Last night I delivered "The Beatles: Band of the Sixties" at the Antioch Public Library District in Antioch, Illinois. About 13 people showed up (the 95 registrations I mentioned in yesterday's blog is actually for tomorrow's program in Mundelein - my mistake) who proved to be an enthusiastic and eager audience. One woman asked about George Martin's contributions to the band's music, which is indeed critical because none of the band members were musically educated. Martin, who was musically educated, was thus able to take the raw creative talents of the band and polish it into a commercially viable recorded product. Just as rests are equally important as the notes, so too George Martin knew when NOT to impose his own ideas on the Beatles' music - he recognized and knew when it would be better to let t he band come up with their own solutions and when it would be better to step in and make alterations or contributions.
Lennon himself, however, was always dismissive of Martin's contributions. Referring to both George Martin and Dick James (the band's publisher), Lennon complained to Jann Wenner that "People are under a delusion that they made us, when in fact we made them." Perhaps Lennon forgot that Martin was hugely successful before ever meeting the Beatles. He went on in a letter published in The John Lennon Letters to say that "George Martin was a great help in translating our music technically when we needed it, but for the cameraman to take credit from the director is a bit too much." Lennon, perhaps being a bit narcissistic, was either unable or unwilling to acknowledge how crucial a role George Martin played in the band's recordings. Without George Martin, the band could have continued as a hugely successful stage band, but they never would have broken into the record industry or evolved into the studio band that produced "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Penny Lane", Pepper, The White Album, or Abbey Road.
Today, being Day 3 of the lecture tour, will feature the same "Band of the Sixties" program at the Franklin Public Library (9151 W Loomis Rd, Franklin, WI) from 7:00-8:30 p.m.
There are five main characters in the story of the Beatles and the avant-garde. The first two, of course, are John Lennon and Paul McCartney. At the heart of my research are two parallel dynamics that occurred between Lennon and McCartney over the course of the band’s existence: the first a shift in the leader of the group (what started as John’s band ended as Paul’s); the second a simultaneous shift in avant-garde aesthetics (what started as Paul’s experimentation ended as John’s). While the former has been written about and analyzed extensively, the latter has been largely ignored, or at best treated trivially and glossed over.
The third primary character is the catalyst for both of these dynamics: Yoko Ono. While never part of the band, Ono is inextricable from its history for her profound impact on John Lennon. The ultimate focus of my project, then, is on the artistic production and experimentation of Paul McCartney and John Lennon between 1965 (with McCartney’s early tape experiments) through 1969 (with Lennon and Ono’s Wedding Album), paying particular attention to how the avant-garde scene of the time influenced and inspired these experiments.
The two remaining primary characters are both Georges: Harrison and Martin. Both men were integral to the artistic development of the Beatles, and display significant avant-garde influence: Harrison through his connection with Indian music, experiences with Eastern philosophy and religion, and in his solo albums Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound; Martin through his classical background and education, and experimental recording techniques.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.