I've been considering a Beatles blog for some time now - really, since deciding to seriously begin researching and pursuing connections between the Beatles and the avant-garde about a year and a half ago in June of 2011. In conducting this very specific and focused research, I have of course learned a great deal about the band in general - things not directly related to the Beatles and the avant-garde, but nonetheless fascinating and interesting and revealing about the band as a whole. And despite giving lectures at the University of Hartford and the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati specifically on the Beatles and the avant-garde, the only real place that I've shared "macro-scale" Beatles facts and details has been through LifeLearn's course on the Beatles that I've been teaching for the past year. In fact, the fall term sessions just started last Thursday, and the preparation for that has completely dominated my Beatles research over the last few weeks. It has also given me all sorts of new ideas.
Soooo, I'm finally getting around to starting a Beatles Blog. Very little of it will be polished product, but it will allow others to offer their insights and comments on my research. Each post will feature one or two nascent ideas - something I've been thinking about, but haven't quite worked out thoroughly. It will serve as a laboratory for my findings and thoughts.
For the first of these blogs, I wish to explore something that I had never even noticed until last Thursday's LifeLearn class, when it was pointed out by Mr. Harvey Goodman. First, take a listen to "Rock Island Line" by Lonnie Donegan. Donegan (1931-2002) fronted the skiffle craze that hit England in 1956. The interest in skiffle prompted John Lennon (then 16 years old) to start his own band, originally named The Black Jacks, then changed to The Quarrymen (sarcastically referencing Lennon's grammar school, Quarry Bank), and then a few others before eventually settling on The Beatles. Interestingly, Donegan was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1990. The Beatles were awarded MBEs in 1964.
Now take a listen to the Beatles' "This Boy". The two songs appear to have very little in common, but as Harvey Goodman rightly observed, they both begin with the exact same chord. Play them back to back and you'll hear the similarity immediately. The chord is a D major, and may be notated in ascii guitar tablature as follows:
Perhaps this similarity is inevitable as this particular D major chord is extremely common - it's one of the first chords beginners ever learn - and no doubt many others start with the same chord. (I wonder how many others we could find...) Regardless, it's a similarity I had never previously noticed, and for that reason I am grateful to Harvey for pointing it out.
I am constantly and pleasantly surprised by how much I learn from teaching!