On the afternoon of 6 July 1957 a group called The Quarrymen performed at the garden fete of St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool; the group’s singer and guitarist was the 16-year-old John Lennon.
As the group was setting up their equipment to play again that evening, one of the members introduced Lennon to one of his classmates, the 15-year-old Paul McCartney. The pair chatted for a few minutes, and McCartney showed Lennon how to tune a guitar (Lennon’s instrument was in G banjo tuning). McCartney then sang some popular songs, including a medley of songs by Little Richard.
The two were impressed with each other, and after the Quarrymen’s show the group and some friends, along with McCartney, went to a Woolton pub where they lied about their ages to get served.
These events occurred 60 years ago today! Above, Lennon with The Quarrymen on that fateful day; below, excerpts from The Quarrymen’s show that night, recorded by an audience member—the recording was acquired by EMI in 1994, but was not released commercially since the sound quality was deemed unacceptable.
The Beatles, a.k.a. The white album, contests the arbitrary distinction between popular music and political engagement through its radical eclecticism and self-reflexivity. The album outlines a new way of being political—a postmodern politics—that was and still is to a large extent erroneously seen as escapism.
Critics from the New Left charge that the disparate styles and self-conscious references on the record signal the Beatles’ disregard of politics; but this perspective implies that there is only one way of being political, and fails to consider the historical circumstances that give any use of parody its particular significance.
By 1968 corporate attempts to manipulate rock artists and fans were reaching a peak, and early rock and roll had lost much of its initially subversive allure. Concurrently, the Beatles found themselves lauded for their masterpiece, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Beatles’ turn to parody then serves not as an escape from but as a specific response to key cultural tensions: the self-reflexivity and ironic appropriation of various styles on the album allowed the Beatles to contest the commodification of rock music even as they challenged assumptions about what constitutes political relevance.
This according to “We all want to change the world: Postmodern politics and the Beatles’ White album” by Jeffrey Roessner, an essay included in Reading the Beatles: Cultural studies, literary criticism, and the Fab Four (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006, pp. 147–158).
Today is The white album’s 45th birthday! Below, documentary footage of the album’s creation.
In an experiment, three groups of music students transcribed the first 64 seconds of The Beatles’ Please please me.
Analysis of these transcriptions yielded a ninefold typology of polylinear listeners: holistic melodists, holistic formalists, impressionists, melodic conventionalists, semiprofessional generalists, nonmelodic semiprofessional generalists, nonprofessional melodic generalists, semiprofessional rhythmicians, and holistic graphicians.
This according to “Dynamics of polylinearity in popular music: Perception and apperception of 64 seconds of Please please me (1963)” by Tomi Mäkelä, an article published in Beatlestudies. III: Proceedings of the Beatles 2000 Conference (Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän Yliopisto, 2001, pp. 129–38).
On this Valentine’s Day, let’s look at an article that analyzes the 100 most popular songs between 1958 and 1998 for performer demographics and expressions of love.
In the 1990s women and black artists recorded more hits than in earlier periods; over time, references to love in lyrics performed by women artists decreased. References to sex in lyrics peaked between 1976 and 1984, when women used sexual references five times more than men; however, between 1991 and 1998, men used more sexual references.
Later songs and songs performed by white female artists expressed greater selfishness; the quality of love expressed in the lyrics remained the same.
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