Polychronicon 136: Interpreting the Beatles


By Dr Marcus Collins, published 8th December 2009

‘The Beatles were history-makers from the start,' proclaimed the liner notes for the band's first LP in March 1963. It was a bold claim to make on behalf of a beat combo with one charttopping single, but the Beatles' subsequent impact on 1960s culture put their historical importance (if not its meaning) beyond dispute. The notion that they represented the spirit of the sixties was firmly established in the British press by the end of 1963, achieved global acceptance after their conquest of the United States in 1964 and was preserved in perpetuity by the dissolution of the band at the end of the decade.

During the 1960s, the Beatles expressed conflicting views about their place in history. Ringo Starr looked forward to appearing in ‘school history books ... read by kids' in 1967, whereas two years later John Lennon reportedly suggested that ‘history books should be eliminated completely from schools.' On the whole, however, they didn't dwell on such matters while still performing and recording together...

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