The role of serendipity in success - focuses on The Beatles


Senior Member
Jan 2, 2008
Up the clum
Particularly interested about the bit about somebody championing them.

I may have mentioned a few times that I really like Victoria Goddard's work. She was doing OK, building a readership, then Alexandra Rowland, published by came across her books and went "whoo hoo look at this everyone!" on Tor's website. And then Alexandra founded the Hands of the Emperor (HOTE) group on Discord which has a big following.
Interesting subject. In that article, one of the things that Lydia Denworth says was important was "a big local fan base". I don't think that the importance of the Mersey Beat scene at that time can be so easily discounted, just as the 1980 Sheffield Electronic Pop scene or the 1990 Manchester Brit Pop scene cannot either to the bands that came out of those. When I was in Liverpool recently, I took the Beatles Bus Tour and the guide put most of the success of The Beatles (apart from their talent) down to the Mersey Beat and to the local tradition for folk/sea shanty types of songs that told stories about people. He contrasted The Beatles, not with the Kinks, but with another popular band from the period, also of four guys, that he said came from Dartford. (I didn't point out to him that Bill Wyman came from Penge, because it didn't really alter his argument.)

There is a lot of "being in the right place at the right time" that occurs throughout life - meeting friends, meeting partners, getting hired for a job, business opportunities - or even being the wrong place at the wrong time too - death or serious accidents. I think everyone recognises these cases of serendipity in their own lives, so it isn't a startling discovery. I've even found it in my study of Family History too, where some particular event was absolutely crucial to the relocation of my ancestors. If that event had never occurred then I wouldn't exist because ancestors would never have been in the right place at the right time.

The more interesting part of this idea of serendipity is where it conflicts with the idea of predestination, or not just that things are predetermined by fate, but where things supposedly cannot be stopped (I'm thinking of time travel stories where the birth of a tyrant is prevented, or some world-changing invention never came, only for them to appear later, the "tin can" simply kicked along the street) because "what will be, will be." So, the question is whether The Beatles would always have been popular, even if it was some years later instead?
Two other things added to their success:
Firstly, playing for eight hours a day in Hamburg made them really good at performing (“Mach Schau!”) and secondly, having already reached the Beatlemania level in the UK, their arrival on US television came just after that nation had been through a couple of months mourning the loss of JFK, and were ready for something new to cheer things up again. Timing.

It would have happened to any popular new talented British band at that time, if they hadn’t gone.
The Kinks were just too late for that.