We Can Work It Out

Learning from Learning…With The Beatles; from romantic to Romantic

Having proved themselves in the school of hit records, by narrowing their focus and delivering to EMI’s template, The Beatles grew in confidence between the return from their first visit to the USA and the end of their second visit in August 1964. They met Dylan at Delmonico’s, who dismissed their silly love songs and gave them a greater Romantic vision of their possibilities. And so they embarked on the andragogic phase of their learning. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

The Word is Love

Nostalgia, the pinpricks of precise memories, can be triggered by certain smells, sensations or sounds. I have my fair share of these and also experience the ghostly effects of deja vu from time-to-time. But I always have strong images associated with pretty much everything in the Beatles catalogue, because they came out when I was young and impressionable. Day Tripper reminds me of the sudden hush descending on the queue I was waiting in for a haircut at Boarding School the day after it was released and we finally got to hear it. We Can Work It Out reminds me of chipping my brother Dave whilst playing football in the garden with him.

Rubber Soul simultaneously reminds me  of being in Boarding School, where I heard it, and of escaping from there, where it pointed; Signpost and direction. Rubber Soul was the first Beatles album I bought and so was the first I took to heart and spent time decoding the unknown world it was revealing to me.  Unlike the couple of other albums I had at the time it didn’t seem to be offering me a bunch of catchy songs for entertainment, but rather to be grappling with the malleable human condition; Rubber Soul indeed. When The Beatles had sung Please Please Me they were actually trying to please us. However, with Unbutchered remaining unreleased,  Rubber Soul was the first album that said, hey we are different and we have something original to say. This time their artistry, and that alchemy which was typical of the Beatles studio work, had something to work on and the quality to realise it. A defining characteristic of the Beatles was anticipating trends and this time the Byrds lookalikes on the sleeve were ahead of the hippie revolution. Consequently for me The Word (Love) is the exemplar track. My story is about hearing it and the actions it inspired.  Read the rest of this entry »