmitted to something something received to something experienced almost despite the actual artistry. Anyway, something like that.

-K- said...

It might also have something to do with the rise of recorded music. As it became more accessible at home, it became less important to hear it each and every note in person. Consequently, the live performance evolved into something more immediate, something that could not be had from the recording itself.

In other words, technology strikes again.

Lally said...

Another valid point. Feminization, technology, and cultural transformation from Appollonian to Dionysian (I know I spelled those wrong but you get the idea).

John M. Lally said...

With Sinatra and to some extent with Elvis, I suspect that their own promotional people had something to do with screaming girls. "Fan" is a shortened form of "fanatic", and there is an industry devoted to making rational people into obsessed screaming lunatics.
With the Beatles, I think the female fans were socialized to behave that way by the behavior of the Elvis fans.

Toby said...

Technology is the key, particularly television. Ed Sullivan's and Tommy Dorsey's audiences screamed at Elvis intermittantly, because the medium was new and there was respect for the "theater" experience. By 1964 and the Beatles, the culture had become so television-ized that respect for the theater and one's fellow audience members was gone. So one did whatever one would do at home. Same thing goes for movies today, where people talk, eat, belch, break wind, etc.--as if they were home. And at the theater, wear Bermuda shorts and eat box lunches. Television at home has created the mass illusion of privacy in public, where manners don't count. Ditto for cell phones. And automobiles, where the world picks its nose.

Lally said...

You nailed it Toby. Definitely had a lot to do with that change from "theater" to TV experience.

The Kid said...

Uh, gentlemen, have none of you considered that it had more to do with the relaxation of the rules of behavior for girls and women in our society? Starting with 'Ol Blue Eyes' generation, it was increasingly okay for women to publicly display their lust.

Lally said...

Woops. Good point kid.