Meet the students studying for an MA in The Beatles


On Wednesday morning, as a brand new semester begins, students eagerly head into the University of Liverpool’s lecture theatres to start programs in archaeology, languages and worldwide relations.

But in lecture room No 5 of the college’s concrete Rendall Building, a much less conventional programme is getting underway: a grasp’s diploma devoted fully to The Beatles.

“How does one start a Beatles MA?” asks Holly Tessler, the American educational who based the course, looking at 11 keen students. One wears a Yoko Ono T-shirt; one other has a yellow submarine tattooed on his arm.

“I thought the only way to do it, really, is with some music,” she says.

Tessler then performs the class the music video for “Penny Lane,” the band’s tribute to an actual road in Liverpool, only a brief drive from the classroom.

The year-long course – The Beatles: Music Industry and Heritage – will deal with shifting perceptions of The Beatles over the previous 50 years and on how the band’s altering tales affected industrial sectors like the document enterprise and tourism, Tessler says in an interview earlier than class.

For Liverpool, the band’s hometown, the affiliation with The Beatles was value greater than £80m a 12 months, in response to a 2014 examine by Mike Jones, one other lecturer on the course. Tourists make pilgrimages to metropolis websites named in the band’s songs, go to venues the place the group performed – like The Cavern Club – and pose for images with Beatles statues. The band’s affect was at all times financial and social as a lot as musical, Tessler says

A postgraduate qualification in The Beatles is a rarity, however the band has been studied in different contexts for many years

Throughout the course, students should cease being merely Beatles followers and begin eager about the group from new views, she provides. “Nobody wants or needs a degree where people are sitting around listening to Rubber Soul, debating lyrics,” she says. “That’s what you do in the pub.”

In Wednesday’s lecture, which focuses nearly fully on “Penny Lane”, Tessler encourages students to consider The Beatles as a “cultural brand”, utilizing the phrases “narrative theory” and “transmediality”.

Then she applies these concepts to a latest Beatles-related occasion. Last 12 months, Tessler mentioned, road indicators alongside the actual Penny Lane have been defaced as Black Lives Matter protests unfold throughout Britain. There was a long-standing perception in Liverpool, she defined, that the road was named after an 18th-century slave dealer, James Penny. (The metropolis’s International Slavery Museum listed Penny Lane in an interactive show of road names linked to slavery in 2007, nevertheless it now says there is no such thing as a proof that the street was named after the service provider.)

“What would happen if they did change the name to – I don’t know – Smith Lane?” Tessler asks. That would deprive Liverpool of a key vacationer attraction, she says: “You can’t pose next to a sign that used to be Penny Lane.” The furore round the road title confirmed how tales about The Beatles can intersect with up to date debates and have an financial affect, she says.

Penny Lane nearly misplaced its title

(AFP by way of Getty)

The course’s 11 students – three girls and eight males, aged 21 to 67 – all say they’re long-term Beatles obsessives. (Two named their sons Jude, after certainly one of the band’s most well-known songs; one other has a son referred to as George, after George Harrison.)

Dale Roberts, 31, and Damion Ewing, 51, are each skilled tour guides and hope the qualification will assist them entice prospects. “The tour industry in Liverpool is fierce,” Roberts says.

Alexandra Mason, 21, says she has lately accomplished a regulation diploma however determined to vary monitor when she heard about the Beatles course. “I never really wanted to be a lawyer,” she says. “I always wanted to do something more colourful and creative.”

She provides, “In my mind, I’ve gone from the ridiculous to the sublime,” however admits that some would possibly suppose she’s performed the reverse.

A postgraduate qualification in The Beatles is a rarity, however the band has been studied in different contexts for many years. Stephen Bayley, an structure critic, who’s now an honorary professor at the University of Liverpool, says that when he was a pupil in the Sixties at Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool – John Lennon’s alma mater – his English trainer taught Beatles lyrics alongside the poetry of John Keats.

The Beatles performing their final dwell public live performance on 30 January 1969


In 1967, Bayley wrote to Lennon asking for assist analysing songs on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Bayley mentioned Lennon “wrote back basically saying, ‘You can’t analyse them.’”

But lately a rising variety of lecturers are doing simply that. Tessler says researchers in a number of disciplines are writing about The Beatles, many exploring views on the band knowledgeable by race or feminism. Next 12 months, she plans to begin a journal of Beatles research, she says.

Some individuals in Liverpool, nevertheless, should not satisfied about the band’s educational worth. In interviews round Penny Lane, two locals say they suppose the course is an odd thought.

It’s obtained to be the University of Liverpool for an MA in The Fab Four


“What are you going to do with that? You’re not going to cure cancer, are you?” says Adele Allan, proprietor of the Penny Lane Barber Shop.

“It’s an entirely silly course,” says Chris Anderson, 38, out strolling his canine, earlier than including that he thinks nearly all school levels are “entirely silly.”

Others are extra optimistic. “You can study anything,” says Aoife Corry, 19. “You don’t need to prove yourself by doing some serious subject.”

Tessler concludes Wednesday’s class by outlining the topics for the semester’s remaining lectures. It is a programme that any Beatles fan would savour, together with area journeys to St Peter’s Church, the place Lennon and McCartney first met in 1957 in the church corridor, and Strawberry Field, the former youngsters’s house the band immortalised in track. Classes will cowl key moments in the band’s historical past, together with a well-known dwell tv look on The Ed Sullivan Show and Lennon’s homicide in 1980, Tessler says.

She then offers students a studying record, topped by a textbook referred to as The Beatles in Context. “Are there any questions?” she asks.

“What’s your favourite Beatles album?” calls out Dom Abba, 27, the pupil with the yellow submarine tattoo.

Tessler gamely solutions (“The American version of Rubber Soul”), then clarifies what she means: “Does anybody have any questions about the module?”

The students clearly nonetheless have some solution to go earlier than they develop into Beatles lecturers as a lot as followers. But there are nonetheless 11 months of lectures left.

This article initially appeared in The New York Times.

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