An Evolution of Fan Armies -- From Beatlemaniacs to Swifties

GAB Archive/Redferns
Beatles fans in the 1960s

They swooned. They squealed. They pledged their true love forever. Directioners aren’t the first to turn artist devotion into a hyperventilating spectacle -- and they won't be the last.

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Lisztomania

The piano playing of 19th-century Hungarian composer Franz Liszt inspired a reaction that poet Heinrich Heine described as “true madness,” anticipating nearly two centuries of fandom.

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Bobby-Soxers

Named for the rolled-down hosiery they matched with saddle shoes and skirts, these teen girls were pop music’s first real fan army, swooning and fainting over Frank Sinatra during World War II.

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Beatlemaniacs

Can fans love a group too much for its own good? In 1966, The Beatles quit touring partly because their performance couldn’t be heard over the crowd’s frenzied screams.

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Deadheads

The free-spirit culture of tie-dye and tape trading has outlived the jam band that spawned it: 60,000 fans mailed handmade ticket requests to the Grateful Dead’s early-July reunion shows.

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Kiss Army

Founded in 1975 by two kids who pressured an Indiana radio station to play their favorite band, Kiss’ official fan club went on to become a card-carrying rock’n’roll institution.

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Menuditis

New York mayor Ed Koch was so impressed with the zeal of Menudo’s faithful that he declared the Latin boy band “bigger than The Beatles” when it sold out Radio City Music Hall in 1983.

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Juggalos

Insane Clown Posse’s intensely loyal following of face-painted nonconformists is the only fan army to maintain its own professional wrestling league -- or to be classified as a gang by the FBI.

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Little Monsters

Lady Gaga’s admirers originally referred to themselves as the Gagarazzi, but their “Mother Monster” soon rechristened them and tattooed their new name on her right arm.

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Swifties

Taylor Swift wants her fans to feel like friends: She invited them to her apartment for a preview of 1989, then consulted their Tumblrs for the set list for her subsequent tour.

This story originally appeared in the July 25 issue of Billboard.