England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles
Michael Shelden is a Professor of English at Indiana State University, where he has won the top award for excellence in scholarship, the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research/Creativity Award, three times. He earned his PhD in English from Indiana University. He is the author of six biographies, including Orwell: The Authorized Biography, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His other Great Courses include How Winston Churchill Changed the World; George Orwell: A Sage for All Seasons; and England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles.
01: The Magical Mystery of the Beatles
What happened between September 1963 and February 1964 to launch the Beatles toward international stardom? In this opening lecture, discover some of the major social and sonic factors at work in the transformation of these young musicians into a pop culture hurricane that would soon take over (or “invade”) America.
02: Fateful Intersections in Liverpool
The Beatles were not born in a vacuum. Rather, they were a product of the many worlds contained within 1950s and 1960s Liverpool. Explore how the band soaked up this post-industrial and culturally vibrant scene, storing ideas and impressions that would later turn up, with surprising sophistication, in some of their early tunes.
03: Finding the Beat in the Beatles
The “beat” in the Beatles was about more than just the music—it was about the new group’s look and attitude. Explore the Bohemian fringe known as the beatniks; follow John, Paul, and George as they search for the right drummer; and consider the importance of the Beatles’ apprenticeship in Hamburg in refining their iconic sound.
04: Nowhere Men: The Dark Side of the Beatles
Here, Professor Shelden reveals some of the less flattering characteristics of the Beatles. Chief among these: anger—both as a problem for John Lennon (who nearly killed a friend just months before the launch of Beatlemania) and as an outlet for creativity (best seen in one of the Beatles’ early successes, “Help!”).
05: Beatles for Sale: Brian Epstein’s Genius
Meet band manager Brian Epstein, without whom the Beatles would never have pushed their musical talents beyond the world of Liverpool. Discover how Epstein put the show on the road, and made sure that road went all the way around the world (and on The Ed Sullivan Show)—despite a strong degree of resistance to the band in its early days.
06: The Cold War, JFK, and the Beatles
During the early 1960s, the Beatles became the West’s most irresistible export, as well as the best asset in the propaganda war with the East. Learn how the Cold War transformed the Beatles from a provincial act to superstars of the Western world. Also, consider new ways to think about the controversial song, “Back in the USSR.”
07: The Beatles Conquer America
When the Beatles finally arrived in the United States of America, they did so with all the fanfare usually accorded to heads of state. How did so much sound and energy come from only four people? Plunge into the captivating fervor, communal spirit, and bacchanal of abandon that would soon be known as Beatlemania.
08: The Englishness of A Hard Day’s Night
In summer 1964, the cinematic Beatles vehicle A Hard Day’s Night broke almost every rule in Hollywood at the time. Professor Shelden reveals what lies underneath the film’s surface charm and musical numbers: an overall attitude of irreverence and defiance in the face of authority, and a challenge for audiences to think for themselves.
09: Help! The Beatles at the Top in 1965
Take a trip to Abbey Road, a welcome escape for John, Paul, George, and Ringo from Beatlemania. More than a home away from home, Abbey Road would allow the Beatles to operate—under the guidance of producer George Martin—with an unimaginable freedom that produced hits like “Yesterday” and the groundbreaking album Rubber Soul.
10: Crossroads: The Beatles in 1966
In 1966, the road ahead for the Beatles seemed limitless. Nevertheless, misfortune struck that year in the form of a changing American music market, and a disastrous summer tour to Germany, Japan, North America, and the Philippines that would leave the Beatles more disillusioned than ever with the show business demands of fame.
11: The Summer of Sgt. Pepper’s
Go inside the invention of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an experiment in everything that was untried and risky that allowed the Beatles to start over as a different group. From “A Day in the Life” to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” consider the album’s surreal, psychedelic appeal—both then and now.
12: Hello, Goodbye: The End of the 1960s
In their last years together, all four of the Beatles seemed headed in new directions as they grew up—and apart. Nevertheless, witness how these final years brought a range of sounds, including protest songs, mystic melodies, anthems of friendship, and an iconic double album called simply, The Beatles, but better known as the “White Album.”