Essential Question

How did The Beatles establish a new paradigm for the image of "the star," and how did that image support their global success?

Overview

The Beatles are famous for their remarkable catalog of hit songs and innovations in the recording studio, but they are also known for their “look” and for their humorous, approachable personal style. When they first formed as a band in the late 1950s, they looked and dressed like typical teenagers, with messy hair, jeans and leather jackets. But under the thoughtful guidance of manager Brian Epstein, who started working with the group in 1962, they began appearing in matching suits and ties.

At the time Epstein came on, The Beatles had played concerts primarily in two different regions, Liverpool and surrounding areas, and Hamburg, Germany. Epstein sought to introduce them to a wider audience. Wearing the same clean-cut outfits and sporting similar haircuts (which were considered dangerously long for the time) turned The Beatles into a traveling musical team. While The Beatles focused on their songwriting and musicianship, Epstein, among other tasks, helped design their look. According to Paul McCartney: “In the early days it was clear that he had a vision of us that was beyond the vision we had of ourselves…. Brian kept us together as a team.” Their visual persona, charisma, and the effect of intimacy they created between themselves and their fans engendered a new kind of rock star.

Over the course of their time together as a band, however, The Beatles’ image changed as the world around them changed. The 1960s was a tumultuous decade in American history, demonstrations, Vietnam War protests, and even riots were regularly in the news and on people’s minds. In addition, significant breakthroughs in space exploration took place. Because of the growing popularity and ownership of television sets, people saw detailed videos of domestic protests, foreign wars in distant lands and broadcasts from outer space right in their living rooms. This changed people’s perspectives and caused them to see their places in society, on the planet, and in the Universe differently inspiring, among other things, an emerging counterculture, which brought with it new ideas as well as changes in the way people looked and dressed.

The Beatles too moved on, with fewer photoshoots in suits and ties with matching haircuts. Gradually each member developed his own style. While they were inspired by this new counterculture, they were simultaneously influencing it. Young people looked to the group. The Beatles wore psychedelic clothes that exemplified the new trends, they changed their hairstyles, and grew mustaches and beards. When The Beatles were no longer playing to live audiences, and began focusing on composing and recording in the studio, there was even less pressure to create a specific “look” for performance. This move toward the private further enabled them to establish their own personas.

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Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • How The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein created a visual image that helped launch the group as a global phenomenon
    • How The Beatles’ image created a new paradigm of image for the “rock star”
    • How The Beatles’ “look” evolved with the social and cultural issues of the mid and late 1960s
    • How image reflects the cultural climate of a time period
  2. Be able to (skills):
    • Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally
    • Relate changes in fashion and appearance to changes in world events and popular culture
    • Make connections between popular music and historical events
    • Interpret a range of media, including songs, images, and texts to develop and demonstrate an understanding of a period of time

Activities

Motivational Activity:

Introduce the concept of “image.” Ask Students:

  • What is “image”?
  • Can people craft images for themselves? How?
  • What do they use to construct an image?
  • Do you have an image? What do you use to construct your image?

Procedure:​

  1. Show Clip 1, “A Hard Day’s Night” from The Beatles 1 collection. Tell students to make a list of images of The Beatles from the video. Ask students:
    • How would you describe The Beatles’ “image” based on this video?
    • What are The Beatles wearing? Do you think they thought about what to wear ahead of time?
    • Do you notice anything else about The Beatles’ “image” here?
  2. Play Clip 2, “The Beatles’ American Fanbase.” Ask students:
    • How would you describe the fans interviewed in the video?
    • How did the fans talk about The Beatles? How would you describe their tone? (Students might comment that they talk about the band’s appearance rather than their music.)
    • Do you think the fans felt a connection to a particular Beatle or to the entire band?  Why? (Students might mention that each fan seemed to have a favorite Beatle, and that the fans talked about their favorite Beatle as if they knew them personally.)
    • What in The Beatles’ image do you think appealed to these fans?
  3. Show your students Slide 1, a still from The Lawrence Welk Show, a popular musical variety show that aired nationally from 1955-1982, and Slide 1A, an early publicity photo of The Beatles. Ask students:
    • Looking at the two images, which do you think would appeal most to a young person in the early and mid-1960s? Why?
    • Which group do you think young fans would relate to personally or be eager to meet in person?
    • Each photo shows musicians with instruments, which instruments do you think seemed more exciting to young people in the early and mid-1960s? Why?
  4. Play Clip 3, “I Feel Fine” from The Beatles 1 collection, The Beatles’ eighth single, released in late 1964. Tell your students to take notes about the set of the video as well as The Beatles’ appearance and behavior. Then have students share their observations and keep track of their answers on the board. Then ask your students:
    • What differences do you notice between this video and the “A Hard Day’s Night” video?
    • Why do you think The Beatles choose to have Ringo ride an excercise bike rather than play drums in the video?
    • What do you think the comic elements of this video say about The Beatles’ feelings toward creating media and music videos? (Encourage your students to notice the comfortable, playful spirit of The Beatles in “I Feel Fine.” The group is having fun with the format and not attempting to “pretend” to play the song on camera.)
  5. Play Clip 4, “The Butcher Cover,” about the media reaction to the photo originally used as the cover to the June 1966 compilation Yesterday and Today. Ask students:
    • Why do you think The Beatles were willing to try this setting for a photo shoot?
    • What do you think The Beatles and their photographer were trying to express with the imagery in this photo? How do you interpret the use of raw meat and broken dolls?
    • The “Butcher Cover” was withdrawn from stores in the United States, a few days after it was released, and a new cover was pasted over the record. Why do you think some people were so upset by the imagery?
    • If you have more advanced students, you can explain that Robert Whitaker, the photographer who set up the “butcher” photo shoot, said that the photograph was meant to be satirical, and that it was meant to emphasize that the Beatles were four, flesh-and-blood human beings rather than the larger-than-life icons they became. Ask students: Do you think he was successful in his artistic statement?
  6. Ask your students if they know anything about the United States in the mid-1960s, in particular, events that might have been inspiring people to think about their “image” differently. Distribute Handout 1: A Timetable of Important Events in the 1960s and do the following:
    • Divide students into four groups
    • Assign each group two consecutive years on the timeline. Have students quickly research the events in the “Social & Political” and “Vietnam War” categories and take notes on a sheet of paper.
    • Come together as a class, and have each group explain the events on their section of the timeline. Then discuss how these events might effect young people in particular.
  7. Gallery Walk: set up four stations around the room, each with a different photograph of The Beatles. Have students walk through the gallery stations in their groups and tell them to attempt to match each photo to a time period on the Timetable of Important Events in the 1960s. Then have students return to their seats, and display each photograph, one at a time, as a slide show (Slides 1, 2, 3 & 4). As each photo is presented, ask students:
    • Where did you place the photo in your timeline? What about The Beatles’ “image” impacted your decision to place the photo in this time period and why?
    • After discussing each photo as a class, reveal the photo’s actual date, using your Answer Key
    • After all photos have been discussed and the answers revealed, display the Answer Key, which contains all of the photos in the order they were taken
    • Ask students: In what ways did The Beatles change their image from the start of their careers to the point when they stopped performing live? What do you think motivated them to change their image?
    • Ask students: How do you think the events on the timeline might have affected The Beatles’ presentation of themselves as a band or as individuals?
  8. Play Clip 5, “Get Back” from The Beatles 1 collection. Have students to take notes about the video’s set as well as The Beatles’ appearance and behavior. Return to the notes your students took while watching “I Feel Fine” and ask:
    • What changes in The Beatles’ appearance do you notice in this video?
    • What changes do you notice in the way The Beatles’ set up their instruments?
    • What changes do you notice in The Beatles’  body language?
    • Overall, what do you think the visual changes between “I Feel Fine” and “Get Back” might say about The Beatles’ changes as a band?
    • Where do you think “Get Back” fits in on the Timetable and why?

Summary Activity:

Ask your students:

  • How do you think The Beatles’ early image helped them connect with fans?
  • In what ways do you think The Beatles’ changing image impacted their success throughout their career?
  • Is there a current musician whose image represents the cultural climate of “now” to you?

Writing Prompts:

Think of your favorite musicians. What about them do you love? Their music, their image, or a little bit of both? Does your favorite musician or band have anything in common with The Beatles? Write a few short paragraphs answering these questions.

Extension Activity:

Assign students a reading: Handout 2: “Beatles LP Cover Banned,” from KRLA Beat, 2 July 1966 (uncredited writer). Ask students to write a response to the author in the form of a “Letter to the Editor.” Tell students:

  • Form a strong opinion about the “butcher cover” before writing. You can agree or disagree with one or all of the points the article makes, but be specific about which you’ve chosen to write to the editor.
  • Begin with an opening paragraph, stating which article you are writing about. Be sure to cite the exact title as well as the date it appeared in the paper (the author’s name is not relevant in this particular instance, but if the author is known, be sure to include it.)
  • Next, clearly state your position on the issue, and why you’re taking the position. Use your own personal experience or expertise to support your argument, if possible.
  • Keep your letter short (under 200 words) and direct by focusing on a specific issue in the original article.
  • Use and quote at least one specific sentence or phrase from the original article.
  • Write a concluding paragraph or sentence summarizing your position. You might also want to offer a potential action by the newspaper or public. (In this case, you might tell people to write to the record company and tell them to take action either way about the album cover.

Standards

Common Core State Standards

College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 for Literature and Informational Text

  • Reading 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text
  • Reading 6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text
  • Reading 7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • Reading 8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence

College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects

  • Writing 1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • Writing 4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening for Grades 6-12

  • Speaking and Listening 1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Speaking and Listening 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • Speaking and Listening 4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Speaking and Listening 5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language for Grades 6-12

  • Language 1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • Language 2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
  • Language 3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

  • Theme 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Theme 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Theme 8: Science, Technology and Society
  • Theme 9: Global Connections

National Standards for Music Education

Core Music Standard: Performing

Analyze: Analyze the structure and context of varied musical works and their implications for performance.

Enduring Understanding: Analyzing creators’ context and how they manipulate elements of music provides insight into their intent and informs performance.

Identify how cultural and historical context inform performances [MU: Pr4.2.6c]

Identity how cultural and historical context inform performances and result in different musical effects [MU:Pr4.2.8c]

 

Core Music Standard: Responding

Analyze: Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.

Enduring Understanding: Response to music is informed by analyzing context (social, cultural, and historical) and how creators and performers manipulate the elements of music.

Identify the context of music from a variety of genres, cultures, and historical periods. [MU:Re7.2.6b]

Identify and compare the context of music from a variety of genres, cultures, and historical periods. [MU:Re7.2.7b]

 

Core Music Standard: Connecting

Connect #11: Relate musical ideas and work to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.

Enduring Understanding: Understanding connections to varied contexts and daily life enhances musicians’ creating, performing, and responding.

Essential Question: How do the other arts, other disciplines, contexts and daily life inform creating, performing, and responding to music?

Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life. [MU:Cn11.0.6a, 7a, 8a]

National Core Arts Standards

Responding

  • Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

Connecting

  • Anchor Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
  • Anchor Standards 11: Relate artistic ideas and work with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.

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