The Beatles and the Long ‘68: JCU Welcomes Ferdinando Fasce

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Professor Ferdinando Fasce

Professor Ferdinando Fasce

The JCU Department of Communications welcomed Professor Ferdinando Fasce for a lecture entitled “Before ‘Revolution:’ The Beatles and the Long ‘68” on March 26.

A former professor of Contemporary History at the University of Genoa, Fasce has been a recipient of the Organization of American Historians Foreign-Language Book Prize and the CLR James Prize of the Working-Class Studies Association. His publications include An American FamilyThe Great War and Corporate Culture in America (Ohio State University Press, 2002); Le anime del commercio. Pubblicità e consumi nel secolo americano (Carocci, 2012) and La musica nel tempo. Una storia dei Beatles (Einaudi, 2018).

Fasce explained the importance that the Beatles had on music then and today. He began the lecture by narrating the band’s development, and how at the time, bands like the Beatles were usually only relevant for a few months. By writing and interpreting their own songs, and not only covering hits by other artists, the Beatles introduced a new approach to pop music, causing the record industry to change dramatically.

On February 9, 1964, with their performance on the popular Ed Sullivan show, Beatlemania was officially launched. After their appearance on the show, in what was actually their American debut, the number of fans grew enormously and sky-rocketed the band to worldwide fame. From that moment on, the Beatles were welcomed at all their events by a massive screaming frenzy of fans. The screaming was so loud that at times, the audience couldn’t even hear the music.

As the Beatles grew, so did the music industry around them. In fact, it hadn’t been since Elvis Presley that there had been such commotion around a musical act. However, while Elvis’ audience was predominantly female, the Beatles’ screaming audiences included both males and females. Tired of the exhausting tours, in 1966 they decided to stop performing live and concentrated on studio recording, thus paving the way to their late masterpieces such as the seminal LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band, which was in part played and explained by Prof. Fasce.

In his latest book, La musica nel tempo. Una storia dei Beatles, Professor Fasce goes deep in analyzing the cultural impact that the Beatles have had on the world, especially during the period known as the “Long ’68.” This term refers to the decade of the Seventies, which put into effect many of the ideas of revolt and revolution associated with 1968. His approach integrates the social, economic and cultural conditions of the time, with more specific analyses of technology, the media, gender, subcultures, and gossip in order to explain the most powerful and global pop culture phenomenon of the Sixties.

Professor Fasce illustrated the different ways in which the Beatles called attention to certain historic events that were taking place at the time, like the Cold War and the Vietnam War. How do the Beatles, the most popular band of the era, fit into this picture? Based on a critical examination of the controversial lyrics of their song “Revolution,” they have long been dismissed as “unpolitical” and “uncommitted.” Yet, a cultural history approach suggests otherwise. Through an in-depth look into the concrete practices of production and consumption of their music, a much more complex and nuanced image emerges, one that extends their influence outside the mere music fandom, to hit the very core of pop culture, and one that sheds new light on the larger question of music in the “long ’68.”