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Book: The Beatles in Perspective

Chapter: 1. "Where You Once Belonged": Class, Race and Liverpool Roots of Lennon and McCartney’s Songs

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.25026


While Lennon and McCartney’s class affiliations are ambiguous to degrees that should remain debatable, the depth and the detail in which working-class life defines their work have been overlooked, thus misrepresenting The Beatles’ cultural significance. As Collins (2012) critiques, initial New Left criticisms of The Beatles – almost exclusively in response to one composition, ‘Revolution’ (1968) – have recently been adapted by commentators eager to portray The Beatles as a culturally and politically conservative force. I argue that early Left-wing and recent Right-wing criticisms of The Beatles’ legacy are misleading, because both overlook Lennon and McCartney’s different relationships to working-class culture. I also emphasize an importantly related, even more marginalized aspect of The Beatles’ history: the significance of black musical and cultural influences from Liverpool. The article seeks to offer new interpretations of songs including ‘Norwegian Wood’, ‘A Day in the Life’, ‘Revolution’, ‘Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da’ and ‘Working Class Hero’

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