I definitely think so; I mean, jazz musicians were sexy and all, but this hysteria as a stand-in for sex was a later concept. Although that didn't start with the Beatles: there's a famous documentary of Paul Anka from ‘61 and the hysteria is exactly like Beatlemania. What's interesting to me is the way that women wanted to rip these people apart; this idea that these artists were terrified of being caught by their fans because it would mean certain death. That's a really weird idea! This mass hysteria, repressed sexuality, etc.
It kind of seems as if pop culture hit some kind of oil spigot glut, accidentally, and it went all out of control, and we've spent the next fifty or sixty years obsessing over it: "How did this happen?" "How can we make it happen again?"
Right! And the Beatles are a great example because when rock and roll started, it was this thing for hustlers and the mafia and it was pure exploitation. A lot of the early rock and roll moguls were just really young guys, or black or female, and it wasn't that fifties corporate structure or anything. But with the Beatles, you saw it go corporate, that was the beginning of the end, in a way. And they started filling stadiums and blah blah blah, and there's this nostalgia for that moment where it began, before it got lame. I mean, even from the beginning there were all these songs about dead stars, basically obsessing about the garden of Eden, when it was "pure", and the fall. And everyone has their own idea of what the fall was; now you talk to people who think that the nineties were a pure moment.
Right! Irony-free, likethat New York Times editorial.
Which New York Times article?
Oh, it was this piece a month or so ago where this writer posited that we are crippled by irony in our modern times, and in the piece she pointed to the '90s as a particularly irony-free decade.
Well, that's a great example of total revisionism. There are a lot of histories coming out now of musical eras that I remember first-hand, and whenever I read these it just reminds me that history is just so completely plastic, because the accounts are always unrecognizable. I mean, the 90s being irony-free, that's a great example. I mean, whatever. Punk rock, for example, is idealistic, or so people think; in reality, it was full of smarmy Touch and Go people, that whole perverse contrary mean-spirited thing happening. Anyway, whatever. That's funny.
But yeah, yeah, but it's interesting too, a big part of this nostalgia thing is that you can lay it at the feet of the Beatles and the Stones and these people who were talking all the time about their forebears. They were constantly going on about these people, and a big part of it is that if people are dismissing you as fluff, you have to create a context that you come from that feels authentic or legitimate. And for those guys, it was America, and/or black or country people, so they needed to show this genealogy that their music came from. And to their credit, they didn't have string sections or that sort of thing, the sort of things that would legitimize them to non-rock and roll people, so they had to say "Oh, look, Buddy Holly."