Beatlemania in Yugoslavia


“The most popular boy in my freshman class in high school was a certain Zoran. He was neither especially good-looking nor especially smart. But he had that special ‘something.’ He had long hair. Not really long, just a bit over his ears. It was called ‘bitlsica’ (the Beatles cut) and was modeled, of course, after the four band members of the Beatles. The year was 1964 and it was not a look commonly seen in our country. Teachers did not approve of it because it was considered to be a Western craze; parents did not like it either; and even some of the boys in the class bullied Zoran. I guess they were just jealous that he had the eye of all the girls. Zoran did not care much about what the old people thought, he was playing his electric guitar in a garage band and this was how a guitar player should look. We were all fifteen then. The Beatles look and Beatles music were our thing. We could listen to ‘our’ kind of music on the radio. The radio was a magical source of music at a time when most households did not have a record player, that expensive and cumbersome machine for listening to vinyl. I remember that there was a daily program on Radio Zagreb from noon to one called ‘Listeners’ Choice,’ which we always listened to and that’s where I heard the Beatles for the first time. Or we would listen to the legendary Radio Luxembourg, which used to air the latest hits. Later, starting in 1968, every Monday evening Radio Belgrade devoted its so-called ‘First Program’ to rock ’n’ roll music in Yugoslavia. This new band on the British and world music scene became a way of communicating, of being one with the world, while at the same time it gave us a sense of individualism, of looking different from our parents. It was more than a style of music, it was a style of life. We saw the photos of John, George, Paul, and Ringo in our daily press and on our TV screens. Of course, the phenomenon of a bunch of screaming teenage girls, running after the Beatles wherever they went, was depicted as scandalous and decadent, as the mass hysteria of kids. Perhaps it even was. But such popularity for a band of musicians—Beatlemania, as it was known—was novel to us. We congregated en masse only when we had to—for some state holiday, standing and listening to endless speeches. Or for a soccer match. Big rock concerts had not yet arrived in our neck of the woods. …”
The Paris Review

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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