Bill Roen provided an introduction of our speaker Dr. Elizabeth R. Upton -
We had a slight technical difficulty where Zoom kicked out our speaker, so we all shared Beatles stories until she returned and some of our members had taken her class and said it was hard!
Steve Scherer asked what is the one thing that you want us to take away from her presentation today?
Dr. Upton shared all the GE classes they teach in Musicology used to be music appreciation. They learn Vocabulary, composers activity of what they are doing, what listeners are doing, The Beatles teach really well for these kinds of engagement – to remember to include the listeners.
Instead of one way – classical music composition – write and hand off to performers, the Beatles wrote, performed and listened to other music. When starting writing, they were writing for others and their songs were generic – common feelings of love, feeling hopeful, not personal. A lot of titles had the word "You" in it. "From Me to You," to have that type of communication. "I want to hold your hand," etc. They went into music to meet girls and make a lot of money, which they did.
Benjamin Fisher asked about Brian Wilson Head Sounds. "Sgt. Pepper" came out in 1967; last tour in SF in 1966 was not good. They learned the bands then had these complicated names so gave them this outlet with another name – so making "Sgt. Pepper" allowed this layered complicated sound with symphonic riffs and full settings for each song.
John O'Keefe took her class in 2014 and remembered when she discussed the Beatles breaking up asked her to share why – it was a lot of different things. There was never really a rock star management to know they could have taken a vacation without breaking up. So management styles differed – John thought everyone would just agree with him and Paul married the daughter of a lawyer; so that challenge to John’s authority was not appreciated. The mindset of Beatlemania was they were the flavor of the month, thinking the next big band would replace them; that never happened. Rolling Stones is an example that they are still touring and Mick Jagger is a great grandfather, but they take breaks between tours.
John didn’t want the story to be that hey were breaking up, so on the quiet, everyone in Beatles started working on solo albums but thought they would have a coordinated release. Well, Paul released his first, so that caused some issues but ultimately they worked things out.
The movie, "Let it Be" was supposed to be the get-back project to playing live as a band. They made the "Abbey Road" album after these movies.
Different directors have released or will be releasing films on these get back projects whether from the not getting along perspective or getting along times.
Gordon asked whether there a path between medieval music and current music. She discussed the link between middle music - from Gregorian chants and music for church services to tunes for troubadours, polyphonies (music in more than one part) to “secular music.” Thinking of 15th century songs around what listeners were thinking – verse, repeat, contrast, return to original verse.
Marsha asked about their pageboy haircuts. Starting in 1960, they were hired to play in Hamburg in bars. One day a college student heard it and loved it and the next day he brought friends and these three German art students who started regularly attending. So the Beatles started hanging out with them because they thought they were fashionable and cool. One of the guys had a haircut from a Parisian school, so they all tried it (except for a drummer, who wasn’t Ringo) - so from Paris to Hamburg.
John O’Keefe asked about a Vanderbilt professor's comparison of one of Beethoven’s pieces to "Hey Jude." The message of the song, though, is everything is going to be alright, even though things are difficult. It started out as a message to Julian because his parents were getting divorced - "Hey, Jules" - but didn’t want it to be so personal. The "nah nah nah nah nah nah nah's" – they had just learned to repeat phrases in India with meditating to have your mind calm down so you can focus.
Mark Rogo asked about Pete Best; she said he is still alive in Liverpool. Pete wasn’t really a professional drummer. He played drums, his mom set up a club in their basement called, the Jacaranda Club. So when they got the gig in Hamburg they were three guitarists and needed to hire a drummer to go to Germany. They hired Pete the day before they left for Hamburg, but he didn’t really hang with them; meanwhile, Ringo was the drummer in the biggest band in Liverpool at the time, so George Martin the manager was able to make the switch.
We will definitely have Dr. Upton back when she can have her slides and full presentation, but despite it all, this was a delightful conversation and meeting.
A contribution to the Westwood Library will be made in her honor and we look forward to having her again.
- In service, Past President, Aly Shoji