A Year in the Life: Who Gets a Master’s Degree in the Beatles?

LIVERPOOL, England — On Wednesday morning, as a new semester started, college students eagerly headed into the College of Liverpool’s lecture theaters to start programs in archaeology, languages and worldwide relations.

However in lecture room No. 5 of the college’s concrete Rendall Constructing, a much less conventional program was getting underway: a grasp’s diploma devoted fully to the Beatles.

“How does one begin a Beatles M.A.?” requested Holly Tessler, the American tutorial who based the course, searching at 11 keen college students. One wore a Yoko Ono T-shirt; one other had a yellow submarine tattooed on his arm.

“I believed the solely option to do it, actually, is with some music,” she mentioned.

Tessler then performed the class the music video for “Penny Lane,” the Beatles’ tribute to a actual avenue in Liverpool, simply a quick drive from the classroom.

The yearlong course — “The Beatles: Music Business and Heritage” — would concentrate on shifting perceptions of the Beatles over the previous 50 years, and on how the band’s altering tales affected industrial sectors like the file enterprise and tourism, Tessler mentioned in an interview earlier than class.

For Liverpool, the band’s hometown, the affiliation with the Beatles was value over $110 million a 12 months, based on a 2014 examine by Mike Jones, one other lecturer on the course. Vacationers make pilgrimages to metropolis websites named in the band’s songs, go to venues the place the group performed — like the Cavern Membership — and pose for pictures with Beatles statues. The band’s impression was all the time financial and social, as a lot as a musical, Tessler mentioned.

All through the course, college students must cease being merely Beatles followers and begin desirous about the group from new views, she added. “No one needs or wants a diploma the place persons are sitting round listening to ‘Rubber Soul’ debating lyrics,” she mentioned. “That’s what you do in the pub.”

In Wednesday’s lecture, which targeted virtually fully on “Penny Lane,” Tessler inspired the college students to consider the Beatles as a “cultural model,” utilizing the phrases “narrative idea” and “transmediality.”

Then she utilized these concepts to a current Beatles-related occasion. Final 12 months, Tessler mentioned, avenue indicators alongside the actual Penny Lane had been defaced as Black Lives Matter protests unfold throughout Britain. There was a longstanding perception in Liverpool, she defined, that the avenue was named after an 18th-century slave dealer known as James Penny. (Town’s Worldwide Slavery Museum listed Penny Lane in an interactive show of avenue names linked to slavery in 2007, however it now says there isn’t any proof that the highway was named after the service provider.)

“What would occur in the event that they did change the identify to — I don’t know — Smith Lane?” Tessler requested. That might deprive Liverpool of a key vacationer attraction, she mentioned: “You’ll be able to’t pose subsequent to a signal that was Penny Lane.” The furor round the avenue identify confirmed how tales about the Beatles can intersect with modern debates, and have an financial impression, she mentioned.

The course’s 11 college students — three ladies and eight males, aged 21 to 67 — all mentioned they had been long-term Beatles obsessives. (Two had named their sons Jude, after one among the band’s most well-known songs; one other had a son known as George, after George Harrison.)

Dale Roberts, 31, and Damion Ewing, 51, each mentioned they had been skilled tour guides, and hoped the qualification would assist them appeal to clients. “The tour trade in Liverpool is fierce,” Roberts mentioned.

Alexandra Mason, 21, mentioned she had lately accomplished a legislation diploma however determined to alter monitor when she heard about the Beatles course. “I by no means actually needed to be a lawyer,” she mentioned. “I all the time needed to do one thing extra colourful and artistic.”

She added:“In my thoughts, I’ve gone from the ridiculous to the elegant” however mentioned that some would possibly assume she’d 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 College of Liverpool, mentioned that when he was a pupil in the Nineteen Sixties at Quarry Financial institution Excessive Faculty in Liverpool — John Lennon’s alma mater — his English trainer taught Beatles lyrics alongside the poetry of John Keats.

In 1967, Bayley wrote to Lennon asking for assist analyzing songs on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Membership Band.” Bayley mentioned Lennon “wrote again principally saying, ‘You’ll be able to’t analyze them.’”

However as of late a rising variety of lecturers are doing simply that: Tessler mentioned researchers in a number of disciplines had been writing about the Beatles, many exploring views on the band knowledgeable by race or feminism. Subsequent 12 months, she plans to begin a journal of Beatles research, she mentioned.

Some individuals in Liverpool, nevertheless, weren’t satisfied about the band’s tutorial worth. In interviews round Penny Lane, two locals mentioned they thought the course was an odd thought.

“What are you going to do with that? You’re not going to treatment most cancers, are you?” mentioned Adele Allan, the proprietor of the Penny Lane Barber Store.

“It’s a completely foolish course,” mentioned Chris Anderson, 38, out strolling his canine, earlier than including that he thought virtually all faculty levels had been “fully foolish.”

Others had been extra optimistic. “You’ll be able to examine something,” mentioned Aoife Corry, 19. “You don’t must show your self by doing a little severe topic,” she added.

Tessler concluded Wednesday’s class by outlining the topics for the semester’s remaining lectures. It was a program that any Beatles fan would savor, together with subject journeys to St. Peter’s Church, the place Lennon and McCartney first met in 1957 in the church corridor, and Strawberry Area, the former youngsters’s residence the band immortalized in music. Courses would cowl key moments in the band’s historical past together with a well-known dwell tv look on “The Ed Sullivan Present” and Lennon’s homicide in 1980, Tessler mentioned.

She then gave the college students a studying listing, topped by a textbook known as “The Beatles in Context.” Have been there any questions, she requested?

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

Tessler gamely answered (“The American model of ‘Rubber Soul’”), then clarified what she’d meant: “Does anyone have any questions on the module?” The scholars clearly nonetheless had a methods to go earlier than they grow to be Beatles lecturers, as a lot as followers. However there have been nonetheless 11 months of lectures left.

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