MM & Beatles (I): “Perfect McLuhanites”

“With their uncanny clone-like similarity and by all talking chattily at once, the Beatles introduced to the cultural lexicon several key Sixties motifs in one go: ‘mass’-ness, ‘working-class’ informality, cheery street scepticism, and — most challenging to the status quo — a simultaneity which subverted conventions of precedence in every way. Briefly a buzzword among Parisian poets and Cubists before 1914, simultaneity was revived in the early Sixties by Marshall McLuhan in texts hailing society’s liberation from they ‘tyranny’ of print by electronic media (of which the most dominant was, and is, television). Deploring linear thought and fixed points of view, which he saw as sources of conflict and tension in the Western mind, McLuhan welcomed the chaotic ‘flow of media simultaneity, communal exchange, and amplified sensory experience. Little read today, he was a prophet of modern fragmentation — of multichannel TV, multiculturalism, multipolar politics, polymorphous sexuality, and the extreme critical relativism of Deconstruction. In their characters, both collective and individual, the Beatles were perfect McLuhanites. More importantly, their work showed them to be prophets on their own terms: pioneers of a new ‘simultaneous’ popular art.”
Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles Records and the Sixties, 1994

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