Apr 072011

My daughter, Kate, is in the final year of her 5-year architecture program at Syracuse University. I won’t brag about her except to say that this semester she is taking a fantastic course; here’s the outline:


Course Description

The Beatles changed the face of music, culture, business and technology forever.  This course examines how these changes came about, with an eye to anticipating further/future changes on these fronts.

Our guest lecturers will offer a comprehensive look at the Beatles including:

  • Business-the growth and maturation of some of the most important brands in history
  • History-the biographical stories of all key players, the evolution of the group and solo careers
  • Music-the evolving structure and character of their world changing sound
  • Social and cultural aspects-the profound impact on popular culture
  • Political-leveraging celebrity to advance political and social concerns
  • Technology-the role of innovation that went beyond songwriting and performance

Tentative Topics and Speakers by Week:

1/24/11: Peter Asher with Rupert Perry—The British Invasion. A McCartney song becomes a hit for Peter and Gordon. Apple Corps-A&R reflections. Life after Apple: managing and producing the Pantheon.

1/31/11: Martin Bandier and Rupert Perry—How important can one band be? Contextualizing the impact of the Fab Four on music, business, culture and society during the last fifty years.

2/7/11: TBA—Andrew Waggoner—The Songs: examining structure and identifying nuances—the composer’s view.

2/14/11: TBA—Imagine—Andrew Solt’s John Lennon documentary.

2/21/11: TBA—Michael Lindsay Hogg and Andrew Solt with Rupert Perry—the Beatles films

2/28/11: TBA—Theo Cataforis—Coming together to make a joyous sound. Musicology and ethnomusicology of the Beatles.

3/7/11: Peter Brown with Rupert Perry—Brian Epstein and the Liverpool scene in the sixties.

3/21/11: TBA—Giles Martin—The recording and technological advances of Sir George Martin and the Beatles. Remixing the Beatles for release and Love.

3/28/11: Peter Shukat—Very much alive—revenue streams when artists are no longer performing or creating new content.

4/4/11: TBA—Leveraging celebrity to reduce human suffering.

4/11/11: TBA—Art influencing cultural change. Balancing artistic integrity while advancing social causes and managing the ultimate brand.

4/18/11: TBA—John Branca—Acquiring Northern songs with Michael Jackson.The new deals: Cirque de Soleil, Rock Band and the next opportunities.

4/25/11: (Test at the end of this class) speaker TBA—John Eastman—Solo careers—life after the Beatles, sustaining the momentum and brand credibility.

5/2/11 14: TBA—Nurturing gifted artists—are you the next Brian Epstein? What you MUST learn from the Beatles saga.

Readings, media viewing and listening:

Required: Northern Songs-the True Story of the Beatles Publishing Empire—Brian Southall and Rupert Perry, CBE, available at SU Bookstore.

Additional reading TBA

Recommended Reading: You Never Give Me Your Money—Peter Doggett


When she sent me this outline at the beginning of the semester every class looked interesting but two stood out – the John Branca and John Eastman sessions. I’ve always been fascinated/bewildered by how Paul and Yoko could have lost the publishing rights to Michael Jackson. I figured between these two Johns maybe I could find out.

Well, Eastman canceled. He’s been replaced this coming Monday with Bob Spitz, biographer of not only the Beatles but also Bob Dylan; he’ll be appearing live. Two weeks later, Branca will be there via video-conference. Kate got the okay for me to attend either or both sessions.

It’s a 4 1/4 hour drive each way and gas and tolls will run about $125 per trip. So, should I stay or should I go? Both? Either? Neither?

Beyond advice, I’m curious what other non-concert rock experience the members of RTH deliberated about attending or not attending. Did you regret going? Did you regret staying? Was it worth it?


  11 Responses to “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”

  1. About 20 years ago I attended an afternoon-long seminar conducted at University of Miami by producer Phil Ramone. Pretty interesting guy, it didn’t cost anything, and it was local. Definitely worth the time and trouble to listen to a top pro such as him.

    Congratulations on you daughter finishing the architectural program. However, I wonder what possibly could be revealed about the Beatles that already hasn’t been written or talked about. Has any other group or artist been so thoroughly written about or documented? Would you really learn anything new that you couldn’t learn elsewhere? Bob Spitz’s book has come under some fire for factual errors and it appears he doesn’t take criticism gracefully. I’m not sure it would be worth $250.00 and 18 hours of driving.


  2. BigSteve

    You should definitely go, though the whole project smacks of the ‘great man’ approach to history, which I have philosophical issues with.

  3. BigSteve

    “What other non-concert rock experience [have] the members of RTH deliberated about attending or not attending.’

    I remember actually contemplating whether to fly to the RTH confab in Philly a few years ago, where members made presentations and pince nez’d each other in person.

  4. You should definitely check out one of these lectures; if nothing else, what a cool thing to do with your daughter but let her take dad to class. Of the two choices you pose I’d go with Live Spitz over web-conferenced Branca. If you’re going to travel to be there, the least the guest lecturers could do is show up in person too.

  5. Spitz holds appeal also because I’m such a Bobcat. If I had the chance to question him I’d want to get his take on the public personae of Dylan vs. Paul or John, any insights as to why they responded so differently to massive fame. Branca, as I said, is more appealing because of the publishing rights issue. How could Paul and Yoko have been so stupid and/or cheap as to lose them? Do any RTH-ers know of anything to explain this? Any book? Maybe it’s in Kate’s required readings which I’ll get after the semester.

  6. By the way, Kate has loved the class. She likes the Beatles but only in the way any kid today does who has a father like me who exposed her to them at a tender young age would. Certainly a bigger fan than most her age I’d guess. And a bigger fan after this class.

    She calls me every Monday night after the class to tell me about it. Her favorite so far was the first class with Peter Asher. He was there in person and put on a multi-media presentation (which it looks like he might be “touring” behind). Background on his family and London in the early ’60s, Paul being at his family’s home visiting his sister, Peter & Gordon, Apple, James Taylor, all accompanied with films and music, and a class sing-a-long to “A World Without Love”. Very engaging, very down to earth, and a whole lot of fun.

  7. That’s very cool, al.

  8. misterioso

    Spitz impresses one as an utter pill, and his Dylan and Beatles bios, while not without redeeming value by any means, are sloppy at times and he is not a terribly good writer, either. In this reader’s opinion.

  9. misterioso

    I canNOT believe they didn’t invite Townsman saturnismine to give his lecture “Beatles for Sale: How the Fabs Controlled Over Their American Output, 1964-66.”

    Just kidding, bro! High five!!!!

  10. Well, I know you are all wondering and so I gotta let you know, I went.

    And I must say, going confirms the accuracy of the hive mind that is Rock Town Hall. tonyola, you were correct – nothing new was revealed and there were numerous errors. misterioso, he is a deadly dull writer, at least based on a few extensive passages he read from the book; my unread copies of his Dylan and Beatles bios will remain that way. BigSteve, there were definitely aspects of the great man approach (but not overly so to me). And Mr. Mod, in the end it was worth the trip for the exact reason you mentioned.

    Entering the lecture hall, the Beatles in Washington in 1964 was playing on the big screen on the stage. For me, this was (almost) worth the four hour drive I had just finished. I know I’m older than the average RTHer so I don’t know how many of you could appreciate this in the way that I did. I was a few weeks shy of my ninth birthday on that Sunday evening when I sat in front of the old black & white TV and saw the Beatles’ initial appearance on Ed Sullivan. You will all have to accept it because I can’t explain how or why but I knew that night my life had just changed. And walking into that lecture hall and seeing that DC footage I could only think of that night and what it meant to me.

    The professor gave an intro in which he said that Spitz had been Springsteen’s manager and then Elton John’s manager. I question both of those but a quick google gives me nothing to corroborate or refute that except for statements from Spitz. Anyone out there know anything of this?

    The focus of the talk was to be the Beatles (nee Quarrymen) from 1958 – 1961. Spitz mentioned how McCartney was 15 years old when he met John and then proceeded to his most egregious error. “People tend not to realize how young the Beatles were. In that clip you saw earlier from Washington, they were only 18 and 19 years old.” Well, not really, even the youngest, George was 21 years old in 1964. (Of course, later Spitz said that the Washington concert was in 1963.)

    He read long passages from the book, one about the Hamburg days and one about a post Christmas concert after they returned from Hamburg which can, at best, be considered “fictionalizations” but of course were presented as a documentary account.

    There were very few questions asked during the q & a following his presentation, so I did ask if he had any thought about why the Beatles came through all that fame relatively unscathed and asked if he could compare it to Dylan’s reaction to similar adulation in that era. He ignored the Dylan part. He said he could only attribute the Beatles successful handling of the fame to a miracle but then proceeded to give a better theory, that being their great friendship. They stuck together, had one hotel room, not four, vacationed together, and even when they were suing each other, always had each other’s backs and always defended their accomplishments.

    So, I’m not in the least sorry I went. If I had known how Spitz would be, I would have skipped it and would go to next week’s lecture, where the guest speaker will be Peter Brown. At least he was there for it! But I don’t think I will go for Brown since I still do want to go to see John Branca in two weeks (even though he will only be there via video); the professor did indicate he will be discussing Michael Jackson’s purchase of the publishing rights.

    But it was worth the trip because it was great to see Kate and great to attend this with her. She likes a lot of the music I exposed her to when she was younger and more inclined to pay heed to my recommendations but, at 22 years old, the chances to share something like this don’t come around that often. Get it while you can…

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