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A better New Year’s resolution: commit to hope

By Anthony Scioli
From late December to the middle of January it is obligatory for people to make one or more New Years’ resolutions. Recent surveys reveal that the most common resolutions made by Americans include losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking, quitting drinking, reducing debt, or getting organized.

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The Dirty Dozens

English has two great rhyming slanguages, cockney rhyming slang and the dozens, the African American insult game. We’ll leave the parsing of cockney phrases for now and examine the dirty, bawdy, and wonderful world of verbal street duels. While its origins lie in “yo’ mama” jokes, this is language meant for music, as rap and hip-hop today can attest. Here’s a taste with an excerpt from Elijah Wald’s The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama.

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Mourning and praising Colony Records

By Liz Wollman
Colony Records, which will close on Saturday, September 15th after 64 years of business, is no mere record store. A cavernous, crowded, and never particularly tidy place, Colony has kept one foot firmly in its Tin Pan Alley past, and the other in its media-saturated present. The largest and easily most famous provider of sheet music in New York City, Colony also houses cassettes, CDs, DVDs, karaoke recordings, an absolutely enormous collection of records, and all kinds of memorabilia

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A Spice Girl Symphony: The Olympic Closing Ceremony

By Ron Rodman
The 2012 Olympic games concluded on Sunday with choreographer Kim Gavin’s musical extravaganza. As with Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, Gavin was intent on impressing his vision of British music to the world. To underscore its significance, he titled the closing “A Symphony of British Music.” This title was a peculiar choice considering that classical historical musicology considers the “symphony” as a specific genre of classical music: a serious multi-movement work composed by a renowned composer, and performed by an orchestra.

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A British ante-invasion: “Telstar,” 17 August 1962

By Gordon Thompson
Many describe the 1964 arrival of the Beatles in New York as the beginning of the “British Invasion,” but UK rock and pop had begun culturally infiltrating our consciousness much earlier. Indeed, a London instrumental group topped American charts in the fall of 1962 with a recording that celebrated the first telecommunications satellite. Launched from Cape Canaveral on 10 July, Telstar initiated transatlantic telephone, television, and image transmissions by relaying beamed signals. The pace of multidirectional globalization in popular music increased almost immediately.

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The Oxford Companion to the London 2012 Opening Ceremony

By Alice Northover
Many questioned how the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was going to make a mark after the spectacular Beijing Olympics only four years earlier. While Beijing presented the Chinese people moving as one body — dancing, marching, and presenting a united front to the world — the British answer was a chaotic and spirited ceremony, shifting from cricket matches to coordinated dance routines, Mr Bean’s comedic dream to a 100-foot Lord Voldemort.

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Music and the Olympic Opening Ceremony: Pageantry and Pastiche

By Ron Rodman
Film director Danny Boyle’s gargantuan presentation at the opening ceremonies of the 30th Olympiad in London had little to do with the actual games, but had everything to do with his vision of Britain. The show was full of pageantry, drawing upon the 17th century English masque, a sort of loosely structured play with dance, music, costumes, songs and speeches, and festive scenery, with allegorical references to royalty, who would sometimes participate in the show. All elements of the masque were present, including the participation of the Queen herself, who stepped into the narrative briefly.

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How radioactivity helps scientists uncover the past

By Claudio Tuniz
Neanderthal was once the only human in Europe. By 40,000 years ago, after surviving through several ice ages, his days (or, at least, his millennia) were numbered. The environment of the Pleistocene epoch was slightly radioactive, the same way it is today, but this was not Neanderthal’s problem. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the arrival of a new human

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#litdozens and the best rhyming literary insults in 140 characters or less

English has two great rhyming slanguages, cockney rhyming slang and the dozens, the African American insult game. We’ll leave the parsing of cockney phrases to news reporters covering the Olympics for now and examine the lewd, bawdy, and wonderful world of verbal street duels. Elijah Wald investigated the origins of this cacophony of dirty jokes in The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama. While it may have begun in “yo’ mama” jokes, this language was meant for music, as rap and hip-hop today can attest. The dozens even appears in the seminal writings of Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.

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“I Hope They Don’t Think We’re a Rock ‘n’ Roll Outfit”: The Rolling Stones Debut, 12 July 1962

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago, in one of London’s busiest shopping districts, the Rolling Stones stepped onto a stage for the first time, full of adolescent confidence and probably not a little performance anxiety. On this Thursday night, a crowd of friends and the curious came to support this muddle of middle-class English adolescents ambitiously exploring a relatively esoteric niche of American music. But everything about this first gig would portend a band that would be, a band that parents would hate and teens love, a band that would be ruthless in its pursuit of success.

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Is Lady Gaga an artist?

By Steve Savage
When is it art? This question may be debated endlessly. In the world of music, we know that music can be art — but are musicians artists?

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“Davy” Jones, actor and musician

By Gordon Thompson
As the Beatles made their historic debut on American television in February 1964, the cast of Oliver!, the actor playing the role of the Artful Dodger, and other acts on the show watched from the wings as the hysteria unfolded. Davy Jones had started his acting career on British television, making his debut appearance in the venerable Coronation Street followed by the gritty Liverpool police drama, Z-Cars.

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Brian Epstein and the quest for a contract

By Gordon Thompson
On a cold winter’s day in early 1962, Brian Epstein and the Beatles huddled together contemplating their failed bid for a Decca recording contract and the bitter aftertaste of rejection that left emptiness in their stomachs. But hunger can feed ambition. Disappointments would ensue, but almost immediately Epstein would be the proverbial right man in the right place at the right time and meet a string of people who were looking for something not quite exactly unlike the Beatles.

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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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In memoriam: Amy Winehouse

By Nigel Young

Following the funeral, the British radio waves are full of Amy Winehouse music. Those of us who learned as teenagers about great women blues and soul singers from listening to the voices of Billie Holliday and Bessie Smith, had no such contemporary singers of our own “Beatles” generation, white or black. The emergence of great new talents in this genre was something remarkable.

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