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  Abstract 0435
  McGrath, James (2007), "Reading Post-War Britain in Lennon and McCartney's Imagined Communities". In: Rosalind Crone, David Gange and Kay Jones (eds.), New Perspectives in British Cultural History. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007, 244-254.
  Developed from a paper presented by the author at the Cambridge University conference "New Perspectives in British Cultural History" (December 2005), this 6,000 word essay compares the different but mutually-complementary ways in which the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney reflect aspects of daily life in post-war Britain. Focusing on the writers' independently-composed songs from 1966-71, the essay seeks to introduce new theoretical perspectives on Lennon and McCartney's work by combining theoretical models from Theodor Adorno (1941) and Benedict Anderson (1983). Opposing contentions from these broadly Marxist theorists are placed in dialogue here to consider the capacity of mechanically-reproduced popular music to reinforce but also to question existing social, cultural and political conditions. Adorno's critique of standardization in popular music is challenged in the essay via expansion of Anderson's emphasis on the historic role of mass-produced cultural forms in the spread of vernaculars. Adorno's critical terms of "natural" music are deconstructed and popular music is here discussed as an evolving cultural language.
  The essay begins by focusing on the summer of 1966. Crises in the Beatles' relations with their audience following Lennon's controversial comments on Christianity are paralleled with similarly fraught turning points in Bob Dylan's career amidst his shift from acoustic folk to Beatlesque electric arrangements. The Beatles' album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) is then considered as the group's response to their first generation of fans entering adulthood. Lennon and McCartney's evocations of post-war Britain on the 1967 album are compared.
  Broader international concerns are also addressed in the essay, and the defamiliarization of military signifiers in McCartney's "Yellow Submarine" (1966) and in his evocation of "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" are briefly considered in the context of Anglo-American opposition to the Vietnam War, while Lennon's subsequent "Give Peace A Chance" (1969) presents a more confrontational response to international events. Illustrating how, while McCartney's 1966-71 work tends to implicitly critique contemporary social conditions, Lennon's gradually turns to overt protest, the essay concludes by comparing McCartney's "Another Day" (1971) and Lennon's "Power To The People" (1971) in the context of social, economic and political crises in Britain at the time.
  The author is currently completing his Cultural Studies doctoral thesis, titled "Ideas of Belonging in the Work of John Lennon and Paul McCartney". For further information on the 2007 essay, please contact James McGrath at j.mcgrath@leedsmet.ac.uk
  References cited:
  • Adorno, Theodor W. (1941), "On Popular Music." In: Theodor W. Adorno; Richard Leppert (ed.) Essays on Music. London: University of California Press, 437-469.
  • Anderson, Benedict (1983), Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 2006.
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