21M.299 | Fall 2017 | Undergraduate

The Beatles


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


21M.030 Introduction to World Music or permission of the instructor

General Information and Overview

This class surveys the music of the Beatles, from the band’s early years as the Quarrymen, 1956–1960, through the rise of “Beatlemania” in the 1960s, and the break-up of the group with the turn of 1970. Listening and reading assignments will focus on the construction and analysis of selected songs with the goal of mapping how the Beatle’s musical style changed from skiffle and rock to studio-based experimentation and the concept album. Cultural influences that helped to shape not only the music, but also the image of the Beatles’ and its individual members, as well as the group’s influence on both popular music and culture worldwide, will be a continuous theme.


Listening and Readings

The course is structured so that we listen to one Beatles album every week, in chronological order by British album release.

Assigned readings will be taken from this text: Hunter Davies, The Beatles, New York: Norton, 2009. ISBN: 978-0393338744.

There will be additional readings and listening assignments posted in the Reading and Listening section.

Supplemental text: The Beatles Anthology, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000.


There are three types of written work for this class:

  1. Weekly analysis (musical, poetic, contextual) for selected songs (group assignment)
  2. Reflection on two weekly analysis reports (1–2 pages)
  3. A final essay (5–6 pages) on an approved topic.

See Assignments section for format guidelines and assignment details.

Please note: Plagiarism in the writing of any paper is a serious academic (and moral) offense. Plagiarism includes any unacknowledged use of outside sources, whether published or not, whether by scholars, bloggers, or fellow students. In our climate of facile electronic exchange and Internet copying, the temptation to use other people’s written work without proper citation is great. But the student should be aware that plagiarism in this or any course will likely lead to a failing grade in the class, and carries the risk of expulsion from the Institute. (On a personal note, plagiarism does not help you understand the material you have professed to study by taking this class.)

Group Formation and Presentations

Group work and presentation are a focus of this course. For more about this and group formation, see Learning From Each Other in the Instructor Insights section.


You are required to attend each class meeting and participate actively.

The use of laptops and other electronic devices should be limited to accessing online scores and recordings or other activities directly related to this class. Please be sure to silence and refrain from using all devices when music is being played.


Activities Percentages
Weekly analysis (10 projects) 70% (7% each)
Reflection on weekly analysis (2 papers) 10% (5% each)
Final project (essay + discussion) 13%
Participation 7%

Course Overview and Key Dates

Week Topics Key Dates
I Intro and Meet the Beatles Week 1 analysis due
II 1963: With the Beatles Week 2 analysis due
III 1964: A Hard Day’s Night Week 3 analysis due
IV 1964: Beatles for Sale Week 4 analysis due
V Beatles in the News and on the Screen Week 5 analysis due
VI 1965: Help! Week 6 analysis due
VII 1965: Rubber Soul Week 7 analysis due
VIII 1966: Revolver Week 8 analysis due

Magical Mystery Tour

1967: Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Week 9 analysis due

1967: Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

1968: The Beatles

Week 10 analysis due

1968: The Beatles

1969: Yellow Submarine

Week 11 analysis due

1969: Yellow Submarine

1969: Abbey Road

Week 12 analysis due


1969: Abbey Road

1970: Let It Be

Week 13 analysis due

1970: Let It Be

Paper Discussion

Week 14 analysis due

Final project due

XV Wrap-up Week 15 analysis due

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2017
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Instructor Insights