LocalLit book review: ‘Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and the 1960s’

Joliet Junior College professor examines the impact of The Beatles against the backdrop of Chicago

Most of the books and related material I’ve read about The Beatles are biographical in scope, and I haven’t read one in quite a few years.

As I slowly read “Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and the 1960s” by Joliet Junior College history professor, John F. Lyons, I’m learning more about how The Beatles impacted music history and culture overall, as well as how their influence impacted Chicago. So it’s a bit of a different read for me, more like learning how The Beatles transformed society rather than gaining insights into the details of the artists’ lives.

The book’s description said opposition to The Beatles was “more widespread and deeper rooted in Chicago than in any other major American city” and this opposition deepened as The Beatles became more countercultural in their views, and Lyons examines how that unfolds.

Some fun, peculiar-to-Chicago details are also hinted in the book’s description: “the unyielding figure of Mayor Richard J. Daley who deemed the Beatles a threat to the well-being of his city; the Chicago Tribune editor who first warned the nation about the Beatle menace; George Harrison’s sister, Louise, who became a regular presence on Chicago radio; the socialist revolutionary who staged all of the Beatles’ concerts in the city and used much of the profits from the shows to fund left-wing causes; the African American girl who braved an intimidating environment to see the Beatles in concert; a fan club founder who disbelievingly found herself occupying a room opposite her heroes when they stayed at her father’s hotel; the University of Chicago medical student who spent his summer vacation playing in a group that opened for the Beatles on their last tour; and the suburban record store owner who opened a teen club modeled on the Cavern in Liverpool that hosted some of the biggest bands in the world.”

But what especially makes Lyons’ book an enjoyable read for me are the comments and experiences from other Joliet residents, which bring the phenomenon of The Beatles particularly close.

One teen won a long-distance phone call from The Beatles in 1965. Someone I’ve interviewed was present at the 1965 concert at Chicago’s former International Amphitheatre. Others discussed The Beatles’ effect on their lives.

And, yes, Paul McCartney’s iconic stop at the Joliet Area Historical Museum is given a few paragraphs, too.

For insight into the book, read this Q&A with the author.

Buy “Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and the 1960s” on Amazon.

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