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Rebel Fans: Women and Music Culture in the 1960s


Popular music was integral to the 1960s and to the lives of the many young people who bought records, listened to the radio, went to concerts, joined fan clubs, and forged communities around music. For many young women, music and fandom became terrains of cultural rebellion through the experiences, connection, access to new ideas, and participation in public culture that each provided. When these experiences were lived in public, as they were so visibly at the height of Beatlemania, popular music fandom became a major current in American culture and challenged many gender conventions in families, relationships, dress, behavior, and public spaces. Images of women as fans in the 1960s—from screaming Beatlemaniacs to the ubiquitous “hippie chicks”—are well known in the era’s visual record and the smiling, sometimes frantic, faces of fans and the sound of their screams have been integral to recent commemorations of the decade. While these screams and images are significant, alone they do not reveal the rich stories of connection and meaning that made up sixties music culture and the unique experiences of women’s fandom that were integral to the 1960s. By locating fans as individuals and communities in the folk revival, Beatlemania, and the rock music of the counterculture, this project explores women’s experiences as fans and illustrates the ways in which music and fandom shaped women’s participation in a vibrant music culture and in political culture as well. By taking women’s music fandom seriously as a broad and important cultural impulse, this project explores how it both reflected and shaped many of the decade’s crucial developments and charts connections between music, music fandom, women’s liberation, and the cultural rebellions of the era.

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