I haven’t written anything about my Year in Power Pop lately, so I’m gonna claim this as another entry in that direction.
If you’ve ever spent any time on Twitter, you know that teenyboppers periodically descend on it like locusts, parroting hashtags that declare their fealty to their favorite performer.
(#BeliebersRuleTheInternet is probably my favorite tag; but fans of One Direction, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga and others all swoop down from time to time in gang-like shows of devotion.)
This led me to a thought I’ve had before: If Twitter had been around in 1964, it would have been all Beatles, all the time.
All those chicks who shrieked their way through concerts and flooded request lines in support of the Fab Four would have done the exact same on social media. And the people who hated the Beatles passionately back then — mostly boys — would have responded in kind.
Which led me to a new and different thought: How would Beatlemania have been different had there been social media?
I’ve always believed that distance breeds obsession.
When you don’t really know what the object of your affections does all day, you fill that gap in knowledge with an imaginary narrative that suits you and fuels your desire.
But when you’ve actually seen the person with toothpaste all over their face, or seen them trip on a perfectly flat sidewalk, you know they’re human just like you, and their grip on your emotions weakens.
(Plus, the more you see of them, the more chance you have of being exposed to something about them that conflicts with your interests: “Yuck. He smokes? Cigarettes are gross. I don’t wanna kiss anybody who smells like an ashtray.”)
Imagine, then, if the young Paul McCartney had been able to favor his fans with Instagrams of his morning scone, or selfies of himself shaving, or candid pix of himself with his arm around Keith Relf in some London nightspot.
Would that have fueled the fire of Beatlemania, or deflated it? Presented on a regular basis, I think it would have deflated it.
Not completely, of course; there would still have been shrieking and mob scenes, just as there would still have been great music. But I think it would have removed the wilder edges of Beatlemania by making the Fab Four more human in the eyes of their admirers.
And we haven’t even touched on the real wild card:
Imagine a Twitter account in the undisciplined, opinionated hands of John “Fookin'” Lennon. Just the idea of that is enough to give Brian Epstein a posthumous coronary.
Let’s just say that the Beatles wouldn’t have lasted long enough to get bigger than Jesus if Lennon had had a direct line to his fans any time he wanted one.