The most recent episode of the somethingaboutthebeatles podcast, hosted by Robert Rodriguez and Richard Buskin, focuses on how Beatles history has been and is being written, including a look at some of the major books/sources written on the band. I contributed some thoughts and analysis in a phone interview with Robert and Richard, including some discussion of key primary sources, such as Lennon Remembers, and secondary sources, such as Shout! For those of you who are interested, here’s a link to the podcast:
I’ll be the first to admit that interviews are not my strong suit: lectures are. If there are points or declarations I made in the podcast interview that you would like further clarification and/or discussion on, please let me know; that’s why this blog exists. Or if the podcast has led you here for the first time, and you would like to discuss other issues regarding the Beatles, primary and secondary sources, historiography, or historical methods, please post.
On the slightly tangential topic of podcasts, I’m interested to hear what you think, regarding Beatles podcasts, or podcasts in general. In academic terms, at this year’s KAH conference, we discussed their increasing popularity, both among instructors and students. More professors are utilizing podcasts to make sure their lectures are available even when students are outside the classroom. Some, including a few instructors at UMKC, are requiring, in lieu of the typical research paper, students to write and record podcasts on historical research topics. (Not sure how I feel about that as an assignment: I might poll my students regarding their thoughts on the subject). Kelly McFall, The History department head at my University, delivers podcasts offering scholarly book reviews focusing on his particular area of study, genocide. (His podcast is informative and important, but obviously doesn’t cover the cheeriest of topics. He flat out tells the students who take his genocide class that they will have nightmares).
In terms of Beatles podcasts, somethingaboutthebeatles is the only one I’ve ever listened to, and that sporadically, because, with my six and nine year olds home for the summer, getting uninterrupted time to listen to a podcast is next-to-impossible. I know there are other excellent ones out there — David Thurmaier, who presented at the Sgt. Pepper Conference in June, and Chris Bragg have IVEGOTABEATLESPODCAST.PODBEAN.COM. There’s also Fabcast. For those of you who have listened to more than a few Beatles podcasts, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works for you, and why. What topics do you wish those podcasts would cover? Any dead horses you wish they’d stop beating? Do the podcasts do a good job of offering new information? It’s interesting to think that, fifty years from now, people examining the arc of Beatles historiography may have to incorporate the impact of podcasts, as well as books, movies and museums, on their narrative.
15 thoughts on “Beatles and the Historians Podcast”
I had never heard of somethingaboutthebeatles–glad that there’s others out there who share our interest and POV.
Great interview Erin. A few things that jumped out at me, in no particular order:
The interviewers weren’t promoting the johnandyoko narrative. Although not discussed at length, they seemed to have an understanding that the narrative is more a function of J & Y’s successful branding than being legitimately reflective of the couple’s relationship.
The interviewers questioned the conventional orthodoxy about the breakup, as depicted in biographies and interviews.
The excerpt from Goldman’s interview was kind of a wow moment. I had never heard a biographer so blatantly defensive during what seemed to be an evenhanded interview.
The recognition that female fandom has received short shrift in a genre predominantly dominated by male biographers.
Karen, for whatever reason, this reply never appeared in my inbox. Sigh. Sorry for the lateness of my response; I only just saw your post today.
On your first point, I’d definitely say your impression regarding Robert and Richard’s dissection of theballadofJohnandYoko is correct. In fact, if you want to know more in depth their views on that particular area of the band, you should definitely check out their podcast on Yoko. (I think the episode is called the ballad of John and Yoko, but I’m not sure). It’s long — almost two hours — and one of their other podcasts that I have already listened to. (I was cleaning the house for Thanksgiving while listening, because I can’t ever just sit and listen to a podcast). I can’t recall which number it is — something in the fifties or sixties, I believe — but it’s informative and displays some good, solid source analysis.
On the second point, the other episodes of SATB I’ve listened to indicate that they do provide some very good, necessary source analysis to both primary and secondary sources. So no; they don’t blindly accept evidence/sources but really analyze them in a crucial way. I don’t believe either of them parrot the Lennon Remembers version of the breakup, and Robert’s book, Revolver, really includes some excellent source analysis.
I’d heard that Goldman interview before, but it had been years. Yeesh! What a confrontational attitude — and towards 60 Minutes, of all shows! What was regarded, for decades, as the pinnacle of television newsreporting in the U.S. (I have a fondness for 60 Minutes, because my parents watched it every Sunday evening). Goldman did himself few favors in that interview, seemingly. It reminds me of what Spitz said after he looked at Goldman’s primary sources: Goldman seemed determined to only support the evidence that supported his views, and sensationalized what evidence he did use.
The female in Beatles fandom: isn’t it a little incomprehensible that it’s taken this long for people to even become aware that the lack of females writing on the Beatles is an issue? But I’m immensely pleased people are starting to come to that realization.
Hi Erin! Your interview on the SATB podcast was excellent, and I am looking forward to reading your book. I am a longtime listener of Something About the Beatles, and find Robert and Richard to be quite knowledgeable, with an entertaining rapport. I once thought I knew most everything there was to know about the Beatles, having watched the Anthology Documentary (and the subsequent expanded release) as a teenager, and having read a few of the available books at the time. I have since read Doggett’s post-breakup book, Lewisohn’s brilliant Tune In Part 1, May Pang and Fred Seamen’s books, among many others. Having grown up reading and re-reading my copy of “The Love You Make”, and taking it as gospel, it is enlightening to be a Beatles fan in the Internet age, with the surfeit of Beatles information. The work you have done on the historiography of the Beatles feels very important, and it is much appreciated.
Regarding other Beatles podcasts of note, here are my thoughts on a few of them:
Fabcast is great, and very entertaining, although it relies a bit too much on conjecture/hearsay to be taken completely seriously. For example, on one episode Dave Morrell claims that there is an audio recording of the final meeting between the four Beatles (and Neil) in October ’69, in which Lennon tries to convince the other three Beatles to get back together for one final album. I would love for this claim to be true, but I find it a bit hard to believe without any evidence to back it up. In all fairness to Fabcast, they don’t make any claims to full historical accuracy. In fact, they seem to celebrate the fact that their podcast is not filled with facts like “other podcasts”. Mark Lewisohn is a guest on their most recent (2-part) episode, and Mark tell the story about his “falling out” with the Beatles in the 1990’s, along with interesting stories about being in Paul’s employ. It is well worth a listen. Throughout the 2 seasons of the podcast, the three hosts’ passion for the Beatles music is infectious.
“Fab 4 Free 4 All” is another good one. The three hosts are lifelong Beatles fans with a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the solo careers of the Beatles. Generally, each episode concentrates on a specific solo album or Beatles album. I have found the podcast to be invaluable while I discover many of the Beatles’ solo albums that I had not yet heard.
I have heard good things about “Beatles Multi Track Meltdown” (which dissects various Beatles songs down to their individual tracks), but unfortunately the Universal Group just killed it on copyright grounds, so I have not found a way to listen.
Anyway, keep up the great work, and I am very much looking forward to reading your book!
Welcome to the blog. We’re pretty low-key, but we enjoy discussion and welcome new perspectives and thoughts. I hope you enjoy “The Beatles and the Historians” and, if you have questions or areas of discussion after reading it, feel free to let me know.
Thank you so much for your thoughts/assessments on the various Beatles podcasts; that’s exactly what I was hoping a poster would be able to bring to the discussion. As I said, I’ve only listed to a few of the SATB podcasts, and the ones I have listened to I very much enjoyed. I like their back and forth, the differing American/British perspectives, the slight age gap between them which means they approach it from different years/experiences, and particularly the source analysis they bring to the discussion. Speaking of age: you mentioned in your post that you watched Anthology as a teenager. If you don’t mind my asking: what age are you? Because I was also a teenager when Anthology came out, and one of the issues I’m interested is how different generations view the Beatles and their story in differing ways.
“ Having grown up reading and re-reading my copy of “The Love You Make”, and taking it as gospel, it is enlightening to be a Beatles fan in the Internet age, with the surfeit of Beatles information.”
I had a high school friend who did the same with Shout!: read it at fifteen and regarded it as gospel. I’d be curious to know whether his thoughts have changed over the years.
The larger issue of the internet impacting Beatles historiography is one that I find absolutely fascinating. As Robert and Richard discussed, the internet now means that, in many cases, we can see the primary sources where they were previously unavailable. So we can hear “Lennon Remembers,” and hear the nuances; we can see the primary source material that, for decades, was very difficult to access. The role the internet plays in shaping historical narratives is one that I would like to do more research on. Not only on the Beatles, but in general.
Thanks for your thoughts on Fabcast: I will have to check them out soon, esp. that interview you mentioned with Lewisohn. My personal policy regarding secondary sources, including podcasts, is that if they’re not touting themselves as 100% factually accurate but openly engaging in tenuous evidence/speculation, there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as they admit their evidence’s shortcomings. And it sounds like most of the time they do do that. Of course, that means that listeners hear something unsubstantiated and then some regard it as proven, when it’s not. Is Fab 4 Free 4 All geared more towards the dedicated fan, or towards a musicological analysis?
I hope to have a chance to check some of these out soon. Thanks again for your suggestions and thoughts.
Fabcast’s facebook-site seems alive, their podcast-series seems dead as fish in the Red sea, I hav only find a few podcasts – less than 20. DO you know the link to fresh episodes?
One of the better podcasts is ‘Things We Said Today – Beatles Radio’ by Allan Kozinn, Steve Marinucci and Ken Michaels. It is online since late 2012. The archives hold over 240 shows (now = early September 2017), you can find them here: http://beatlesexaminer.podbean.com. The show has its own Facebook page as well: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thingswesaidtoday/. I find them quite informative in distinguishing opinions, hesitation, disbelief and speculation, they are straight in them being a secondary source. The refrain from speculation and putting up a hypothesis without proper arguments. Well, that’s an important point to me, in most blogs with semi-open discussion, that we need to take serious nonsense arguments. Both on SATB and Things We Said Today’ those things will not easily happen.
The problem for most podcasts is that they are made by relatively old white males. The advantage is that some of them are authors who seriously investigate, explore and review Beatles’ music and affairs and have an ability to dissect and illuminate the music and the Beatles on a deeper level than we can’t find anywhere.
As always I hope you can make something academically interesting and uplifting for fans over here – on your blog.
Thanks for your thoughts on “Things We Said Today.” I may have heard tangentially of it, but it’s good to know that it offers some solid, well-reasoned analysis. I read Kozinn’s work in preparation for TBATH, but I’m afraid many of the musicological analysis went over my head. Some seem to really like his work; others, such as MacDonald and The Beatles Bibliography, were simply scathing about his book.
It sounds intriguing; I’ll have to check it out. Is there a particular episode you would recommend? You know my preferences tend to veer more towards historical analysis and less towards musicological analysis.
Oh, I just got an email from the fabcast-cast that a new episode is in the making…
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Hi Chase and welcome!
I’m sure you’ll enjoy Erin’s book and I know she’ll love to chat with you about it and other bios she reviews here.
Hi Karen, thank you!! Can’t wait. 🙂
Hi Erin, I know this blog entry is from well over a year ago, but I wanted to chime in and say that I highly recommend the podcast “Screw It, We’re Just Going to Talk About The Beatles” because I inadvertently found you and this blog through them! I have had your book on my Amazon wishlist for some time because I was thrilled to finally see a Beatles book authored by someone who wasn’t an old, white, man -and anyways, I was listening to an older episode of the “Screw It…” podcast and one of the women on there mentioned your book and that you had a blog, so I immediately Googled it and here you were! I’ve been browsing the entries on here and I’m excited to catch up and read them all. I only wanted to leave a comment here to let you know that there is at least one Beatles podcast out there had has women on it. The podcast has a rotating panel of people, it’s mainly hosted by one guy and the friends he features on each episode, so it’s never the same group of people over and over again which is refreshing because it brings many different perspectives to The Beatles and related topics.
Hi Chrissy and thanks for stopping by! So glad you found the topics interesting and hope to hear from you again.
Thank you! I’m so happy I found this place and look forward to catching up on all the past entries. 🙂
Don’t worry: Karen and I should still see new comments, even on old posts. Thanks for commenting, btw.
And thanks for your recommendation on the “Screw it, We’re just going to talk about the Beatles” podcast — I love their title, btw. And thanks so much for letting me know that there’s a Beatles podcast that does have women on the regular panel! That makes me ridiculously happy to know. I will try and check them out: you wouldn’t happen to remember which episode it was where they were mentioning my book? I’m narcissistic enough to want to start with that one.
If you have any other questions regarding the blog, or want to comment on some old posts, feel free. And thanks for the tip.
I have been skipping around on episodes,listening to them as the mood strikes me, but I think they mentioned you on the episode where they reviewed Rob Sheffield’s Beatles book, “Dreaming The Beatles”? That episode had two men and two women on the panel and it was really fascinating because it touched on the perception of male fans vs female fans when it comes to the Beatles and music in general. They briefly talked about how there’s not really any Beatles related books authored by a woman, and I think that’s how your book came up (one of the women mentioned your blog, which sent me to Google). They don’t really have episode numbers on the app I use, but the episode was from June 2017. I’m really happy to have stumbled on your blog because while I haven’t had a chance to get your book yet, it has made me even more excited to read it once I do get my hands on it!
Thank you for the welcome, I look forward to catching up on past entries and hopefully commenting when possible. 🙂
“That episode had two men and two women on the panel and it was really fascinating because it touched on the perception of male fans vs female fans when it comes to the Beatles and music in general. They briefly talked about how there’s not really any Beatles related books authored by a woman, and I think that’s how your book came up”
Thanks for giving me your best guess on the episode. Sounds like an interesting — and necessary — one, with the very unexplored topic of the differing experiences/perception of male and female fans. I will definitely make time to listen to it.
I do think we’re slowly seeing the emergence of female Beatles authors: there’s Candy Leonard and her work, Beatleness, myself, and there were some other female presenters were at the Pepper conference I attended in 2017. I don’t know what the demographic breakdown was at the recent conference at Monmouh, though. I have a post nearly done on the under representation of females in Beatles historiography, but for the moment my computer ate it.