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Professor takes students on a Magical Mystery Trip.

When I was in college our electives weren’t all that enticing.  There were a few music appreciation classes, but nothing outside of Beethoven and Motzart.  I know a while back Oxford was offering classes on The Beatles, but I’m not sure that they are anymore.  I always had hoped that I could take a class on The Beatles, or at least 20th Century popular music.  Maybe I’ll have to make the long commute audit this class.  Maybe they offer it online?  It looks like fun.

Here’s what we’ve read.

Converse College professor David Berry is adamant that The Beatles hit, “She Loves You,” isn’t your average teeny bopper song.

The tune, which lasts exactly two minutes and 21 seconds, includes the kind of innovative techniques — like mixing blues, folk, a bit of jazz and a guitar sound bite just to keep the listener guessing — that made The Beatles famous.

Berry is teaching a four-week interim on The Beatles so students better understand how George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and John Lennon became spokesmen for a large proportion of the 1960s youth.

When explaining the music theory and thoughts that went into “She Loves You,” Berry tells his class that what “seemingly is a teeny bopper song, really isn’t at all.”

Berry points to the subtle arrangement changes, with several key changes and the way the song ends on a sixth chord, which is relatively unheard of.

“Not to mention the fact that the song was written in the third person,” Berry said. “What other song can you think of is written in the third person? I can’t think of another love song written in the third person.”

Berry’s obvious enthusiasm for The Beatles has resonated with his students, many of whom were Beatles fans before they enrolled in the class and nearly all of whom are fans three weeks into the interim.

“Before, I wasn’t a fan. Now I’m a Beatles fanatic,” said junior Sam Chapman. “I would say I’ve done a 180 (degree turnaround). I have a big appreciation for them now. They’ve grown on me.”

Berry requires his class to listen to, and remember, the exact titles — including correct punctuation — of 211 Beatles songs, which translates into more than 11 hours of music.

Four times during the course, Berry will “drop the needle” on a song and students must be able to identify the title.

At the end of the course, Berry expects his students to answer the following questions:

Were the Beatles any good?

Were they worth all the fuss?

“There have been only three big cultural phenomenons in (modern popular) music,” Berry said. “Elvis, who was popular because of what he represented; Michael Jackson, who ushered in the video age; and The Beatles, who were famous for their music.”

Berry spends the majority of class time showing footage of the Beatles Anthology, a series of three albums and a documentary that includes rare footage of the band and interview segments with all four members.

“Anytime you immerse yourself into one thing, you’re bound to gain an appreciation of it whether you end up liking it or not,” Berry said.

Jennifer Dobson, a deaf education major, said she’s enjoyed watching the anthologies, especially seeing Lennon acting “silly and goofy.”

“You get to know them, I think, in an intimate, more personal way,” she said.

Several of Berry’s students said they’ve listened to the Beatles so much that they wake up in the middle of the night with a Beatles tune in their head.

“The immersion technique seems to work particularly well with the Beatles because you get a sense of what an impact they had on music and culture then and now,” Berry said. “They’re an industry.”

Berry said the highest student evaluations he’s ever received in his 20 years at Converse have come from students enrolled in The Beatles interim.

“There’s always a deep lesson when you study the Beatles,” Berry said. “But we keep it light-hearted and fun.”

Source: Spartanburg Herald


2 Responses

  1. I’m jealous. My College History of Rock teacher hated the Beatles.

  2. I love the beatles

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