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The long, winding road to an MA in Beatles songs

world Updated: Mar 05, 2009 00:45 IST
Sam Jones
Sam Jones
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Their thirst for reinvention saw the elegantly quiffed Hamburg rockers become the mop-topped fab four, hippy harbingers of sexual liberation and, eventually, druggy psychedelic visionaries.

Forty years on, the Beatles and their songs are to be hauled into the halls of academia and dissected by postgraduate students at a university in Merseyside, north-west England.

The masters degree in the Beatles, Popular Music and Society is being billed by Liverpool Hope University as the first such course in the UK and “probably the world”.

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.

Mike Brocken, senior lecturer in popular music at the university, said it was time the band were put under an academic microscope.

“There have been over 8,000 books about the Beatles but there has never been serious academic study and that is what we are going to address,” he said. “The Beatles influenced so much of society, not just with their music, but also with fashion, from their collar-less jackets to their psychedelic clothes.”

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.

Brocken said that the size of the MA course, which begins this September, would depend on the number of applicants, but would not exceed a “possible” maximum of 30 places.

Asked what employment benefits a course scrutinising songs such as Octopus’s Garden, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and I Want to Hold Your Hand might yield in the current economic climate, Brocken said: “I think any MA equips people with extra study and research skills. MAs of any description are vital for the work place. You will find that once you have done a masters degree it separates you from the pack.”
The Guardian