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January 15, 2014

Beatlemania

Beatles
The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York on Feb. 9 1964. An estimated 73 million Americans tuned in, the largest ever for a TV show at the time, or three times the number of people who watched the latest American Idol finale, according to the Nielsen Company.

John Covach with guitar
Institute for Popular Music Director John Covach, the Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor in the College’s Department of Music, and professor of music theory at the Eastman School, is teaching a class on the Beatles on the River Campus this semester. He will also teach a Coursera course, The Music of the Beatles, starting Feb. 9.

The Beatles will be remembered with great pomp and circumstance in February—the golden anniversary of the month the group debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show, gave birth to the British Invasion, and ushered in the frenzy known as Beatlemania.

The University’s Institute for Popular Music, dedicated to promoting the scholarly study of music produced primarily for commercial consumption, will celebrate the occasion with music by faculty and student performers at 8 p.m. Feb. 9, exactly 50 years, to the hour, since an estimated 73 million viewers tuned in to see and hear the Beatles. Lectures by experts on Beatles music and equipment will be coordinated with the event.

Director John Covach, the Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor in the College’s Department of Music, and professor of music theory at the Eastman School, says people can’t fully understand American culture without becoming familiar with the venerable group’s music.

“You cannot talk about the history of the presidency in the 20th century and, if you’re a Democrat, only study presidents who were Democrats because you think the Republicans were misguided,” he says. “An album like Sgt. Pepper is important because it was important to so many people who were involved in the events of the ’60s.

“The world sort of stopped,” he says, “and everybody listened.”

  • Feb. 5: Noted instrument expert Andy Babiuk will discuss the Beatles’ musical gear at 7 p.m. in the Gowen Room, Wilson Commons.
  • Feb. 9: Walter Everett, professor at the University of Michigan and author of two books on the Beatles, will talk about the band’s legacy, a presentation followed by a concert featuring University faculty, staff, and students backed by the Rochester band the Smooth Talkers. The event starts at 2 p.m. in Lower Strong Auditorium.

  • Feb. 9: John Covach’s Coursera course, The Music of the Beatles, begins. Covach is also teaching an on-campus course on the Beatles this semester

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