All You Need is Heutagogy

There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made.

No one you can save that can’t be saved.

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you (It’s easy)

1! 2!! 3!!! 4!!!! was replaced by a woozy “a-one, a-two, a-three, a-four!” and the bass that inspired The Jam’s best track kicks in. The Beatles had replaced the urgent intro to the faux live show of Please Please Me with the lazy faux ambience of their studio recording. Presence, the Holy Grail of recording since Edison in 1888, was to be replaced with artifice. Revolver, what goes around, was to come around again, this time at the bidding of the artisans.

“It was like letting the workmen take over the factory,” said McCartney about Revolver two years before May 68, five years before Lennon supported the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in and ten years before the Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards alternative Corporate Plan. But before they could run their own factory they needed yet another Fifth Beatle, the golden-eared wunder-kid Geoff Emerick who, as a nineteen year old studio engineer was promoted to work on Revolver. A fan, young and imbued with the shape-shifting sixties spirit, Emerick was to set up Abbey Road for recording in ways that were forbidden by EMI, but demanded by the Beatles. He miked McCartney’s bass with a loudspeaker on Taxman and told the stuffy classical string players on Eleanor Rigby to play loud.

Despite their productivity tending to support McCartney’s industrial assertion, The Beatles in fact turned Abbey Road into an Art School not a factory. A musical research lab for their creativity, just before Arts Labs, from which David Bowie would emerge, gained popular currency, along with the mid-sixties fad for multi-media happenings and various forms of experimental art. McCartney befriended the emerging leading lights of London counter-culture, Hopkins, Miles, Dunbar, supported the Indica Gallery and it, engaging with various tropes of the English counter-culture. Lennon, of course, was ready to Howl on a Daily basis if he could throw a Spaniard in The Works. So let’s get inside The Beatles creativity like Vpmatt on the Beatles most “experimental” track.  

Heutagogy (Learning…With The Beatles Part 3)

Heutagogy can be seen as an “enabling capability” or, more fully, as the ability to play with form and create new ones. In the Open Context Model of Learning we argue that this is about epistemic cognition, the ability to understand how to create knowledge, through what Bill Ford calls “knowledge-sharing” rather than “knowledge hoarding”. We argue that this is most likely to happen once you understand the discipline you are engaging with, hit records for The Beatles, and have developed collaborative relationships to support and extend that understanding; several Fifth Beatles for John, Paul, George and Ringo, notably Brian Epstein and George Martin. So in the heutagogic phase of their learning, after Rubber Soul, The Beatles should, arguably, be at their most creative.

After Geography

As with Rubber Soul The Beatles took a brief break before Revolver and had allowed themselves to be influenced both by various avant-garde musical techniques, such as those pioneered by Stockhausen, and by the many breakthroughs and stylistic advances of their peers in 1965, especially the anthemic trilogy of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, The Who’s My Generation and Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, all huge advances in popular song. Even the competition worked as supportive, if challenging, collaborators.

Geoff Emerick’s desire to create original sounds, and his close-miking expertise, meant that their endless studio experiments, changing instruments, tape loops, slowing tapes down, varying playback speeds, playing instruments beyond their normal range, created the quirkily inventive Revolver. As an album it was a significant advance on Rubber Soul because now, thanks to Geoff Emerick, they were also playing the studio, as well as an even broader range of instruments. On Revolver they had that magic feeling that comes from a combination of musical collaboration, with George Martin, and an innovative recording collaboration with Geoff Emerick. Constrained by a four-track recording studio and with a deadline to meet, the working collective known as the Beatles would never be so productive, effective and purposeful.

They had moved beyond the pedagogic template of Merseybeat and by Rubber Soul were also the sum of their many influences and “Fifth Beatle” collaborators, broadening their palette with more reflective lyrics and demonstrating a wider range in both their songwriting and music-making. The Beatles creative reach was phenomenal but as Kenneth Womack indicates in Long and Winding Road, nostalgia became their main subject.

After the vicissitudes of the summer of 1966 it would hardly be surprising that they would become nostalgic. England were engaged in winning the football World Cup when Revolver came out and working class attentions were elsewhere. The Kinks dominated the singles chart and The Beatles rushed off on their final world tour, almost getting killed in the Philippines and the United States on more than one occasion. After the final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco George said “that’s it, I’m not a Beatle any more,” and they quit being live Beatles. Their new-found studio skills were going to be crucial,  once they had convinced George Martin to support their new ambition of recording without touring. He didn’t get it at first.

Counter-Cultural Beatles

The Beatles had moved on once again and found new stimulation and new problems to address in the emerging counterculture. Unlike the more clearly politicised counterculture in the US, the counter-culture in the UK was critically more class-based and more concerned with subverting post-war social norms. We still had constitutional issues left unresolved since 1689 to deal with, and the impact of the 1944 Beveridge Report, and its creation of the meritocracy, had unleashed forces that challenged the rigid social landscape in Britain. Even whilst John and Paul were meeting for the first time at Woolton, Richard Hoggart, a sixties cultural critic par excellence, was writing in The Uses of Literacy that the eleven plus exam was useful in allowing through only those working class kids who deserved social elevation. In the sixties The Beatles would show that working class creativity was so rich, man, that we had no need of filtering out “oiks” like them before they entered mainstream society; not least because they were driving it. However in many ways Sgt Pepper represented their eleven plus exam and they were rewarded by being allowed to graduate into polite society and become patronised by the very classes that their actions were in the process of rendering redundant.

Richard Poirier also argues that there was “something centrally important about the Beatles” as a group and this is “their fascination with the invented aspects of everything around them.” He argues that they see the artifice in everything and so “they respond with a participatory tenderness and joy to styles and artefacts around them.” The Beatles brought a joyous sense of play to anything they had to deal with, and were ready to participate whole-heartedly and inventively. Interestingly Poirier roots this playfulness in their “constant subject, musical creation”. They can’t tour, they can’t play live, but things are changing and their default position is musical creativity. Hey Ho! Let’s Go…

The Beatles Year of Experimental Advances

The Dutch publication soundscapes analyses the creativity of the Beatles by creating a framework of their exploratory characteristics, measured against their baseline Merseybeat template and the analysis is intriguing. In “The rise and fall of the experimental style of the Beatles” Tuomas Eerola uses Gjerdingen‘s model of the “normative life span” of style to analyse when The Beatles were at their most “experimental” compared to their baseline Merseybeat style.  You can check the criteria here.

The conclusions are fascinating as they are both song based, and unintentionally reflect the importance of the Andragogic phase of the Fifth Beatle. Effectively Eerola is saying that you can measure the Beatles heutagogic phase by the degree to which their musical creativity is not continuing the style demonstrated on Please Please Me and With (Meet) The Beatles. Ironically he only lists The Beatles Top Ten most experimental songs, and I intend to use these to analyse their heutagogic phase.

Date Experimental Period #
24.11.1966 Strawberry Fields Forever 9
19.01.1967 A Day In The Life 8
15.03.1967 Within You Without You 7
05.09.1967 I Am The Walrus 7
29.12.1966 Penny Lane 6
01.03.1967 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds 6
25.04.1967 Magical Mystery Tour 6
08.02.1967 Good Morning Good Morning 5
14.06.1967 All You Need Is Love 5
17.02.1967 Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite 5

Table 3: The “prototypical” songs of the experimental period of the Beatles

What is immediately obvious is that these cover just two Beatles albums. Their classic “best” album Sgt Pepper and the mongrel Magical Mystery Tour; which partly explains why it has lasted as an album, as it also just edges Pepper for originality. The # column lists the number of original features, out of a possible 11, each song displays. Poirier argues that musical creation is their “constant subject” and Kenneth Womack that nostalgia is their primary aesthetic concern and they fuse strongly during this time; their first year as non-touring studio musicians. Set free by Emerick and Martin to push their musical boundaries creatively, they applied this innovative freedom to a “scouse” nostalgia, probably induced by the incredible distance they had travelled socially in less than four years. This intense process lasted just ten months, starting with Strawberry Fields (played with a Mellotron) and Penny Lane, almost as soon as they stopped touring. It ends with the Magical Mystery Tour, where they attempted recreating the charabanc seaside trips of their youth. And then it was 1968.

More significant to me from this is that their “experimental” period covers just under a year following Revolver, starting in November 1966 with Strawberry Fields Forever and ending in September 1967 with I Am The Walrus. Or put another away their heutagogic period ended when Brian Epstein died on August 27th 1967. As Paul McCartney said in the Brian Epstein Story  “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle it was Brian”. So The Beatles heutagogic creativity ended when their andragogic support network broke down.

Epstein died whilst they were away meditating with the Maharashi, wanting to move on from using drugs for inspiration, according to George and Paul. Arguably they were seeking yet another Fifth Beatle or “supportive collaborator”, as described last week, as they extended the range of their creativity; The Beatles were masters of co-creation. Unfortunately Epstein’s death turned out to be the first of many incisions to be made into the musical instrument known as the Beatles, as they slowly suffered death by a thousand greedy cuts. Not least as the bad deals they made on Epstein’s naïve advice slowly took their creative outputs away from them, stored in various Neverlands and introduced the Blue Meanie known as Klein.

I find this “experimental” analysis fascinating as The Beatles most creative period is bookended by Strawberry Fields and I Am The Walrus, the two tracks that have resonated most with me over the years. Eerola also points out that the most experimental tracks are amongst the best remembered and the most highly regarded of their work.

And In The End…

After Epstein died The Beatles never reached the same creative heights. Yet even in this decline, in which Magical Mystery Tour was explicitly seen as a failed experiment, they still extended their creative palette. However with new artists like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, amongst many, pushing the creative envelope, and all playing live, the Beatles slowly marginalised themselves musically, whilst retaining considerable social reach and musical influence.

The dalliance with the Maharishi eventually ended, although the time spent with him meditating in Rishikesh, away from the maddening crowd of fame, produced 30 new songs. Ironically the Beatles met at Harrison’s house in May 68 and produced a master tape of new songs for the White Album, a kind of Beatles Unplugged 21 years too early. Let It Be became their back to basics album, arguably anticipating the spirit of punk, and with their final album Abbey Road they demonstrated that they had mastered 8 track recording; George Martin finally got his wish to record a different, more operatic song form. Despite failing to transform British society they did change it and The Beatles went out in a creative burst with Abbey Road, in many ways their most iconic album in the 21st Century. And In the End… “there’s nothing you can know that isn’t known.”

The Learning You Take is equal to the Learning You Make

The sixties were the adolescence of post-war Britain and the Beatles were proxy teenagers for us all, growing up in public and subverting many of the class limitations we faced in the fifties. They created a post-modernist future in which they wanted to live, but never got there. In the end they split up and, without our problem-solving gurus, we all gave up on making a land fit for the rest of us and settled for sex and drugs and rock n roll.  Marcuse was right, we accepted being one-dimensional and then accepted the repressive tolerance of a National Curriculum Society which gives us the Unchained Melody of a Simon Cowell-directed teenage movie for life. We broke down the wall after the war, and then Roger Waters built it up again. The record industry had too many trump cards and became the cultural industries which now exist to sell us “living the dream;” in a stretch limo, drinking prosecco, stuck on the autobahn of life. You always get what you want, but you just might find…

To paraphrase Larkin in Annus Mirabilis

Social discourse ended,

(Far too early for we),

Between the end of Sgt Pepper,

And Led Zeppelins first LP…

But 63 to 68 remains “An Index of Possibilities”

Tune In next week to see what happens After Heutagogy


  1. Christine said,

    November 3, 2009 at 3:07 am

    You write:
    As John Lennon said “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle it was Brian”.

    Actually, that quote was from Paul McCartney, whilst being interviewed by Debbie Geller for the 1999 BAFTA-award-winning UK documentary “The Brian Epstein Story.”

    What Lennon said about Brian was, “He was one of us.”

    Thanks! 🙂

  2. fred6368 said,

    November 3, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Thanks Christine, that is really helpful. I had found a second reference giving that quote to Paul so I wasn’t sure. Thanks for clearing it up. I will edit the original now.

  3. fred6368 said,

    November 3, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Christine, just to add that my post about Andragogy on Learning With The Beatles USA argues that the Beatles continuing creativity relied on several key collaborators, especially Brian Epstein and George Martin. My point is that they benefitted from having several Fifth Beatles, including their fans and in the UK the general public, and that was a key factor in their continuing growth.

  4. Christine said,

    November 3, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the edit, Fred! BTW, you can hear the words coming straight out of the mouth of Macca in that BBC Arena special ~ the only source where I found it available in dvd form was through a place called Videobeat, on this page:

    Very few of us view the Beatles through the Brian perspective (it’s always that way with me though); rather, almost everybody looks at Brian through the Beatles perspective.

    Your point is so true, when you’re examining their *creativity*.

    Rather than thinking of the Beatles as a creative force, though, I’ve always tended to/preferred to focus on their “family dynamic” as a cohesive unit ~ which was damaged beyond repair when Brian died. It’s goofy, but I find it very difficult to be interested in the boys either before or after Eppy.

    More and more of us think of Brian Epstein as being the *only* Fifth Beatle ~ if you recall the 60’s UK media, the term “Fifth Beatle” was used for Eppy and only Eppy ~ and we tend to think of all the rest of the “collaborators” as being *Sixth* Beatles.

    Ah, but that’s just us. 😉

  5. fred6368 said,

    November 3, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Christine, I can only say yeah, yeah yeah.
    Firstly, the combination of Cellarful of Noise being unavailable and Brian being gay kept that story buried. A similar thing happened with Alan Turing, one of the inventors of the computer, who committed suicide in 1954 shortly after being chemically treated for his homosexuality by the Govt (they apologised last month, 2009!)
    Secondly Murray the K in New York claimed to be the Fifth Beatle in Feb 1964, which was when the concept came to be debated. If there is a Fifth Beatle then Brian and others like George Martin (I notice a debate on your boards about this) have a better claim, and so it has become a myth surrounding Beatledom
    Thirdly, though a fan, I came to this conclusion from an academic perspective, using the concept of the More Able Partner (from Rose Luckin’s “Ecology of Resources”) from which you can conclude that as the support ecology of the Beatles grew, thanks to several MAPs including Brian, so their creativity expanded. Interesting how their experimental phase ended as soon as Brian died!
    My conclusion is that in the UK in The Sixties we all felt like Fifth Beatles empowering us to believe that we could change society. Like Spartacus you should end the film with a whole load of people saying “I Am The Fifth Beatle” as the spirit lives on…

  6. Russ Francis said,

    November 12, 2009 at 12:26 am


    A joy to read. I really do like the way you are building up the fifth beatle motif and find your point about the heutagogy phase dying with Epstein compelling. However the final paragraph where you lambast the national curriculum and the ‘unchained Melody of a Simon Cowell – directed teenage movie for life’ is my fav. Pure poetry and perhaps all too true. Its seems that at the end of the day the culture industry reins supreme.

    On the heutagogy theme it seems you’ve shifted away from the idea of a PAH continuum. The activity theorist in me can’t help reading the period that started with Strawberry Fields and ended with I am a Walrus as an ‘expansive transformation’ that involved a) the creative destruction of the old b) some horizontal development across forms and c) the assimilation of new influences. In this respect as much as I like you point about Epstein’s death I think it would be reductive to see this as anything more than the loss of one (albeit important) disruptive agent. More than this it seems the creativity criteria used seems to valorise dramatic changes in style over a process of gradual ripening or maturation. I’m rather fond of Let It Be and probably listen to Abbey Road more than any other. I guess I’m just thinking that creative developments require periods of calm as well as disruption.

    In more abstract terms I wonder if we could think of this later period as some kind of synthesis of preceding tensions and contradictions. In this respect, perhaps we need to revise the idea of a continuum. Following our last conversation I was thinking along the lines of a PAHAHA cyclical movement that extended into Lennon and Macca’s solo careers – but I think that doesn’t quite get it. Perhaps you need a something to suggest periods of synthesis and assimilation without disruption PAHSSAHS. I would also be interested to think how to map this onto other bands like the Stones. But still think the fifth Beatle themes is a really interesting central threat that weaves so much else together and very much look forward to the book!

  7. fred6368 said,

    November 15, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Russ, I have moved away from the idea of the Heutagogic phase being the summative end phase of the PAH Continuum for everyone, but have found using the PAH Continuum as an analytic tool for reflecting on the Beatles own learning and creativity very powerful. So much so that I know think that greater consideration needs to be given to Andragogy, the collaboration phase, than the Heutagogic phase. I would argue that Andragogy can be the tool with which we build social processes, whereas Heutagogy is the tool we need to help us innovate. We dont always need to innovate but we always need to strengthen and support our social relationships. Interestingly for me the Beatles own creativity was more collaborative than artistically “inspired.” Viewing their creativity in terms of their collaborative tendencies also seems to shed insight into how they coped with the ridiculous level of fame and intrusion they had to cope with in the sixties, plus how they continued to be so creative when they were falling apart. The final rooftop concert shows them as “The Beatles” using their tacit knowledge concerning musical performance and creation and re-creating themselves as a group; thanks also to new collaborator Billy Preston. So the educational insight to me is that Heutagogy grows out of Andragogy far more than it does from Pedagogy. Hence my references to workers taking over the factories of production…

  8. December 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    […] 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. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Learning…With The BeatlesThe […]

  9. March 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    […] All You Need is Heutagogy I made reference to the Dutch soundscapes research on The Beatles creativity, their […]

  10. May 30, 2010 at 9:40 am

    […] Beatles Psychedelia 1966-67 All You Need is Heutagogy […]

  11. September 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

    […] Self-determined Learning edited by Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon will be published by Bloomsbury Academic on September 2013 and pulls together lots of work on heutagogy by writers all around the world. I have two chapters, one with Ronan O’Beirne on Putting Heutagogy into Learning Practice and All You Need is Heutagogy applying the Open Context Model of Learning to the Beatles learning styles. Here is my blog post on The Beatles Heutagogy. […]

  12. August 31, 2014 at 10:45 am

    […] career and found that they developed their recording craft in line with the PAH Continuum. All You Need is Heutagogy captures that and is, perhaps, an easy way into understanding […]

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