Paperback Walrus

Learning from Learning…With The Beatles; from album to artefact

Bookending the Beatles heutagogic period were twin attacks on print formats. In Paperback Writer Paul boasted that if you liked the style he “could turn it round” and in Walrus John delivered a nonsense poem about nonsense poems, containing probably his most visceral attack on the British Establishment. Heutagogy is about playing with form and The Beatles did this explicitly and implicitly within this period which lasted from 13th April 1966 to 27th August 1967. 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 »

Where do they all come from?

Revolver is tough for me to write about it as it is my favourite Beatles album; how do you deconstruct perfection without going gushingly giggly? To me it is the first time they went into a studio having mastered their craft as recording artists, thanks to George Martin, and with Paul’s musical expression having broadened, John’s lyrics having deepened and George’s playing, and confidence, developing rapidly the available palette was riotously colourful; no wonder the sleeve was in black and white. And, after his tour de force on Rain, don’t ignore Ringo’s ego-less contribution throughout the album.

Revolver came out less than one week after England won the the Football World Cup in 1966 and my story is about how Yellow Submarine became a football chant that summer. It was also released a month after my birthday, making the album too expensive to buy out of pocket money, so I had to wait to the Autumn to hear it on Billy’s record player. 1966 was also a great summer for English Pop Music and I was finally picking up a range of Pirate Radio stations, which had suddenly blossomed across Europe, on my transistor, the ipod of its day. The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Small Faces, Yardbirds were in their Pop Pomp and skidding across the dial in search of the latest trogglodyte amphetamine blast was a glorious pastime; and cheap. Music always thrives when the distribution costs drop.

A sign of the collaboratively creative democracy that had broken out in the Beatles was that George got to open the album with the much misunderstood Taxman. Ringo singing the single and George kicking off the album; you say they wanted evolution well, you know, they are doing what they can! This YouTube video of Taxman is made by someone (Tony Martinger) who rates Revolver as the “bands greatest album”. And there is a YouTube version of this post at A Beatles YouTube Album. Enjoy and return!  Read the rest of this entry »