From today's Guardian (I wonder what Paul and Ringo have to say about this):
The long and winding road to an MA in Beatles songs
Liverpool Hope University launches UK's first master's course in fab four studies
Wednesday March 4 2009
Their thirst for reinvention saw the elegantly quiffed Hamburg rockers become the mop-topped fab four, hippy harbingers of sexual liberation and, eventually, druggy psychedelic visionaries.
Forty years on, the Beatles and their songs are to be hauled into the halls of academia and dissected by postgraduate students at a Merseyside university.
The masters degree in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society is being billed by Liverpool Hope University as the first such course in the UK and "probably the world".
Among the topics covered on the course, which comprises four 12-week modules and a dissertation, are the postwar music industry, subcultures, and the importance of authenticity and locality.
Mike Brocken, senior lecturer in popular music at the university, said it was time the band were put under an academic microscope.
"There have been over 8,000 books about the Beatles but there has never been serious academic study and that is what we are going to address," he said.
"The Beatles influenced so much of society, not just with their music, but also with fashion, from their collar-less jackets to their psychedelic clothes."
As well as investigating different ways of studying popular music, the MA will look at the studio sound and compositions of the Beatles and examine Liverpudlian life from the 1930s to see how events helped to shape the music emerging in the city.
Brocken said that the size of the MA course, which begins this September, would depend on the number of applicants, but would not exceed a "possible" maximum of 30 places.
He added that he had already received inquiries about the full- or part-time course from people in the UK and the US.
Asked what employment benefits a course scrutinising songs such as Octopus's Garden, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and I Want to Hold Your Hand might yield in the current economic climate, Brocken said: "I think any MA equips people with extra study and research skills. MAs of any description are vital for the workplace. You will find that once you have done a master's degree it separates you from the pack."
Similar arts and humanities MAs at the university cost around £3,445 for full-time students from the UK. Brocken said that although there might be some bursaries, "people will have to self-fund unless they have some backing from an institution".
Students on the full-time course will attend two evening sessions a week and cover all four modules in one academic year. Part-time students, meanwhile, will attend one evening session a week for two years. In both cases a dissertation will be due towards the end of the following August.
The songs and social significance of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr have been picked over countless times since Philip Larkin observed that "sexual intercourse began/In nineteen sixty-three/(which was rather late for me)/Between the end of the Chatterley ban/And the Beatles' first LP".
But in recent years, the band and its output have been the subject of academic studies and polemics.
Last year, a Cambridge University historian attacked the view that the Beatles were counter-cultural heroes, claiming they were instead capitalists who milked the booming youth culture for their own financial gain.
"They did about as much to represent the interests of the nation's young people as the Spice Girls did in the 1990s," said David Fowler, who argued that the band provided family entertainment rather than an authentic youth perspective. "They were young capitalists who, far from developing a youth culture, were exploiting youth culture by promoting fan worship, mindless screaming and nothing more than a passive teenage consumer," said the author of Youth Culture in Modern Britain.