England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Of Course I Remember the Beatles In 1964 when the Beatles first came to America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York City, I was a sophomore in high school. Their incredible rise to the pinnacle of success in the pop music world was unprecedented. They changed everyone's culture and self image . Their music grew on everyone as they continued to release their energy and music to an ever increasing appreciable fan base. Then with the emergence of Sgt. Peppers, they reinvented themselves in the most unimaginable way as their fans continued to grow along with them. This course will, if you are like me, re-awaken the transformational magic of those days when John, Paul, George and Ringo could do no wrong. We grew up with them and they changed us and the world along with them forever. I loved this course!
Date published: 2020-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lectures I was so sad when this ended. The story was fascinating and well written. The Professor was knowledgeable and presented his lectures excellently. When will he produce another course? Having grown up in that era, this lecture series brought back the memories and put them all into perspective.
Date published: 2020-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Putting 9 years of "Beatlemania" in perspective. In the last 15 years, I taken – and posted reviews – of every pop culture or performing arts video course (except for classical music) in the Great Courses catalog – beginning with “the Elements of Jazz” (now deleted). When it comes to music or film courses, there is the issue of “copyright” and “fair use” of the audio or video examples used. While a film or recorded music course taught live in a university setting needs no permission to use, a course that is produced for mass distribution does require permission (and a stiff fees). I’ve been impressed with how TGC has been able to work around these issues in cases like the wonderful course on Broadway Musicals and, most recently the one on American Folk Music. (In that case they had the speaker and his guests perform live and worked with the Smithsonian to use recordings from their catalog in exchange for promoting those albums. But here we are at a course on The Beatles (whose catalog of material is one of the tightest controlled as to rights). I wondered how TGC and the instructor of this course – Prof. Michael Shelden (Indiana State University) and TGC would handle this issue. Shelden is a professor of English and has recorded courses on George Orwell and Winston Churchill for TGC, but these didn’t involve audio or film clips.  The answer in this case was the use of a “dedicated playlist” on the Spotify app (which you can use on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC).  So, the ONLY “music” you will hear on the DVD during the 12 25-minute lessons is the British National Anthem (“God Save The Queen”) as the chapter title begins. There will be a playlist for each lesson that refers to the Spotify list. And, handier is that the titles of the songs (mostly by the Beatles but also by other artists that Shelden refers to) in the 120-page printed course guide that accompanies the course. Those who might complain that there is no music during the lecture should console them this way. If you were reading a book about the Beatles, for example, would the pages be playing music? Obviously not (unless it was a rare case of an “enhanced e-book”).  And just like a book, there are photos and illustrations to embellish the lecture. At the end of each of the two DVDs (each with six lectures) you will see the sources of all of these – mostly from the Getty Images Archive; so many that the credits roll over nearly two minutes .So, now that I’ve explained the “lack” of music in the presentation, let me move on to the course. Professor Shelden is obviously a fan of the Beatles and (though probably younger than me) he remembers seeing them on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, when they “invaded America”. The early chapters introduce us to the first two members of the band – John and Paul” and Shelden explains how they met and where in Liverpool they lived and eventually played before adding new members, losing some and eventually forming the final Fab Four”. He then follows that group to the US and their TV appearances and stadium concerts. Six hours (12 lessons) later we are at 1969 – a brief six years – when the last group album “Let it Be” was released. There is no discussion of the careers of the members after that. There are specific lessons devoted to their manager – Brian Epstein – and their producer, George Martin. Professor Shelden does add some info behind such songs as “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” that, as a casual fan of the quartet’s music, was new to me. No, if you are a diehard “Beatlemaniac” who has read the many books about them, this course may be too basic for you. But if you only know the songs and some of their history or are too young to have “been there”, and want to understand how American pop culture changed forever in that decade, I think you’ll find this course rewarding. Professor Shelden did keep my attention, though it took a few minutes when starting to get with his rhythm. Unlike some of the earlier TGC course, he looks directly at the camera and shifts his stance so as not to be like a statue. The set is simple and never changes. Another thing that you lean, if you’ve taken other TGCs is that the speakers are “directed”. What I mean by that is that the lecturer is nearly always moving their arms around and clasping or unclasping their hands. It sometimes seems artificial – I don’t remember my college professors doing at as they stood near their lectern. But you get used to it. One tip I’d like to add. Before you watch this course, use your smartphone or tablet to queue up the spotify list and when a song is discussed you can pause the lecture to listen to it. (they are in order). Or play the playlist for that lecture after watching it. My favorite course is still Professor Tony Seeger’s “America’s Music Heritage” course (with live guest musicians) and I see that TGC is offering a special “Combo deal” for that course plus this one. And I’d recommend that package if your interest in music is that of the 20th century. I can’t wait to see what the next pop cultural course will be. I’ve sent in the suggestion that “Silent Movie Comedies” would be a good one, as there are plenty of “public domain” films and new music could be added. I guess we’ll see. I hope this review is helpful for those considering this course.
Date published: 2020-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive! Got it as a part of my membership and I didn't expect much to be honest. I love the Beatles and knew and listened to all their songs and albums. However, the course is a must for Beatles fanatics. Well worth the time!
Date published: 2020-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I lived it and still learned. In late 1960 I turned 13. I loved the late '50s and early '60s American music of Dion, U.S.Bonds, Ben E King. I lived in Britain which was still recovering from WW2. Then along came the Beatles - I saw them at a small cinema in 1963 - I say 'saw' because all I could hear was a demonic scream coming from the young girl behind me, and all the other females at the concert as well. I followed the social trends and music of the 60's, and I buy many Great Courses but this one intrigued me. Looking at the lectures, I thought "what can I learn from this?" I bought it anyway. Well I can say that it contributed a great deal to my knowledge! Dr.Shelden's analysis of the Beatles and the social history of the times was intriguing and I greatly enjoyed it. It is primarily about the Beatles but his examination of their development is a history of them and their generation. It shows that context determines what happens in life. This is so well presented, I watched it over two evenings from beginning to end. This is specifically about the Beatles so if you are interested in this group and the context in which they developed then this is for you. They were a phenomenon so if you are interested in the 1960s you need to know about this group and their impact. Watch it and listen to the music as well. this course was a really good experience.
Date published: 2020-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course What a fabulous presentation of the Beatles history! It captures the era beautifully, with a new perspective. The instructor's fondness for the topic is obvious.
Date published: 2020-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Look Back at My Youth Sometimes it's a case of You had to be there. Not with the Beatles because they created a body of work standing on its own, whether you were there or hearing it today. This series of lectures captures the time and the human element which is an intrical part of the whole experience. This course presents the intellectual, the human, and the music.
Date published: 2020-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Required viewing I thought I knew everything about the Beatles and their times. I was wrong. Another brilliant and inspiring course by Professor Shelden.
Date published: 2020-11-15
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England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles
Course Trailer
The Magical Mystery of the Beatles
1: The Magical Mystery of the Beatles

What happened between September 1963 and February 1964 to launch the Beatles toward international stardom? In this opening lecture, discover some of the major social and sonic factors at work in the transformation of these young musicians into a pop culture hurricane that would soon take over (or “invade”) America.

27 min
Fateful Intersections in Liverpool
2: Fateful Intersections in Liverpool

The Beatles were not born in a vacuum. Rather, they were a product of the many worlds contained within 1950s and 1960s Liverpool. Explore how the band soaked up this post-industrial and culturally vibrant scene, storing ideas and impressions that would later turn up, with surprising sophistication, in some of their early tunes.

27 min
Finding the Beat in the Beatles
3: Finding the Beat in the Beatles

The “beat” in the Beatles was about more than just the music—it was about the new group’s look and attitude. Explore the Bohemian fringe known as the beatniks; follow John, Paul, and George as they search for the right drummer; and consider the importance of the Beatles’ apprenticeship in Hamburg in refining their iconic sound.

26 min
Nowhere Men: The Dark Side of the Beatles
4: Nowhere Men: The Dark Side of the Beatles

Here, Professor Shelden reveals some of the less flattering characteristics of the Beatles. Chief among these: anger—both as a problem for John Lennon (who nearly killed a friend just months before the launch of Beatlemania) and as an outlet for creativity (best seen in one of the Beatles’ early successes, “Help!”).

26 min
Beatles for Sale: Brian Epstein’s Genius
5: Beatles for Sale: Brian Epstein’s Genius

Meet band manager Brian Epstein, without whom the Beatles would never have pushed their musical talents beyond the world of Liverpool. Discover how Epstein put the show on the road, and made sure that road went all the way around the world (and on The Ed Sullivan Show)—despite a strong degree of resistance to the band in its early days.

26 min
The Cold War, JFK, and the Beatles
6: The Cold War, JFK, and the Beatles

During the early 1960s, the Beatles became the West’s most irresistible export, as well as the best asset in the propaganda war with the East. Learn how the Cold War transformed the Beatles from a provincial act to superstars of the Western world. Also, consider new ways to think about the controversial song, “Back in the USSR.”

26 min
The Beatles Conquer America
7: The Beatles Conquer America

When the Beatles finally arrived in the United States of America, they did so with all the fanfare usually accorded to heads of state. How did so much sound and energy come from only four people? Plunge into the captivating fervor, communal spirit, and bacchanal of abandon that would soon be known as Beatlemania.

24 min
The Englishness of A Hard Day’s Night
8: The Englishness of A Hard Day’s Night

In summer 1964, the cinematic Beatles vehicle A Hard Day’s Night broke almost every rule in Hollywood at the time. Professor Shelden reveals what lies underneath the film’s surface charm and musical numbers: an overall attitude of irreverence and defiance in the face of authority, and a challenge for audiences to think for themselves.

26 min
Help! The Beatles at the Top in 1965
9: Help! The Beatles at the Top in 1965

Take a trip to Abbey Road, a welcome escape for John, Paul, George, and Ringo from Beatlemania. More than a home away from home, Abbey Road would allow the Beatles to operate—under the guidance of producer George Martin—with an unimaginable freedom that produced hits like “Yesterday” and the groundbreaking album Rubber Soul.

24 min
Crossroads: The Beatles in 1966
10: Crossroads: The Beatles in 1966

In 1966, the road ahead for the Beatles seemed limitless. Nevertheless, misfortune struck that year in the form of a changing American music market, and a disastrous summer tour to Germany, Japan, North America, and the Philippines that would leave the Beatles more disillusioned than ever with the show business demands of fame.

26 min
The Summer of Sgt. Pepper’s
11: The Summer of Sgt. Pepper’s

Go inside the invention of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an experiment in everything that was untried and risky that allowed the Beatles to start over as a different group. From “A Day in the Life” to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” consider the album’s surreal, psychedelic appeal—both then and now.

27 min
Hello, Goodbye: The End of the 1960s
12: Hello, Goodbye: The End of the 1960s

In their last years together, all four of the Beatles seemed headed in new directions as they grew up—and apart. Nevertheless, witness how these final years brought a range of sounds, including protest songs, mystic melodies, anthems of friendship, and an iconic double album called simply, The Beatles, but better known as the “White Album.”

25 min
Michael Shelden

Despite the debates that still cast parts of his career in doubt, Churchill's most enduring legacy is anchored in something that lies outside of history, something deeply personal and timeless. It is his individual stance as a champion of freedom when the world was at a tipping point between darkness and light, in which his voice and courage helped shift the balance towards the light.


Indiana University


Indiana State University

About Michael Shelden

Michael Shelden is a Professor of English at Indiana State University, where he has won the top award for excellence in scholarship, the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research/Creativity Award, three times. He earned his Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. Professor Shelden is the author of six biographies, including Orwell: The Authorized Biography, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Professor Shelden is also the author of Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, which has been translated into Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese. His book Mark Twain: Man in White was a New York Times best seller, was chosen as one of the best books of 2010 by the Library Journal, and was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2010 by the Christian Science Monitor. In a special issue on the 240th anniversary of American independence, TIME® Magazine praised Professor Shelden’s biography of Herman Melville, Melville in Love, as one of “240 Reasons to Celebrate America.” American Literary Scholarship, the annual journal published by Duke University Press, has said, “Shelden possesses that rare gift of the truly talented biographer: He can sketch scenes so vividly that a reader seems to mingle with the subjects in their long-ago conversations.”

For 12 years, Professor Shelden was a featured writer for The Daily Telegraph in London. His many scholarly articles and reviews have included publications in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Quarterly, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Victorian Studies, and the Journal of British Studies.

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