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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Genre and parody in the music of the Beatles Connolly, Michael

Abstract

From the earliest outbreak of “Beatlemania” in 1963 to the announcement of their breakup in 1970, The Beatles fulfilled, exceeded, and reformed our conceptions of popular music. They have enjoyed an enduring popularity with critics and audiences and have cemented their position as one of the most celebrated acts in popular culture. Although it would be difficult to attribute their success to a single factor, it could be argued that their eclectic sound ensured their mass appeal. As their careers progressed, The Beatles effortlessly combined and moved between different genres. Many of these genres were atypical for popular music of the 1960s and can be regarded as parody. This thesis approaches parody as an important stylistic trait of The Beatles’ music. Parody is a broad concept that can be found in a number of forms of art and entertainment. By drawing from literary criticism and musicological discourse, this study develops a broader understanding of parody in which popular musicians evoke the music of another genre through borrowing and create a critical distance between their work and the preexisting one. Further investigation reveals how The Beatles applied parody to their music and how it was used by the band to connect with their listeners. In such songs as “Back In The U.S.S.R.” and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” The Beatles parody different musical genres in order to evoke social commentary. Genre parody is not exclusive to individual songs. It is one of the unifying threads in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which The Beatles parody the English music hall and use genre to connect themes on the album. Despite these instances, parody remains an underexplored practice in their music. Many scholars of the band will acknowledge the musical and critical elements associated with parody; however, they do not use the term, nor identify parody as a recurring practice in The Beatles’ music. This thesis hopes to shed light on this topic and add to our understanding of the rich legacy of The Beatles.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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