The Beatles: Image and the Media
Michael R. Frontani
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Buy *The Beatles: Image and the Media* by Michael R. Frontani online

The Beatles: Image and the Media
Michael R. Frontani
University Press of Mississippi
286 pages
March 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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This is a well-researched and finely-written book about The Beatles and the image they created - or, more accurately, was created for them. It is doubtful whether the Fab Four ever thought about how important the clothes they wore might be in terms of selling records, or the idea that they shouldn't smoke in front of the press or even mention that they might be married.

That is the premise of this book: how the image affected the media. In his preface, Frontani writes,

"What was it about the Beatles that made them such 'lightning rods' for comment - both positive and negative - ten years after the breakup of the band? These questions (this is an excerpt) form the starting point for my work on this book."
The author continues in chapter one, "The Twentieth Century's Greatest Romance": Imagining the Beatles, by writing,
"The Beatles remain successful nearly four decades after their breakup ... Undoubtedly this can be partly explained by their celebrated songbook. But, surely, other bands and entertainers from the 1960s have well thought-of music catalogs."
Well, yes, but no one else wrote songs like The Beatles. And this is where the hypothesis really falls apart. If John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starkey, had been merely average singers and songwriters, they could have still worn the Beatles suits and the Beatles boots and had the cute haircuts and been hailed as the Fab Four. But their influence and sway would have dissipated instantly. It is all about the music, and that's what sustains everything else: how they were depicted in the mainstream press; how their image evolved; how the image connected cultural and historical processes and events.

The music was everything. It was so brilliant and unique and special, far outdistancing some of the other acts of the day - the Rolling Stones and The Who, The Kinks and the Dave Clark Five - that they could have adopted an image of T-shirt and Hawaiian shorts and they still would have been regarded as icons and cultural shapeshifters.

Certainly, though, the image helped. The manicured and carefully cultivated look made them world-famous. The coiffures and sense of humor, the etiquette and the cinematic portrait captured in their films (A Hard Day's Night and Help!) all added to their immense impact.

This is an interesting book and an in-depth examination of the people behind the headlines. One of the author's assumptions is that "Their image comprised, in part, two seemingly inconsistent qualities: They were exceptional and they were identifiable as 'us'..."

This is true, and we were drawn to that dichotomy. But it was not something the band tried to create or hone; this is simply who they were. All the examination and scrutiny in the world can't come up with any better answer than that.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2009

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