Learning…With The Beatles USA

The United States of Andragogy

Whilst Hard Days Night represented the peak of the “pedagogic” phase of the Beatles development, many factors were already in place that would help them move to a more andragogic, or collaborative, phase in their writing and recording. George Martin would shift from taskmaster to facilitator to collaborator (from Yesterday onwards) and the Beatles would shift from producers of Merseybeat hit singles, to learning from their new peers, such as Bob Dylan and David Crosby, to becoming complex album artists.

The key to this was collaboration. They already liked writers to “hang with them” and spend time in their company, both Hard Days Night and Love Me Do, the first book about them, came from this welcoming openness. At the time much was made about who was the “Fifth Beatle“; when they arrived in New York in February 1964 the New York DJ Murray the K created this appellation and claimed the title, and it is an enduring debate with many contenders to be that magical fifth element. Last week we argued that the Beatles critically benefitted from More Able Partners who solved problems for them, like Epstein, or provided support, like Martin. In this andragogic phase, through until Rubber Soul at the end of 1965, the critical developmental factor was the range of “Fifth” Beatles who emerged to stretch and challenge them.

George Martin also went through a sophisticated, and critical, change of role. Whereas “in the early stages there was a certain lack of communication and we had to find common ground to talk about music” they developed “a rapport (where we) could talk to each other,” during this post-Beatlemania phase.

Well a word about Andragogy before we analyse The Beatles andragogic phase. This can be described as a theory addressing “self-directed” learning in post-compulsory education, although not in higher education, where learners increasingly take responsibility for their decisions. Knowles describes it as a shift from taught to self-directed education being typical of college and community learning processes. Knowles identifies four principles; “learners” should be involved with planning activities facilitated by “teachers”, it should be based on  experiences, with immediate relevance to work  and with a focus on problem-solving. The Beatles learning was always work-related and they solved endless problems, with notable grace.

Andragogy can be characterized variously; by an increased respect for the learner, who is voluntarily choosing to learn, it is usually interest-driven with a matching focus on their interests, and should be nurtured by the building of relationships. The development of the learner and their success in meeting their own goals and solving meaningful problems, rather than just answering subject questions, becomes the real focus of education. Andragogy also contains elements of co-creation, but perhaps its strongest concern is with building relationships. Interestingly George Martin describes how at this time he made a “tactical withdrawal, recognizing theirs was the greater talent.” This withdrawal of the control from a more able partner is a key element in making the Open Context Model of Learning work.

As a teacher I always saw learning as a social process and was concerned to build up strong relationships between my students. Making an andragogic approach work requires learners to be part of a mutually supportive learning community and I reckoned that they learnt better in groups. Clearly The Beatles were a group who worked, and learnt together, developing their group identity as a “musical instrument”. Throughout 1963 and 1964 the pressures of Beatlemania kept them necessarily close and supportive of one another. Interestingly on several occasions Paul also talks about how all the Beatles had to agree on something before they would do it; if one of them didn’t like a song, “even Ringo” then they would abandon it. So their collaborative group ethos and identity was very strong, at least until 1967.

Back from the USA

Although George Martin says that once The Beatles became the cash-cow for their record company EMI the power relationship between him and them changed, I reckon that the strongest reason for their shift down the PAH Continuum was The Beatles success in America.  It wasn’t so much that they were phenomenally successful, it was more than the country that they had looked up to musically turned out to be far more interested in them. They said that they didn’t expect much of a reception in the USA but that at least they would be able to buy new records. They went as fans looking up to American musicians and instead found that they were being asked How Do YOU Do It? The Beatles did want to be famous but this was transcendent. Their first live TV performance on the Ed Sullivan Show is still the single most watched TV show ever in the USA and crime dropped off for the night as hoods pulled up the shades. Inspired by their performance any number of American bands (The Byrds) were created, and Robert Zemeckis started his directorial career with his film I Want To Hold Your Hand. To paraphrase Eno on the Velvet Underground, only 75 million people watched The Beatles but everyone one of them wanted to be in a band. As ever The Beatles made lots of money for others as they inspired the British Invasion.

George Martin saw a change in them as they finished recording Cant Buy Me Love on their return from the USA. But before they could change their customary way of working they were straight into the already planned Hard Days Night, attendant  film premieres and yet another American Tour. Up till then they had needed a producer needed to ensure that “the records were commercially viable.” Now they were breaking sales records around the world, many of which have not been broken since, and things were about to change.

The literal metaphor of the Fifth Beatle

On August 28 1964, after a huge Shea Stadium concert closing their American Tour The Beatles met Bob Dylan in Delmonico’s Hotel. Harrison had discovered Dylan and played his first two albums constantly until John and Paul were also confirmed fans. Dylan congratulated them on singing “I get high” on I Want to Hold Your Hand and offered them some ‘pot’.  They pointed out that they had actually sung “I can’t hide,” so Dylan turned them on and left them hysterical with laughter as their stress dissolved. McCartney records that pot opened up his “everyday consciousness” causing him to look far wider for inspiration.  Whilst marijuana became their best friend for the next couple of years Paul points out that they worked straight. They had a creative song-writing process worked out and typically wrote for two to three hours everyday, with tea and toast for stimulation. They usually turned that song into a record in around the same time. But after a typical working day pot helped them to relax and get into their reflective metacognition on all things fab and groovy.

Initially their response to meeting Dylan, in songwriting terms, was pedagogic. Lennon’s I’m A Loser, on Beatles For Sale, and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away on HELP! were Dylanesque, but by the time of Rubber Soul Dylan’s influence was one of many that shaped that album. George also spent time with David Crosby of The Byrds picking up tips about “folk-rock”; the US version of Rubber Soul deliberately highlighted this  dimension of their work as folk-rock was already very popular in the USA.

As the centre of the emerging social scene characterized as the Swinging Sixties the Beatles were involved in many scenes that extended and informed their awareness. They “hung with” most of their musical contemporaries such as The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Moody Blues, Spencer Davis Group and The Who, they wrote songs and worked with most of the Parlophone Artists. When John, George and Ringo bought suburban mansions and lived family lives Paul moved in with Jane Ashers’ parents in Wimpole Street. This location was itself a “Fifth Beatle” as it provided Paul with the cultural life of a typical upper-middle class London family;  Jane’s mother was a music teacher who had taught George Martin the oboe at the Guildhall School of Music.

What was happening was that the Beatles willingness to work with and learn from others, their ability as quick studies, enabled them to respond to influences and bring them back to their work in the studio, at least once their recording qualities were recognised by EMI. They were surrounded by many who were the “Fifth Beatle” and I take this to be a resource that provided something new which the Musical Instrument known as The Beatles absorbed and then moved on.

What happened in the Andragogic phase?

Actually a lot of what happened as The Beatles gained greater power was that they could also use the creative/learning strategies they had developed before they became recording artists. Their refusal to record anything other than their own material for singles, whilst severely problematic for them early on, ultimately meant that EMI would listen to their ideas and allow them to bring new influences into the studio, not least as they would always be proved right.

Paul had studied A–level English and was fascinated by the Theatre, having a good teacher and with the Liverpool Everyman down the road. Lennon was violently anti-school but created The Daily Howl, his satiric self-produced cartoon newspaper. In Many Years From Now Paul discusses how they would try and be creative with anything. They wrote a play (about “Pilchard”) once but it ran out after two pages as they weren’t sure if playwriting was a planned activity or just a stream of consciousness; a question they tried to answer again with Magical Mystery Tour. However the first element of andragogy to effectively manifest itself in the Beatles was John and Paul’s songwriting at Paul’s house in Forthlin Road. Being right and left handed meant they developed a collaborative style of sitting opposite each other and first learning, and then writing, songs by watching how each other made chords on the guitar. Paul described this creative process as so satisfying that it was ‘better than sex.’

In March 1958 just after his fifteenth birthday George Harrison joined them and extended their range by being able to play guitar solos enabling them to copy more songs and also introduce their notable three part harmonies. By the end of 1958 they had a tight way of working with each other and a repertoire of over 100 songs. But it would be almost four years until Ringo joined and another two before their collaborative way of working would drive the Beatles recording process.

Yesterday and the Fifth Beatles known as George Martin

In All You Need is Ears George Martin explicitly identifies Yesterday, on the HELP! album, as the “turning point” when “I started to leave my hallmark on the music”. I agree. Having listened to all the Beatles albums again in sequence it is clear that a change occurs around the time of Yesterday. George Martin sees that “a style started to emerge which was partly of my making” So he was not just a more able partner brokering their relationship with the world of recording he was also a creative partner from then on as well.

Andragogic Excellence

So what makes Rubber Soul reflect an andragogic excellence? Hard Days Night was about mastering styles given to them, the “ideal-type” of Merseybeat, whereas Rubber Soul played out a far wider range of styles. Ironically they looked like the folk-rock gods The Byrds on the Cover. But within the tracks they had improve lyrically and extended the musical dimensions of their work.

Beatles for Sale was really Christmas product, admittedly with four classic tracks, and although HELP! saw them as “extras in their own movie”,the album was outstanding, and the Long Tall Sally EP really rocked. I’ve suggested in my post Unbutchered that if they weren’t forced to deliver so much product we would instead see an unbroken run of classic albums from Hard Days Night.  However with Rubber Soul they went in to the studio to make an album for entirely musical reasons, and delivered a classic.

The Beatles work always served the song and now they could extend the definition of what a song comprised. This time George Martin wasn’t constraining them to the hit single template, he was signed on as full-time collaborator. And George was also in touching distance of Lennon and McCartney as a songwriter.

Drive My Car rocks, Norwegian Wood is a clearly different, more Dylanesque lyrics, with Paul “lighting the fire” at the end and subverting the usual Beatles lyrical conceits; George, inspired by the Indian restaurant scene in HELP!, just picked up a sitar and provided a qualitative change in the Beatles sound. Nowhere Man is the first third person Beatles classic and Think for Yourself sees a fully confident George starting to comment on the values of those around him.

Is Michelle the follow-up to Yesterday? The Beatles are now collaborating with each other rather than essaying service to the hit single template. Ringo’s What Goes On is a fully realized country tune and the only song ever attributed to Lennon, McCartney and Starkey as songwriters. George also provides some hot Chet Perkins picking and it’s All for One and…

Girl was the song at the time picked up by older kids than me with “relationship problems” and is yet another song from the new Beatles and features the daft chorus of tit, tit, tit, which admittedly scans better than house martin.

I’m Lookin Through You is the best skiffle song The Quarrymen never recorded and then In My Life is a word perfect Liverpool tribute with a “solo by Martin. Oh and just to demonstrate the quality of their work the outstanding double A-side single Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out was recorded in the same four week process. The Beatles had produced another chart-topping Christmas album, no surprise there, but this time it was something that said listen, and think for yourself, from start to finish.

Complete Control

So on Rubber Soul The Beatles had “complete control” (Lennon) and produced the first great album (Brian Wilson). The andragogic outcome was an album produced much more collaboratively with Ringo, George and George Martin having far greater creative input, reflecting the quality of the working relationships they had developed. It is often difficult to characterize the outputs of andragogy in a distinctive fashion as they often look very similar to pedagogic outputs; in this case songs. Now, however we also have coherent albums, produced more collaboratively, but the point about the PAH Continuum is to deliver the participants to a heutagogically creative phase. For me this is the proof of the effectiveness of the andragogic phase. So can the Beatles get more creative than Rubber Soul and realize their heutagogic destiny? Well tune in for the next revolution in this discussion a week from now.



  1. Russ Francis said,

    October 26, 2009 at 1:51 pm


    Good stuff. Really liked the mediation on the literal metaphor of the fifth Beatle and your observations about the variously ecologies that supported creativity through the androgogic phase. Further I liked the way you draw attention to the way they exposed themselves to influences outside their existing frame of reference. This certainly seems like an important period of any kind of creative development. Although it seems there might be a greater role for serendipity here then your intentional – interest driven – model suggests. Prehaps an certain openness to diverse cultural inflluences (e.g. Harrision’s openness to the music played in indian restaurants) is what matters here. This involves understanding resourcefulness as a capacity to identify resources within any given ecology that might be put to good use.

    I also found myself thinking about this in terms of Bahktin’s notion of polyphony, voices and the dialogic imagination. You seem to be suggesting that through this period the Band started to absorb other voices, styles and influences that, once internalized, became a rich depository of voices they could draw upon to create something truely original. However, it also seems important to maintain a creative centre of gravity here. Over exposure to particularly strong voices, influences might prevent them from finding their own distintive voice and consequently stifle creativity.

    As a band there shared history (liverpool, hamberg years etc) and the tight knit relationship between Paul and John seems significant in this respect. I wounder if it provided a kind of core identity and the creative centre of gravity that allowed them to expose themself to a polyphony of other voices, influences and styles without loosing their own voice. This might also provide a way to think about an androgogy phases as a prequel to a heutagogic phase. Could it be that the voices, styles and influences that they absorbed during this period furnished them with the semiotic resources and forms that were later wowen together in the heutagogic phase to come?

    Having said that I wonder if the idea of a PAH continuum actually obfuscates a high degree of overlap between androgogic learning strategies and heutagogic strategies. It seems to me more likely that there is a significant amount of overlap between the two. But I’m interested to see how you develop this.


  2. fred6368 said,

    October 26, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks Russ, good points, I realise I haven’t nailed this yet and that in reality there are greater overlaps throughout the PAH Continuum. Perhaps each phase has an institutional character and a set of affordances? I tried to start by saying that as their value was recognised by EMI & George Martin it allowed them to bring various influences and collaborative qualities they had already established into the andragogic phase. Suddenly their influences were seen as being valuable and they were allowed to extend the Merseyside ‘template” (McCartney actually says in Many Years From Now “I hate to say it but we had a template”). Effectively after Yesterday EMI basically said, What influences have you got? bring em on!

  3. Russ Francis said,

    October 27, 2009 at 9:10 pm


    I think this is a really interesting issue – at the heart of creative development. Once you’ve got a basic template / formular how do you start drawing in inflluences that allow you to grow without distablizing the core identity / formular that works? I like the way you identify the institutional support of George Martin and EMI here. This does seem highly significant. Artists need space to experiment and that often translates to financial support. But it also depends on a certain self confidence that must come from having people in positions of power and influence believe in you. I guess artists that try to absorb too many influence too early might never actually become credible as an investment or find a benefactor that helps them believe in themselves. In this respect it seems creative growth necessitates a certain respect for existing forms / templates until credibility is established – then the artists can start to subvert & challenge those forms (in a heutagogic phase). Interested in thinking how this might apply to other artists who challenged / subvert existing forms and created new forms of their own: (i.e James Joyce , Virgina Wolf , Picasso, Beckett, Joy Division?) Further I wonder how many really original artists we’ve never heard off because they didn’t have an EMI or George Martin character? In short, how many artists get to a priviledge position where they can actually admit they had a template in the first place?

  4. fred6368 said,

    October 27, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    I would be interesting in developing the PAH Continuum as a framework for designing opportunities for academic, collaborative and creative endeavours, and test it against the creative development of others. I’m interested in the tension between EMI and their formal operating procedures, whilst The Beatles developed craft skills and the tacit knowledge of how to work in the context of Abbey Road, slowly transforming those practices. George Martin of course was also a frustrated creative musician and changed sides after Yesterday, so really represents a really talented facilitator.
    Watch out for next week when more Fifth Beatles come and go…

  5. October 31, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    […] are fascinating as they are both song based and unintentionally reflect the importance of the Andragogic phase of the Fifth Beatles. Effectively Eerola is saying that you can measure the Beatles heutagogic phase by the degree to […]

  6. Bingo Bob Rupe said,

    November 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Very good stuff indeed! Interesting historically, musically persuasive. I have read a lot of Beatles ‘stuff’, keep up the good work! You are enhancing the ‘brand’.

  7. fred6368 said,

    November 19, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Hey Bingo Bob Rupe,
    thank you sir, always good to have satisfied readers!
    I am building this argument and my position is actually shifting as I look at how The Beatles worked, as you can see in the next post too

  8. December 14, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    […] Team members build on their collaborators’ ideas; Indeed as previously discussed the musical instrument known as The Beatles was a collaborative entity building on their […]

  9. December 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    […] it next week to find out how you continue to develop creatively once you have already become Royalty at the […]

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