Beatles Studies

Ringo gave an interview to BBC Radio recently in which he said, among other things, “if Paul hadn’t been in the band, we’d probably have made two albums because we were lazy buggers.”

So that would have been Please Please Me and With the Beatles, which were introduced in the U.K. in 1963 eight months apart (March and November).

As for the first, it is actually quite an impressive outing, including: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Misery,” “Anna (Go to Him),” “Chains,” “Boys,” “Ask Me Why,” “Please Please Me,” “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Baby It’s You,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “A Taste of Honey,” “There’s a Place,” and “Twist and Shout.”

A solid 32:16 of music.

With the Beatles contains “It Won’t Be Long,” “All I’ve Got to Do,” “All My Loving,” “Don’t Bother Me,” “Little Child,” “Till there Was You,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Hold Me Tight,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Devil in Her Heart,” “Not a Second Time,” and “Money (That’s What I Want).”

That comes in at 33:02.

One of the remarkable things about these two albums is that the band was able to include songs from a wide variety of genres. Consider only With the Beatles. “Till There Was You” was written by Meredith Wilson, the composer of The Music Man. “Roll Over Beethoven” came from Chuck Berry. “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” was written by Smokey Robinson. And “Money” also came out of Hitsville U.S.A., having been written by Motown founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford.

Ringo continued, “But Paul’s a workaholic. John and I would be sitting in the garden taking in the color green from the tree, and the phone would ring, and we would know, ‘Hey lads, you want to come in? Let’s go in the studio!’

“So I’ve told Paul this, he knows this story, we made three times more music than we ever would without him because he’s the workaholic and he loves to get going. Once we got there, we loved it, of course, but, ‘Oh no, not again!’”

The world would have certainly been a different place had Paul not been the pain in the ass that he must have been in order to get those guys out of the garden.


John Lennon went to the Liverpool College of Art. He didn’t get in through the normal course. He’d failed his O Level exams, which are essentially tests that would be given to 9th or 10th graders in the U.S. to determine one’s level of learning. But in the U.K., the O—or “ordinary”—Level doesn’t provide a pass to university. An A Level is required for that. Reportedly his aunt and the school’s headmaster got him admitted. He didn’t graduate.

George Harrison attended the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys. There he met Paul McCartney, who was also attending the secondary school. Neither went to university.

Ringo had a harrowing childhood, contracting peritonitis that put him in a coma at age six for several days, being home schooled, attending schools but then contracting tuberculosis at age 13, which put him into a sanatorium for two years. At age 15 he entered the workforce. He didn’t go to college.

This is not to suggest to any high schoolers or younger who are (unlikely) reading this and knowing that Ringo Starr has an estimated net worth on the order of $350 million and McCartney is at $1.2 billion (he was, after all, the workaholic).

Rather it is because of this: “Liverpool University Press is delighted to announce the launch of a brand new open access journal, The Journal of Beatles Studies.”

That’s right: a scholarly journal that is dedicated to the Fab Four.

The objective of the journal is, in part, “to provide a voice to new and emerging research locating the Beatles in new contexts, groups and communities from within and beyond academic institutions; to inaugurate, innovate, interrogate and challenge narrative, cultural historical and musicological tropes about the Beatles as both subject and object of study.”

And it details some of the areas of study subjects:

• The Beatles as academic object
• The historical moment of The Beatles
• The music of the Beatles, including issues of composition, recording, performance, reception and interpretation
• Beatles fandom and communities
• Social identities and The Beatles
• Beatles geographies
• The legacy of The Beatles
• Cultural value and The Beatles
• The Beatles as heritage object
• The global Beatles
• Beatles historiography
• Mediation of The Beatles
• Beatles pedagogies
• Economics of The Beatles
• Archiving and collecting The Beatles
• Sustaining The Beatles

Clearly, the first is going to be paid off simply by the existence of The Journal of Beatles Studies.

Is there a “historical moment” of The Beatles, or does the band, in effect, transcend time: the band broke up in 1970, yet it still exists independent of its (and two of its members’) nonexistence.

The music, etc. is something that has been continually essayed for decades, as has the fandom. The social identities and geographies are presumably objects of critical studies. The legacy of The Beatles is something that is encompassing of an array of cultural areas, which is something that will undoubtedly be essayed at length in the cultural value category. The heritage object is likely to be an assessment of the band’s role in events over time. Certainly the band had global consequences, and whether it was coming to the U.S. and playing places like Shea Stadium 1965 (where the Mets, who were managed by Yogi Berra, played) or going to India and studying with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, there were consequences.

Historiography, is what this could be a contribution to, looking, as it does, at The Beatles in time. Mediation could be the way to slide Marxist theory into things (Vermittlung, the reconciliation of the cultural and the material, for example).

Pedagogies goes, perhaps, to the teaching that can be associated with the band. The economics is certainly a rich vein of study: at the very least, McCartney may be the richest musician in the world, and while his post-Beatles career has been longer and more lucrative than his Beatles career, would he have made as much—workaholism notwithstanding—had he never been in the band as he did because he was in it? (This could give rise to another topic for the journal: Possible Worlds and The Beatles.)

There is undoubtedly lots to look at in the archiving and collecting space (e.g., a Google search of “Beatles memorabilia” brings back 17.5-millioin results).

And as for “Sustaining the Beatles”: (1) arguably what you have just read is part of it and (2) it is almost as though the band is self-sustaining. Were it not, why would you just have read over 1,000 words about it?

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