Years ago I watched a special about the Beatles. In one segment, McCartney explained why the Fab Four stopped doing live concerts. He said they got tired of the screaming fans. There were huge crowds of girls who'd scream through every number. Wall-to-wall screaming. They weren't listening to the music. They couldn't hear the music. Their screaming drowned it out.
At that point the reaction had nothing to do with the music or lyrics. The Beatles could do a Gilbert and Sullivan number for all the difference that would make to their fans. The reaction feed on itself. Screamers imitating other screamers. It's contagious.
Trump mania is eerily like Beatlemania–except Beatlemania was fairly innocuous compared to choosing a president. Trumpkins proudly demonstrate that they are impervious to facts, impervious to their idol's flip-flops. Compare the mindset of Trumpkins to this description of Bealemania, and see the common psychological dynamic:
"The girls were beginning to overwhelm us," remembers Lothian, now 73 and a business consultant…"It was absolute pandemonium. Girls fainting, screaming, wet seats. The whole hall went into some kind of state, almost like collective hypnotism. I'd never seen anything like it."
As Grant says, "Teenage girls are perceived as a mindless horde: one huge, undifferentiated emerging hormone."
The so-called Columbus Day Riot, when thousands of teenage "bobby-soxers" rampaged through Times Square, inspired reporter Bruce Bliven to call it "a phenomenon of mass hysteria that is only seen two or three times in a century. You need to go back not merely to Lindbergh and Valentino to understand it, but to the dance madness that overtook some German villages in the middle ages, or to the Children's Crusade". Again, the behaviour sounds very familiar to the modern reader. One of Sinatra's publicists described how fans "squealed, howled, kissed his pictures with their lipsticked lips and kept him prisoner in his dressing room. It was wild, crazy, completely out of control."
The Beatles Come to Town, a Pathé newsreel recorded in Manchester in November 1963, was practically a how-to video, depicting a sea of howling, tear-stained faces wearing a curious expression best described, by Tom Wolfe, as "rapturous agony", and producing a high, relentless wail, like a hormonal alarm clock.
It was the noise that [the] made most impression on contemporary observers, who called the fans "screamers" and wondered why anyone would want to drown out their favourite band's music. And it was the noise, eventually, that prompted the Beatles to retire from live performance in 1966. "I never felt people came to hear our show," Ringo later grumbled. "I felt they came to see us."
They also came to see one another. Paul Johnson wrote, "The teenager comes not to hear but to participate in a ritual."…"You soaked up energy from the crowd," says Ihle, who attended the band's first Shea Stadium show in 1965. "The screaming never stopped. We could barely hear the music because the sound systems weren't very good back then. There were police everywhere, trying to keep fans from jumping on to the field. It was a happening, to use a word from the time. It was the event itself. It was being there."
"I didn't understand why you had to scream and I didn't have an impulse to scream but it was what you did," says Linda Grant. "It was mandatory. There was this cult-like element to it."
All the fans I spoke to mentioned the sense of solidarity and group identity..."The writer Susan Clerc says the most primal instinct of the fan is to talk to other fans and I think there's something in that. The idea of community and collectivity is important.""It makes you feel like part of something larger," says Ihle. "You're not by yourself.
The scale of Beatlemania caught the band by surprise. When Myers secured her first autograph from Paul in early 1963 he was still in the habit of signing his name "Paul McCartney (The Beatles)", as if an explanation were necessary. Later, she noticed them becoming more defensive. "Paul would say, 'Oh God, not you again,' but he was the best at talking with the fans. John was very unpredictable. You had to be careful with John. But when you're a fan you let them say whatever they want. You were happy he'd talked to you directly, it didn't matter what the words were." She sighs. "How pathetic is that?"