What These Shocking Early Reviews of The Beatles Reveal

The Beatles are hailed as the greatest band of all time. To this day, the group’s music has transcended the times and inspired every generation of music since the 1960s. However, early reviews of The Beatles reveal that the group was not always beloved by critics.

The Beatles
The Beatles original 1964 “Quiz Book” | Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Early reviews of The Beatles were mixed

Regarded as the most influential group of all time, The Beatles won countless awards during their career and after their break-up. While The Beatles reached critical acclaim, the group did not receive it immediately. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times compiled early reviews from when The Beatles first traveled to the U.S.

“With their bizarre shrubbery, the Beatles are obviously a press agent’s dream combo. Not even their mothers would claim that they sing well,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1964.

In 1964, The Boston Globe wrote, “The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music…”

The reviews focused on women and teenagers being fans of The Beatles

In the review compilation, many of the reviews focused on the fact that The Beatles’ fan base was made up of teenagers and young women.

“The Beatles follow a line of glamorous figures who aroused passionate cries and deep swoons. Most prominent in the 1940s was Frank Sinatra and in the 1950s Elvis Presley. Their glory passed when they got too old to be teenagers’ idols or when teenagers got too old to need them,” Science Newsletter wrote.

“And teenagers, go ahead and enjoy your Beatlemania. It won’t be fatal and will give you a lot of laughs a few years hence when you find one of their old records or come across a picture of Ringo in a crew cut,” wrote The Boston Globe.

The Nation wrote, “The reaction at Carnegie Hall was not a real response to a real stimulus…. The full house was made up largely of upper-middle-class young ladies, stylishly dressed, carefully made up, brought into town by private cars or suburban buses for their night to howl, to let go, scream, bump, twist and clutch themselves ecstatically out there in the floodlights for everyone to see and with the full blessings of all authority…”

Women liking the group is oftentimes ignored

Based on these reviews, it seems that at The Beatles’ beginning, they were considered a fad critics thought would pass. This was primarily because their fan base mainly consisted of young women.

There is no cut and dry definition of what constitutes a boy band. However, the term is typically assigned to groups whose fan base is made up of teenage girls. Because historically, women’s taste in music is looked down upon while men’s opinions are heralded. At some point with The Beatles, men decided the group was important and culturally relevant.

“One clue is found in the fact that people stop calling the Beatles a boy band after they started writing songs that were more musically complex, stopped touring in arenas full of screaming young women, and started being ‘cool’ for men to listen to. But this is all a bit arbitrary, isn’t it? I’m sorry adult men who use liking the Beatles as some barometer of coolness, but it was the same four ‘boys’ who recorded ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ that recorded ‘Revolution 9,'” wrote Heidi Samuelson in Medium.

Harry Styles defended women’s opinions

In Varsity, Sarah Wilson wrote that her love and appreciation of The Beatles is often looked down upon by men.

“It became slowly clear to me that my avid interest in the Beatles was being treated with the same degree of suspicion directed at young women wearing band T-shirts; the assumption being that they don’t know the band, or that even if they do, they aren’t appreciating them properly,” she wrote.

Styles, a member of One Direction, defended young women’s taste in music in a 2017 interview with Rolling Stones.

“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music — short for popular, right? — have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts,” Styles told Rolling Stone.

He continued, “Young girls like The Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.”