During a guest lecture on campus, British music executive and performer Peter Asher (below) shares stories about his time working with The Beatles.
Fab Four Lore
Half a century has passed since The Beatles released their first album, Please Please Me (1963), but to Chris Freeman ’16, a Bandier major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the legacy of the Liverpool lads is as vibrant as ever. “I just feel learning about things from the past is as important as things today,” says Freeman, who was one of about 100 students enrolled in the course, The Beatles, offered this spring semester. “And the business of The Beatles applies to a lot of music nowadays.”
For the past four years, Professor David Rezak, director of the Bandier Program for Music and the Entertainment Industries, has been teaching students about the relevance of The Beatles’ business model, their cultural and sociopolitical effect on society, their recording techniques, and the musicians’ personal stories. “The Beatles are the ultimate case study in the music business, not just because they became the most important rock or pop band in history—which they did—but because they had these blatant moments of brilliance from a business standpoint as well as tragic moments of lunacy and mismanagement,” he says. “And we’re a music business program.”
A Beatles fan himself, Rezak attended John Lennon’s reception when he visited the Everson Museum of Art in 1971 for the opening of Yoko Ono’s first major exhibition, This is Not Here. The music icon was supposed to perform with Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and blues guitarist Eric Clapton, but the museum canceled the show due to lack of space. At the time, Rezak managed a band called Oats, which was scheduled to open for the rock stars. “We were heartbroken,” he says. “My band was just crushed.”
To enhance the class experience and give students a taste of The Beatles’ era, Rezak brings to SU several guest speakers who worked closely with the Fab Four. One of the speakers was British performer, manager, and producer Peter Asher, who gave a guest lecture on St. Patrick’s Day. Asher used to be head of artists and repertoire (A&R) at The Beatles’ record company, Apple Records, until he moved to the United States in the early 1970s. “It was really interesting because you think that you know Asher, but there are so many other things that he’s done,” says Erin Singleton ’17, a Bandier major.
The course also features experts like Newhouse professor Douglas Quin, a sound master who introduces students to The Beatles’ recording technology and techniques. “They pushed the boundaries,” he says. “They leveraged a lot of techniques that had come out of the European avant-garde tradition—using things like tape collage—and brought them into pop music.” The Beatles’ recording technology, however, was Jurassic compared with today’s offerings, Quin says. Although he believes The Beatles’ music alone could be the focus of its own class, Quin says The Beatles course is effective because it analyzes the band’s importance through many lenses. “The brilliance of this course is that Professor Rezak has really structured an experience where students can take a number of different viewpoints about The Beatles’ cultural relevance over time and their enduring legacy,” he says.—Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro
British music executive and performer Peter Asher