Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Adding To The Beatle Industry?

Want to generate more web links than you could, or should, visit? Just Google "Beatles-Liverpool". You'll be confronted with a daunting surfeit of tacky, predictable, cliched & frankly rather pathetic links, however tenuous, to the Fab Four. I've always been wary of celebrating the fact that the band came from Liverpool. It's history; as one who wants to see new, unsigned acts from the area given the breaks they deserve, it's a source of frustration, sometimes exasperation, to be asked about a band which split up 40 years ago. Don't get me wrong, I'm as much of a Beatle afficianado as the next Scouser, & it's impossible to imagine (so to speak) what much of pop music would have been like without their legacy.
However, that's a key word in this context, legacy. It is not of the present, it's part of music's heritage.
Which makes me sceptical of the inherent worth, academic relevance & purpose of a Masters Degree course at Liverpool's Hope University entitled, The Beatles, Popular Music and Society (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/04/beatles-higher-education-liverpool-university ; http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/03/03/liverpool-hope-university-launches-beatles-masters-degree-100252-23047805/ & http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7921328.stm ).
The Guardian's report notes:
"Among the topics covered on the course, which comprises four 12-week modules and a dissertation, are the postwar music industry, subcultures, and the importance of authenticity and locality........
"As well as investigating different ways of studying popular music, the MA will look at the studio sound and compositions of the Beatles and examine Liverpudlian life from the 1930s to see how events helped to shape the music emerging in the city."
Mike Brocken, a senior lecturer in popular music at Hope University & occasional welcome voice on BBC Radio Merseyside, is defensive in his response when asked in the Guardian piece about the relevance of such a course, given the current job market. He goes a little further down the road of justification in the Echo article, which relates that he "stressed the unique course was anything but 'Mickey Mouse', with serious academic study the order of the day."
I can certainly see the merit in academic study of music from the 60s (not just that produced by the Beatles) & how it shaped or changed attitudes in society. I can also recognise the academic validity of placing the Beatles' music in the context of the different musical genres in the city in the decades leading up to the Merseybeat era. If the course places an emphasis on the latter field of study, it would be of a piece with other valuable aspects of local history. Simply obsessing over the Fab Four's output, on the other hand, serves no real purpose.
Anybody considering the course would do well to bear in mind the likely cost of the MA course: £3,445. Imagine no possessions indeed.

1 comment:

Mike Licht said...

Yanks will be amazed at the size of the Beatles-Industrial Complex in the UK.

See

http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/03/04/mop-top-masters-program/