For all fans of the English rock band, ‘The Beatles’, the University of Liverpool, England, have launched a postgraduate program aimed at turning them into serious students of the band’s legacy. The yearlong course, “The Beatles: Music Industry and Heritage,” focuses on creating fresh perceptions of the Beatles over the past century and how the band’s life and times have affected commercial sectors like the record business and tourism.

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in 1960. The band comprised of frontline members which included: John Lennon, who was shot dead on December 8 1980, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkley (a.k.a. Ringo Starr), with the duo of McCartney and Starkley as the only living members. They were regarded as the most influential band of all time, as they were pivotal to the recognition of popular music as an art form and the development of counterculture in the 1960s.

The Beatles were kings in their prime. They hold the record as the best selling music artists of all time, with estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide. They’ve also successively claimed top spots on the UK Albums chart 15 times, the Billboard hot 100 chart 20 times and had hit a record-high number of singles to be ever sold in the UK (21.9 million). The band received many accolades, including seven grammy awards, four Brit awards, an academy award and fifteen Ivor Norvello awards. The Time Magazine named them among the 20th century most important people.

The postgraduate program entirely dedicated to the Beatles kicked off last Wednesday in lecture room No. 5 of the university’s concrete Rendall Building. The fact that this program originated from Liverpool wasn’t in any form by accident because that was the birthplace of the Beatles. The location would serve as an added advantage because it would afford an easy reach for the necessary course materials.

The course founder, Holly Tessler started off the program on a thrilling note as she posed a question to the 11 eager students;
“How does one start a Beatles M.A.?”
“I thought the only way to do it, really, is with some music,” she said.

Tessler, then played the class the music video of “Penny Lane,” the Beatles’ tribute to a real street in Liverpool, just a short drive from the classroom. The Wednesday’s lecture focused almost entirely on “Penny Lane” and in the course of the class, Tessler encouraged the students to think of the Beatles as a “cultural brand,” using the terms “narrative theory” and “transmediality.”

The 11 postgraduate students consisted of three women and eight men, aged 21-67, they all said they were long-term Beatles obsessives. Two had named their sons Jude, after one of the band’s most famous songs; another had a son called George, after George Harrison. Two work as professional tour guides in Liverpool and are hoping that the degree would help them attract customers and interestingly, Alexandra Mason, 21, who had recently completed a law degree decided to change track when she heard about the Beatles course. “I never really wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “I always wanted to do something more colorful and creative.”

However, different reactions have trailed this recent initiative by the Liverpool based university, while some saw it from the positive side, others were not convinced about the band’s academic value.

“What are you going to do with that? You’re not going to cure cancer, are you?” said Adele Allan, the owner of the Penny Lane Barber Shop.

“You can study anything,” said Aoife Corry, 19. “You don’t need to prove yourself by doing some serious subject,” she noted.Tessler, taking the introductory lecture. Source: nytimes.com

The first lecture for the programme was rounded up with the founder, Tessler, giving her students the course outline for the semester. It included field trips to St. Peter’s Church, where Lennon and McCartney first met in 1957 and Strawberry Field, the former children’s home the band immortalized in their song. Classes would cover major moments in the band’s history including a famous live television appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and Lennon’s murder in 1980. She then gave the students a reading list, topped by a textbook called “The Beatles in Context.”

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