Amos Fortune Forum: He loves the Beatles — yeah, yeah, yeah

  • Abbe Hamilton—

  • Abbe Hamilton—

  • Paul Jenkins discusses British rock and roll band The Beatles at Friday’s Amos Fortune Forum. STAFF PHOTO BY Abbe Hamilton

  • Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/8/2019 11:08:13 AM
Modified: 8/8/2019 11:08:03 AM

Paul Jenkins delivered a lecture on “Why The Beatles Mattered” to a multigenerational crowd at Friday night’s Amos Fortune Forum. He presented his case with delight, and meticulous attention to detail – as only a huge Beatles fan could.

Jenkins, who is the library director at Franklin Pierce University, published “Teaching the Beatles”, in 2018. He has taught university-level courses on music history, and the Beatles. The presentation included images from throughout the Beatles’ active decade from 1960 to 1970, modern-day visual references, and audio excerpts.

Jenkins said it’s difficult for his students to appreciate the Beatles’ pioneering contributions in part because of the ubiquitousness of those practices and styles today. For example, the Beatles were the first rock ‘n’ roll group to become popular, in a genre defined by solo artists like Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. The Beatles brought album-format releases to prominence over the industry standard, 45 rpm single record, and simultaneously elevated the concept of album art. “Sgt. Pepper’s” was one of the first albums to include printed song lyrics. Jenkins cited their film “A Hard Day’s Night” as the beginning of music videos and Shea Stadium as the first-ever stadium concert.

Musically, the Beatles were one of the first acts to utilize feedback, synthesizers, sound effects and unusual instrumentation in their recordings. Jenkins pointed out a fade-in (as in “Eight Days a Week”) and beginning a song with the chorus (as in “Good Day, Sunshine” or “She Loves You”) as practices that were previously unheard-of. The Beatles brought Eastern instrumentation, as well as philosophy, to mainstream U.S. consciousness.

“Nobody took rock and pop seriously until they came along,” Jenkins said of the music critic community. He compared the arrangement of tracks like “She’s Leaving Home” to compositions by Franz Schubert, and noted that critically acclaimed composers Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein were fans of the group.

“They never rested on their laurels, they always wanted to try something new,” Jenkins said. He related that Paul McCartney was “terrified” to put the acoustic-and-strings “Yesterday” on an album, as it so deviated from the rock ‘n’ roll sound that launched the Beatles to fame. It became the most recorded song in history.

Jenkins concluded with the value of teaching the Beatles in a classroom setting. Teachers globally use Beatles songs to teach English: “The Beatles were great enunciators,” he said. His book, “Teaching the Beatles”, includes essays on their musical contributions as well as the value of studying their legacy as a business example.

This is the 73rd year of the Amos Fortune Forum. The forums feature a new “speaker of note” every Friday of July and August. Lectures are held in the Historic Meeting House at 15 Laban Ainsworth Way. Next week’s speaker will be Dublin resident Grace Aldrich, delivering the lecture “Exploring stories of race, belonging and trauma.”

All Forum lectures are free and open to the public. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the program begins at 8 p.m. For more information, visit amosfortune.com.


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