The Beatles: Image and the Media

April 12, 2012

Whenever one mentions The Beatles, potentially the best known musical act of all time, the name conjures images of mop-topped teen icons surrounded by scores of admirers engaged in fainting, screaming, and all manner of histrionics. Their music spoke to a generation and their good looks earned them an army of adoring female fans. Not only were they legends in their own time, but their music has continued to resonate with generation after generation of listeners. But what made this group so special and led to their meteoric ascent to international fame? In his audio book, “The Beatles: Image and Media”, Michael R. Frontani (associate professor of communications at Elon University) attempts to uncover the unique trajectory that brought The Beatles to the forefront of American (and international) pop culture and took them from mere teen heartthrobs to the voice of a generation.

There is an obvious appeal here for fans of The Beatles, which is to say nearly everyone. And although all manner of biopics and biographies have been released concerning this famous group of idols who could be considered the very first “boy band”, Frontani takes a unique approach by using the American media of the time (print, broadcast, and so on) to pinpoint how the changing cultural influences of the sixties converged to create an atmosphere rife with opportunity for a band such as The Beatles. But was it just timing that led to their rapid rise to fame?

In truth, The Beatles probably would not have been as popular in any other decade. But because they were able to adapt to the changing culture much as the teens of the time did, incorporating the trends and sentiments of that era into their act, they became as much a part of the counterculture as long hair, beaded necklaces, peace symbols, and a growing urge to fight the establishment and question a government that seemed hell-bent on sending the youth of America to the front lines in what would arguably become the most unpopular war ever waged.

Insomuch as The Beatles took America by storm, they were also transformed by a country full of opportunity and optimism. They not only adopted the look of American counterculture, experimenting with all manner of clothing, music, and drugs in their quest for understanding; they also used their position to comment on the events of the time, speaking through both the media and their music on relevant subjects like civil rights and the Vietnam War. In short, they not only joined the topical conversations of the time, they steered them.

Frontani describes the relationship between The Beatles and America as “the twentieth century’s greatest romance” and he may not be far off. Without resorting to chapter summaries, let’s just say that this audio book covers all the main events that took the Fab Four from neatly turned-out British teens to activist adults of the American mainstream. But there’s so much more to this narrative than a simple history lesson. Frontani deftly weaves a story of a culture that was ready for change and a band that participated in and drove that metamorphosis. For lovers of The Beatles, this audio book is a must-listen. For everyone else, it’s an excuse to start a love affair with the greatest (or at least most influential) band of the last century.

Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for where you can find a huge selection of summaries on books across all genres.

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