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

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Look at a Band We All Know Well I hesitated to take this course, believing I knew everything there was to know about the Beatles. Like most of the world, I have been listening to the Beatles since childhood, and they provided a major part of the soundtrack for my own coming of age. In college, I not only read anything in newspapers or magazines about the Beatles and most other bands, I researched and wrote a term paper on the influence of the Beatles. I learned to play several of their songs on guitar and somehow know all the lyrics to probably a couple hundred of their songs. In 2019, I went to Liverpool and took a guided Beatles tour, though admittedly that particular guide had been below average compared to other tours I've taken on different topics. In this course, however, Michael Shelden managed to introduce so many nuances and perspectives I hadn't considered along with completely new information that I found myself dreading the end of the course. It was always a pleasure to delve into another class. I would be interested in a sequel, going into more detail on the making of the White Album and Abbey Road, which have always been my favorite Beatles albums, but I guess we'll see more of that in the upcoming Peter Jackson movie. In any case, great course. I'd definitely like to take a similar course on the Moody Blues.
Date published: 2021-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course I have been watching & listening to Great Courses for over 15 years and this is one of my favorites. I plan on rewatching it in the the future. Very informative.
Date published: 2021-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well-Paced and Interesting We really enjoyed both the content and the delivery. Learned things we hadn’t known before and felt the perspective was sensitive.
Date published: 2021-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great musical history of the Beatles A great lecture, well organized and presented, offering a Beatles timeline that discusses the music and the conflicts in their personal lives against the backdrop of the 1960's.
Date published: 2021-03-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lots of Speculations Presenter is knowledgeable but speculates on what the 'Beatles' are thinking. Not recommended - read the book on this group instead.
Date published: 2021-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential watching for any Beatles fan While I lived through Beatlemania (and love the Beatles), I found Professor Shelden's perspective interesting, well organized, informative, and enjoyable. This is a course Beatles' fans will love! It's also an accessible tool for anyone who wants to understand Beatles music. Professor Shelden framed the Beatles' development through a historical lens of America and England, proving the group's fame to be a catalyst for explosive cultural and societal reforms. Professor Shelden documents the forces that shaped these creative geniuses and their invaluable contribution to music.
Date published: 2021-02-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What Would John Say? This is a 2020 production and is only 12 lectures, and that's probably enough. The whole time I spent listening to Prof Shelden explain the causes and effects of the Beatles on society, or society on the Beatles, I wandered what would John Lennon say to him about his views, analysis and conclusions? Or, for that matter, any of the Beatles? How accurate is his analysis? His bibliography is extensive and he uses primary sources to a large extent with quotes from each of the Beatles to support his statements. There are few Beatles photos, and of course no film strips or Beatle music played. Instead, there is a Spotify link to a play list to hear what Prof Shelden is explaining in his lectures. Clearly, Prof Shelden has been a life-long fan of the Beatles and his knowledge of the band is extensive. I learned something from the course.
Date published: 2021-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding One of Prof. Michael Shelden’s talents is to focus on the most interesting subjects. Last year, my wife and I enjoyed his TGC course, George Orwell: A Sage for All Seasons. “And now for something completely different,” as the Monty Python’s Flying Circus troop would say, we have a fascinating look at the popular culture of the Nineteen-sixties. Here is the backstory of the Beatles’ great music and the individuals who made it all possible. Housebound, we watched this video course while sitting out the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and just when Harvey Phillip “Phil” Spector (1939-2021), the American producer of the 1970 Beatles album Let It Be, died in prison of natural causes. Spector had been convicted for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Jean Clarkson (1962-2003) in his Alhambra, California, mansion. Such interesting people in the music biz! HWF, Mesa, AZ.
Date published: 2021-01-19
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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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