All You Need is Heutagogy

Beatles Creativity

I’ve just summarised the 6 blog posts on Beatles Creativity as a graphical slideshare called All You Need is Heutagogy

I think the Beatles Career went through 6 phases;

1. Live 1957-1963 From That’ll Be The Day;

Until Love Me Do

2. Singles 1963-1964 From Please Please Me;

to Hard Days Night Read the rest of this entry »

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Beatles Books

A Brief Review of buying Beatles stuff

I have alluded to several books on this blog and so, with Christmas long gone and books, book tokens, book sales and replacements being favoured activities here are some thoughts about books and buying Beatles stuff in. Since I first wrote this blog Mark Lewisohn has published his new meisterwerk Tune-In (2013), which covers everything you ever wanted to know about the Beatles up to Love Me Do. Not only is it a real work of scholarship that moves past the errors in earlier works (by others) to provide both a definitive and balanced account of the flaming pie that gave us The Beatles  but it is a is now the key text for fans as he has interviewed many of them to help contextualise the narrative. I will be rereading it for pleasure.

Records; Of course I am assuming that you will have already gotten the remasters, a key topic of this blog, and they produce a great narrative of Beatle life, but if not I would recommend the following five albums in order.

1) White Album; “the greatest group in the world at the height of their powers” Marmalade Skies

2) Revolver; when then they learnt to play the studio with Geoff Emerick.

3) Hard Days Night; Merseybeat in excelsis 5th Best British Rock Album according to Q in 2000 and composed entirely of Lennon-McCartney songs

4) Rubber Soul; great folk-rock influenced epic by Dylan & Crosby as they lift off (with one last blast of misogyny)

5) Abbey Road; the most polished and 21st century sounding of their albums; White Album Part 2 meets Love Part 1

Acidheads, mellotron-freaks and prog-revivalists (hello Italy!) should head to the Magical Mystery Tour for a breakfast of semolina pilchards and an English tan. A painless MashUp of all things Beatles for the kids is the wonderful Love! The show in Las Vegas is worth seeing too; it feels just like sitting next to Ringo in Abbey Road studio 2 as the music is from the master tapes 🙂

BOOKS

Before I wrote this blog I thought there were only two Beatles book that anyone would ever need and they were both British. Ian McDonald’s “Revolution In The Head” and Mark Lewisohn’s “The Complete Beatles Studio Recording” (now out of print) which both put you at the centre of The Beatles world in the 1960s. Perhaps that is still all that you will ever need to read however recent American scholarship and enthusiasm pretty much trumps those two, in my opinion. Yes I can’t believe it either! So what are the other books worth buying?  Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles Creativity (2) Singles

Beatles Singles 1962-64

Love Me Do

Trevor Horn, who in November 1963 was inspired to become a producer when he noticed the difference between the Beatles “error-strewn” live performance (that turned them into multi–media stars in the UK) on the Royal Variety Show compared to the exuberant polish of their studio songs, observed that there is always one weak member of a group when it comes to recording; which is why he says he never recorded U2 (Mojo June 2010). George Martin thought the same with Pete Best and, sadly, I think that Pete was a live rock n roll drummer and not cut out for all the studio work supporting the song that Ringo delivered at Abbey Road; check this out as The Beatles try to find their recording feet whilst auditioning with Pete Best on Love Me Do. There is a version of this post on the Beatles YouTube Album. To my ears Love Me Do is the transition song between the live rock n roll band Beatles and the first self-contained rock band which had unparalleled domination of the pop singles world during 1963 & 1964. Deni includes it as key live track in The Beatles live show late ’62. They weren’t moptops yet. Read the rest of this entry »

69; Been There – Done That!

Get Radical (Part 6 of Learning…With The Beatles)


The Art Collective known as The Beatles had released their masterpiece, now known as the White Album, but tellingly entitled The Beatles. This virginal white release signified their creative rebirth after Epstein’s death and the hat trick of experimentalist cartoon alter-egos they had donned in the mid-sixties. Having gone to India to clear their heads, regrouped unplugged with a broader group dynamic than ever before, they had amassed a huge swathe of songs and then recorded them, often as leader plus backing band. To me, along with opening Apple and signing and recording many other artists, this indicates that musically they had changed states for the third time. But this time we didn’t get it. Read the rest of this entry »

1968 – A Bite of The Apple

The White Tiger

“The History of the World is the history of a 10,000 year war of brains between the rich and poor; the poor win a few battles but of course the rich have won that war for ten thousand years. That is why some wise men have left the poor some signs and symbols which appear to be about Roses and pretty girls and things like that, but when understood correctly spell out secrets that allow the poorest man on earth to conclude the brain war on favourable terms…”

(Aravind Adiga; The White Tiger, p254),

Perhaps modern poets leave secret sounds; cymbals and signs. Perhaps their origin lies with the multi-cultural White Teeth of a Bengal Tiger, perhaps White Noise is the sound of change, perhaps a White Album is filled with blank stamps of open permissions… Read the rest of this entry »

1968 – A Year In The Life

All We Need is Andragogy

So the ending of last weeks post on Heutagogy took me, the writer, by surprise. From a learning perspective I am interested in creativity as playing with form. The Beatles demonstrated this repeatedly but within a relatively narrow frame musically, which is why their achievements often seem limited if you were born in the eighties or nineties. Effectively they created the rock album form which, as with any new form, seems obvious when you look back on it, but is unknown when you begin. My interest lies in how you deal with the unknown constructively. Read the rest of this entry »

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.   Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning…With The Beatles

John, Paul, George and Ringo were musically self-taught but received detailed instruction in the arts of popular music, were completely ignored yet extravagantly supported, were outright copyists and extraordinarily original. They brought everything they had learnt to The Beatles and kept on learning.

They re-invented authentic pop music after “the day the music died” (Feb 3rd 1959) and went on to create a new template, what Rolling Stone called the “self-contained band“, which has dominated popular music ever since with little variation. Even in 2007, the digital age, when Radiohead elected to make In Rainbows freely available to download it was as an album; an art work still in the shadow of Sgt Pepper. Arguably Radiohead were trying to solve a business problem that The Beatles had failed to solve with Apple.

Analysing the break up of the Beatles in his book You Never Give Me Your Money, Peter Doggett writes that “together and alone, at odds and at one, the Beatles somehow managed to create and preserve music that is as enduring as their myth, perfectly encapsulating their own time and enriching every time to come”. My stories have been about encapsulating that time, the sixties, and now I want to propose a fresh understanding of that musical creativity to enrich our time.

The way the Beatles developed and grew both defined and liberated the decade for those who, like me, lived through it and grew up within its sashaying lineaments. They provided the ambient hooks of its soundtrack and were its standard bearers, surfacing a range of artistic, cultural, philosophical and political issues for us to engage with. Unlike the Rolling Stones, say, they made the sixties comprehensible for all, creating a fresh national sense of identity in the UK that helped us to both survive a decade-long Blitz of social change, and read the signs of the times; not least as they often wrote them.

I don’t think they were preternaturally talented, let alone gods descending upon us, which some American writing about the Beatles can seem to imply, nor do I think it tragic that they split up. They emerged at just the right time, lasted as long as they needed to and then split up at The End; sounding perfect forever.

I do think they were gifted, made the most of their abilities, learnt their craft together and, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in Outliers, emerged historically at just the time when they could. I am less interested in who was the most talented Beatle, rather more in how their history exemplifies Brian Eno’s observation that ‘perhaps every group of musicians should have written above them “This group is a musical instrument; treat it as such“.’ I think it is as such a group, a wonderfully creative group, that we can learn from them. Read the rest of this entry »

Home

Let It Be is the first Beatles album I heard historically rather than at the time. Ironically it was a contractual obligation soundtrack, which was exactly the kind of industry manoeuvre they seemed to have rendered redundant back in 1963, seven years earlier. My response at the time was that this was an expensive boxed set of left overs put together to promote a film I wouldn’t bother going to see.

I didn’t get to hear Let It Be as an album until two years later as my story explains. I was visiting South Wales miners in Maerdy, to report on the 1972 miners strike, and my colleague, friend and boss Terry had brought a tape of Let It Be to keep us company in the days when cars had no soundtrack beyond road noise. I wasn’t enamoured of playing music on the clunky Philips piano key mono tape player which we had at the time, but the long, low-slung journey needed something.

I was intrigued though. I’d loved the singles Get Back and Let It Be, which itself always seemed an appropriate end to the Beatles. But I was buying jazz and progressive rock at the time and preferred artists who played live. But here was an unheard Beatles album, which was interesting; very interesting! Fortunately the Beatles ability to create memorable harmonies cut through our lack of decent sound equipment and Let It Be become the backing track for the visit that weekend.

Read the rest of this entry »

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