Ed Driscoll

Instant History

Betsy Newmark links to this fascinating blog featuring individual posts devoted to analyzing historic Time and Newsweek covers and highlighting the content inside. You can learn a lot about the transformation of modern liberalism, and how it impacted journalism, by going back into the past and reading how magazines like Time and Newsweek, and newspapers such as the New York Times viewed the world, versus their current slant.

And you can learn much about society at large. Perhaps the most interesting cover that the blog studies is this one, Newsweek’s look at the Beatles’ invasion of America in 1964. Like most adults who came of age in the Depression and World War II, my father, who grew up in a musical universe built around big bands, Bing Crosby, and Nat “King” Cole would have probably concurred instantly with Newsweek’s initial take:

“Visually they are a nightmare: tight, dandified, Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near-disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony, and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah!”) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments.”

Even a fellow product of the British Invasion of the 1960s would say that year, “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!”

How such comments appear in retrospect (both 007’s and Newsweek’s) show how much pop culture has changed–and how much the Beatles changed it–although as David Frum noted, the decade that most transformed America would the one that followed their break-up.