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The Beatles wait, January 1962

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago in January 1962, British popular music crept toward the brink of success. Notably, the coming months would see Britain’s Decca Records release the UK’s first international rock hit Telstar created by the quirky iconoclast Joe Meek with his studio band the Tornados. That recording declared Meek’s infatuation with the first telecommunications satellite and proved that London’s recording industry had the potential to compete in the United States.

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Brian Epstein transforms the Beatles, December 1961

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago in December 1961, Brian Epstein made a leap of faith that he could change his life and the lives of four young musicians. He could not foresee that he would change Western civilization. A few weeks earlier, the Liverpool businessman had heard the din of the Beatles in a claustrophobic former vegetable cellar and had seized upon the idea of transforming the band into something the world could embrace. He seems to have had few second thoughts about his decision, even as he allowed that he might fail.

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“What Brings Mr. Epstein Here?” 9 November 1961

By Gordon Thompson
The transformation of the Beatles from four musicians with humble roots into British cultural icons (second only to Shakespeare in some minds) began in Liverpool, even if a recent decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office may attempt to shape how we remember those roots in the future. Ironically, that decision comes shortly before a relevant anniversary in Beatles history.

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The Beatles and “My Bonnie”: 23 June 1961

By Gordon Thompson
To many adolescents fifty years ago, the future seemed bleak: the “King” had become preoccupied with refurbished Italian schmaltz while the world drew closer to Armageddon. But hope buzzed in the heart of an ungrounded amplifier in a West German high school.

Goodwill had floundered between the recently elected American president, John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union’s premier, Nikita Khrushchev over the Soviet blockade of Berlin and America’s support of the failed

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The foundations of British rock: Archer Street

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago, on Monday 22 May 1961, London’s constabulary attempted to terminate a British musical tradition. For as long as most of them could remember, musicians had gathered Monday afternoons on the short stretch of pavement between Rupert Street and Great Windmill Street in Soho to collect their pay from previous engagements and to pick up work for the coming week. A local merchant had probably complained about the disparate crowd blocking the street, so the police

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“The Start of a Solo Career”: Paul McCartney, 10 April 1970

By Gordon Thompson


Even in the storm’s dawning, both fans and defamers alike recognized magic in the Beatles’ ability to collaborate and to adapt in pursuit of a shared vision, and at the heart of this quest lay the desire to make great recordings. In the beginning of their career with EMI, their willingness to subvert their individual identities to a common cause (and the joy with which they did so) contributed to their success. In the

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“Tomorrow Never Knows”: The Beatles sample the future, April 1966

By Gordon Thompson

Forty-five years ago, at the beginning of April 1966, on the almost anniversary of a London dentist surreptitiously spiking his and George Harrison’s coffees with Lysergic acid diethylamide, John Lennon visited Barry Miles’ Indica Books and picked up a copy of Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In its pseudo-mystical prose, Lennon found partial inspiration for one of the most audacious recordings the Beatles would ever attempt.

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Ep. 8 – ALTERNATIVE MEDIA

Are we living in the “anti-60s”? This episode compares the counterculture movement to the blogosphere and pop music today….Bieber vs. Beatles! Hippies vs. Hipsters! Let the showdown begin…

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John Lennon and Jesus, 4 March 1966

By Gordon Thompson

Forty-five years ago, in the spring of 1966, as swinging London and its colorful denizens attracted the attention of Time, the publishers of an American teen magazine found part of a recent interview with John Lennon to be of particular interest. A rapid disintegration ensued of the complex identity that the Beatles management, the media, the fans, and even the musicians themselves had constructed, setting in motion a number of dark forces.

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The Beatles at the Cavern Club, 9 February 1961

By Gordon Thompson

Fifty years ago, one of the great stories in pop music began when the Beatles debuted in a dank arched subterranean Liverpool club dedicated to music. Located in the narrow lane called Mathew Street, just of North John Street, the Cavern Club had opened as a jazz haven that enfolded blues and skiffle, which was how the Quarry Men, John Lennon’s precursor to the Beatles, had first descended the steps and climbed the tiny stage in August 1957. Three-and-a-half years later, the Beatles had evolved into a

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The Oxford Comment Archive

What’s The Oxford Comment? In Spring 2010, Lauren and Michelle decided it was time Oxford University Press got a podcast, and by September, The Oxford Comment was born. Reporting at special events, live on the street, and from the “studio,” each episode features commentary from Oxford authors and friends of the Press. “The Oxford Comment […]

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Sixties British Pop in the Classroom

By Gordon Thompson

Baby boomers have not only fundamentally shaped our modern world, but also how their children (and grandchildren) perceive that world. The generation that gyrated with hula hoops and rock ‘n’ roll also embraced British pop music (among other things) and have bequeathed this aesthetic to today’s college students. On campuses across North America, students amble to classes with “Beatles” patches on their book bags while their college radio programs often include music by the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Kinks. At Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York a few years ago, a Facebook survey identified the Beatles as the favorite campus musical artists, followed closely by Bob Dylan. Given the continuing importance of a band that dissolved in acrimony over forty years ago, a question arises: does this subject merit inclusion in the college curriculum? The answer is clearly, yes.

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December 1960: A wild time for the Beatles

By Gordon Thompson

The Beatles reinvented themselves several times over their career, from comic mop-tops to psychedelic gurus to post-modern self-directed artistes; but perhaps one of their most remarkable transformations occurred before most of Britain or the world even knew they existed.

Fifty years ago, as the winter 1960 seeped into Britain, the Beatles returned from a little over three months on the stage boards of Hamburg’s Kaiserkeller where they had put in hundreds of hours of performance. Back in August, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Stu Sutcliffe had recruited Pete Best (and his relatively new drum kit) at the last minute for their very first club residency in the St. Pauli District of West Germany’s busiest port.

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The Who and “My Generation,” November 1965

Tweet By Gordon Thompson Forty-five years ago, in the anarchic world of mid-sixties British rock—with every major British act releasing records and storming the world—a unique record bullied its way into British consciousness that turned the conventions of the pop disk end-for-end.  Pete Townsend had penned a song that cut to the core of rock’s […]

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John Winston Ono Lennon, Everyman

By Gordon Thompson
On 9 October, many in the world will remember John Winston Ono Lennon, born on this date in 1940. He, of course, would have been amused, although part of him (the part that self-identified as “genius”) would have anticipated the attention. However, he might also have questioned why the Beatles and their music, and this Beatle in particular, would remain so current in our cultural thinking. When Lennon described the Beatles as just a band that made it very, very big, why did we doubt him?

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