Beatles authorship question: Adorno? Really?

Jerry Russell

Staff member
We're probably all familiar with the various indications that maybe the Fab Four didn't really write their own music and lyrics. Analogous to the Shakespearean authorship debate, this opens up a whole universe of possibilities, and is unlikely to ever be settled to everyones' satisfaction.

I must confess I'm having a bit of trouble with the suggestion that Adorno was responsible. The idea seems to have come from Dr. John Coleman in his book on the Committee of 300. But aside from that, I can't find any evidence even that Adorno had any affiliation with Tavistock. Early in his career he wrote some 12-tone (atonal) music similar to Schoenberg, but IMO it didn't sound anything like the Beatles, and he seems to have given up writing much music after that.

In terms of his politics, Adorno seems to have been a very progressive critic of the mass media and mass consumption society of his day. Here's a video appreciation by Dennis Redmond, who got his first PhD here in Eugene at the U of O:

(This is a post I made at a different forum awhile back but I stand by it still) I’ve been suspicious of this Adorno/Beatles take for some time- The only source for this angle is this “Doctor” Coleman- I do believe that the Beatles were a manufactured product and were tied intimately to the JFK psy-op- A few points:
NBC on 11/18/63 ran a feature on the Beatles on the national news followed by CBS on the morning of 11/22/63- Jack Parr, the guy who preceded Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, had clips of the Beatles shown to a more adult audience on 1/3/64 to prepare parents for their kid’s reaction once they arrived- Finally, Ed Sullivan had them on live on 2/9/64 and the audience responded as expected- What’s interesting to note in these news spots is the emphasis on teenage girls and their reactions- This, I maintain, is a classic example of patterned response placement , indicating to the vast audience of girls in America what the appropriate reaction should be- Teenage boys would then take the cue and adapt to this new male role model-
This kind of patterning had happened a decade and a half prior to the Beatles’ arrival- Young Frank Sinatra had emerged after the war from Hoboken saloons to rise to the national spotlight- Bobbysoxers, the term for teenage girls at the time, were filmed for the newsreels, screaming for Frankie’s attention on stage and on the street- It was revealed years later that those screaming girls were paid to demonstrate their devotion so the cameras could sell this new sensation to a herd of like- minded girls- The boys would have no choice but to adapt to this new role model-
The timing of the Beatles arrival was no coincidence- The biggest post-JFK distraction was the “British Invasion” that took over the music charts (Collaterally, this dampened, somewhat, the new infusion of black artists stationed on the charts) and then pop culture in all directions- When attacking a generation, you start with smiles to draw them in- Certainly the frowns were severe on the faces of American youth when JFK was taken out- It was a clean hand-off, like a relay race, from Walter Cronkite’s announcement of JFK’s demise to Ed Sullivan and The Beatles-
As to the four mop tops themselves- The Beatles derived their name from a style of bands that they were but one example of- Beat Bands were all the rage; generally three guitars and a drummer- The most noteworthy Liverpool band at the time was Rory Storm and the Hurricanes with Ringo Starr on drums- Ringo was thought to be the best drummer in town and when real money selected the Beatles out of the morass of challengers, Ringo was purloined in ’62 to replace Pete Best-
This sponsorship of The Beatles above all others might lead the narrative down several rabbit holes- My take is that these guys were vetted and were more than willing to trade in their jeans and leather jackets and quit trying to channel Eddie Cochran et al, (The rural country derived Elvis style of R&R) in exchange for a more urban and urbane form of R&R that would play well in cities and in the suburbs (and keep them from having to get real jobs)- That would require feminizing the band- Form-fitting identical suits, high-heeled footwear (Beatle boots which were made specifically for the band) longer hair with prominent bangs- Gone, too, were the wilder antics, the risqué repartee’, the “dirty” style of singing that the rockabilly types would engage in on slower, blues-derived numbers- Instead, tight, efficient, up tempo ditties punctuated in unison by a low bow from the waist as supplication to the fans-
The real story of Brian Epstein is hard to piece together- The myths seem firmly entrenched- He stumbled upon them unattended and took them to the top- It’s interesting to note that not too long after the Beatles gave up touring, Epstein allegedly passed away under mysterious circumstances- A year later, their lawyer, David Jacobs also died- From concert sensations to studio musicians, this complete restructuring of the Beatle project over a two year span lines up with the transition from wholesome family entertainment to drug addled depravity of the youth culture in general-
I believe the Beatles had a certain amount of guile, and a little talent- It has never been denied that George Martin was largely responsible for their records being listenable- It has never been denied that Martin would bring in other musicians from time to time to redo certain instrumental tracks- It’s never been denied that Martin scored whole musical passages, the most famous being the string quartet that backs Paul on Eleanor Rigby-The deliberate use of personal pro nouns in the titles and lyrics has never been denied- You/Me/We/Us/ She /He… were used to draw a personal connection between individual fans and the group- You know, programming! If the Adorno theory had any remote corollary it would be that Martin was the guiding hand for the music, not some oddball from parts east who had marching orders from a think tank like Tavistock- EMI, Martin’s employer, had direct ties to the military and were pioneers in radar and electronic sound devices with military application- If there is an intelligence entry way into the Beatles directly, I believe it is through George Martin-
Could two yokels from a port town crank out masterpiece after masterpiece? Well, yes-ish, if a two minute and change pop song can be a masterpiece- I worked for years cranking out one photo-realistic-ish painting after another, selling hundreds of these small “masterpieces” to rich people who are by nature extremely stingy, unless prestige is on offer- Once an artist of any stripe creates a reusable template for his technique, he can crank out stuff like a machine- Paul, especially, made quite a bit of noise about just such song making protocols- He’d joke to Lennon at breakfast, “C’mon, let’s write a swimming pool”- alluding to the fact that their songs would buy them anything they wanted- I can relate to such cynicism- Believe me, at one point I had had it with painting gleaming glass effects and faint reflections off window panes, the technique that really moved my product, but the money was just too good to stop turning artistic tricks like that- At some point you stop worrying about art and just want to pay your bills with this “God given talent”-To this day, Paul, if that really is him, can’t stop hustling the audience- It’s just what he does-
My convoluted conclusion is this: The Beatles were real people- They were selected and were quite happy to play along- They had grownups make their recordings, which they had a hand in- They were packaged and sold with cross continental and corporate coordination for a desired effect: Get people away from JFK and lead the youth out of effective social/political engagement and down a path of degradation- Yikes!
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