Beatlemania 101

Summer school might not sound like the most thrilling way to spend the months of May through August, but those who do opt to stay in Searcy and take a couple of classes will notice some interesting offerings you might not see in the fall and spring course catalogs.

One such class is COMM 369, “The Beatles: Media and Culture.” Held during Intersession, this course packs in the history and impact of The Beatles.

“We trace the history of popular music in America and its influence internationally,” said Dr. Dutch Hoggatt, professor of communication. “We also examine the impact of World War II on British society and culture. The Beatles provided the ‘musical soundtrack’ to the tumultuous 1960s America. We examine the historical and social context of the 1960s. We try to allow students to experience The Beatles in much the same way the audiences of the 1960s experienced The Beatles — through music, films, television and print.”

The class meets for more than four hours every day for two weeks. That structure allows students to fully immerse themselves in the culture of The Beatles without much interruption.

For many students, the allure of the class comes from gaining a deeper understanding of a band that has been renowned for decades.

“For as long as I can remember, I have heard of The Beatles and their music,” senior Tin Nguyen said. “I was born more than 20 years after The Beatles officially disbanded in 1970, but I was still aware of The Beatles and their music at an early age. I think that says a lot about the kind of dent they made in history and our culture. I enrolled in this class because I wanted to learn how a group of nobody teenagers from a rough and poor city in the U.K. turned the world upside down. The Beatles didn’t just sing and make music; they brought about change in the world.”

In addition to viewing the five feature films starring The Beatles — “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “Let It Be” — the class is also visited by guest speakers who share deeper insight on The Beatles and the time period. An elder at College Church of Christ, Dan Newsom speaks on The Beatles’ first appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, on his own interviews with George Harrison’s sister Louise, and on the musical instruments the band used. Harding Associate Professor of History Julie Harris explores the British recording and broadcast industry during the time after World War II, and Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Jim Nesbit examines the history of psychedelic music.

By exploring the Fab Four and the history surrounding them, students are able to see their impact musically and culturally.

“In my mind, The Beatles are a microcosm of the 60s and 70s,” Nguyen said. “The Beatles represented that period’s values and beliefs, and I think learning about The Beatles will give me insight into the mindset of that generation.”

Jennifer Hannigan, publications writer

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