The Beatles Creativity
In 2007 I was part of the Learner-generated Contexts team that presented the Open Context Model of Learning at the launch of the OU’s Open Learn initiative. Our view was that if OER’s we being offered in a post-Web 2.0 world we also needed a new pedagogy. We believed that various approaches that existed to learning had developed with the limitations that came from the sector or institution in which they originated. However Open Learning means more than just “open access” which it seems to be limited to in the University sector, but means learning that is open to all and emergent. So we, the joint authors (from every sector of education) proposed a new “pedagogy” that was open to context.
The Open Context Model of Learning was the result, fusing pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy, and it is what this blog is about. The Learner-Generated Contexts presentation at OpenLearn was successful and loved by John Seely Brown. We were first asked to write that up for the Conference proceedings, which we did collaboratively as the Open Context Model of Learning but that was rejected. We re-structured it as book chapter but I argued that we needed a more accessible form of publicising this work and wrote a novel 63/68 A Visceral History which I subsequently publicised by writing about The Beatles. At the request of Russell Francis I applied the Open Context Model of Learning to The Beatles recording career and found that they developed their recording craft in line with the PAH Continuum. All You Need is Heutagogy captures that and is, perhaps, an easy way into understanding Heutagogy;
I think the Beatles Career went through 6 phases;
1. Live 1957-1963 This was the period from the Woolton Fete in July 1957 when Paul McCartney was introduced to John Lennon after he played with The Quarrymen skiffle group, who played a Buddy Holly track that became their first recording – That’ll Be The Day;
Until Love Me Do;
During this time John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison they evolved into The Beatles who, with Pete Best on drums, became a great live rock n roll group. They were finding their identity together with help from their mates, hangers-on and admirers, and learning from the context they were in. Managed by Brian Epstein they got a recording contract and evolved, with the addition of Ringo Starr on drums, into a potential recording group.
2. Singles 1963-1964 Determined to make a hit record during their “pedagogic” phase they did as instructed by the music industry professionals they worked with, especially George Martin, in order to learn how to make hit records. They first achieved that with Please Please Me; ;
They continued to develop as hit recording artists, the Pop Mop Tops, until Hard Days Night;
Although by She Loves You they were stating what they, as a group, thought was a hit record as opposed to being directed towards a hit by George Martin, who was describing himself as their “school teacher” at this time. They disagreed on the ending & The Beatles prevailed over Martin; She loves You was the biggest selling single of the 60s.
3. Albums 1964 – 1966 However their unprecedented pop success wasn’t stimulating enough and from I’m a Loser;
they developed musically, stimulated by their musician peers, Like Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, The Byrds, The Who, The Moody Blues and The Beach Boys amongst others. Arguably this lasted until Rubber Soul, their “folk-rock” album and In My Life
They were in their “andragogy” phase when they negotiated with their peers as to how music-making would be defined; learning new instruments (the electric piano) and new musical styles, driven by lyrics rather than pop-music formulas. They weren’t responding to the historic successes and patterns of the music industry but helping redefine what popular music was made up of, along with their contemporaries. Their producer George Martin said he first became a “collaborator” on Yesterday.
4. Psychedelic Heutagogy 1966-67 However from 6th April 1966 until 27th August 1967 The Beatles entered their “heutagogy” phase. They were now masters of their musical craft but, as they rarely repeated themselves (except on “work Songs”) they wanted to create something new. This time it was using the recording studio as an instrument. The very first record they recorded for the album Revolver captured this in full – Tomorrow Never Knows;
and this studio-based experimentation lasted until I Am The Walrus;
The most significant part of their heutagogy phase was Sgt. Pepper which exemplified heutagogic practice in that it started with a new metaphor for The Beatles themselves (as a lonely hearts club band), so they could stretch themselves without being limited by their existing pop music identity. They also told Parlophone records that in future they would solely be a recording band who never played live (George Martin was incredulous at such a notion). They were now free to experiment as they wished; then Brain Epstein died & their support systems began evaporating. The made Magical Mystery Tour as a hippie experiment, but their forte was not film-making…
5. Apple 1968 They needed to re-organise, and planned to do so as musician-run record label. They altruistically set up Apple records as a company that would treat musical (an other) artists with respect, and even offer Beatles as producers. Roughly speaking this lasted from from the acoustic song from Rishikesh Mother Natures Son;
throughout 1968 until the closing track on the White Album “The Beatles” Good Night; This was their post-heutagogy phase and featured a new form of organisation, what I call an atelier studio model. The Beatles recorded simultaneously in more than one studio at Abbey Road, and produced others as well. This is often described as the dissolution of the The Beatles, but I see it as an artistic evolution; they were each individually skilled enough to work without the other three all at the same time.
6 Let It Be 1969 However their non-stop efforts during 1968 combined with their increasing independence meant The Beatles were unprepared for Get Back; Foisted on them by Universal Studios the Get Back film project put the Beatles into a context where others were in control of their work based on contracts that were not interpreted in the Beatles favour. Forced to create as a live foursome in front of cameras, the opposite of their new atelier way of working, The Beatles fell apart; Let It Be. But finally the pulled back together to record a fitting close to their career. From Abbey Road to The End;
The links take you back to the full Beatles YouTube album blog post of that phase of their career and their creativity; enjoy