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The Connection of The Beatles to Surrealist Aesthetics

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Surrealism came into the lives of The Beatles by accident and changed their music for the better by pushing them to task risks and go out of their comfort zone in order to develop new, unique styles of music. Nothing good happens in ones comfort zone, right? Paul McCartney was the brains behind the “random” music making style that allowed The Beatles to create more depth and sentimental meanings in their coming albums. Paul McCartney would play the tapes backwards to uncover layers that they would have heard if they didn’t try out this new technique. This very technique lead them into the realm of Surrealism to go against the grain and allow an individual’s subconscious mind to speak for itself. Paul McCartney’s willingness, dedication to finding new sounds to elevate The Beatles music, and the “pataphysical” world is what lead to The Beatles immersion into Surrealism and artists that traveled over boards to reach new levels of consciousness and awareness.

Surrealism was a creative movement to lead many artists and musicians to unleash their subconscious and conscious mind to run free to give a new perspective on the world that was not hindered by reasoning, critical thoughts of the mind, or politics. For instance, “As promoted by its founder, the French poet André Breton (b. 1896, d.1966), the Surrealist movement was a radical one whose goal was not merely the production of weird images, but the transformation of everyday life”. Many artists believed that many rules of worldly existence kept everyone from living a vibrant, free flowing life by keeping everyone in a stagnant and in a “trance-like” state of consciousness. For instance, “Surrealist acts, events and images intended to shock people out of this trance and awaken them to a deeper reality located beyond the bounds of rationality”. Paul McCartney was the first to incorporate this style of “randomness” that was in alignment with the Surrealism movement that aimed to awake the conscious mind that was being suppressed for far too long. For instance, in the “Avant Garde London” text, Paul said, “Miles and I often used to talk about the ‘pataphysical society and the Chair of Applied Alcoholism. So I put that in one of the Beatles songs, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”… I am the only person who ever put the name of “pataphysics into the record charts, c’mon! It was great. I love those surreal touches”. The fascination with awakening dreams is what made Paul McCartney hone in on the movement that would lead to the incorporation of “random” in their songs to connect with people who spirits and conscious mind needed a great lifting. This desire to awake the mind increased when he met Yoko One that took his curiosity and interest in the mind to new heights.

Lennon and Yoko One bonded over their imaginations of seeing the world in a way that made everyone feel free to see and do things that allow their creative juices to come up with their own reality that is not limited by rules of society or other people. Yoko One created instructionals that told a reader how to do things in a book with a multitude of visuals and poetic creations. This affected Lennon and the lyrics that he felt inclined to include in The Beatles music that seemed “random” but contained a lot of purpose and thought behind every lyrical detail. For instance, “Lennon has said that the verses of “Imagine” (1971) are his own instructionals, and many connections can be found between items in this book and the Beatles’ later lyrics”. Yoko Ono and Lennon believe in speaking to their senses and talking about their human experience through their individual works of art. Lennon and Yoko Ono said, “We are each works of art ourselves — our bodies and our minds combining to make something which should be treated in the same way that an art examiner might treat a painting or a piece of sculpture. In gist, they said, they said the whole world is one vast gallery, one massive exhibition of art”. This quotes shows that their thinking and decision as to how each detail was being displayed in a work of art was not “random” at all. Each component of put together perfectly to have a balanced and full piece of art that gives the viewer an altered, happier way of seeing the world that allowed their mind to rid itself of the rules that were always keeping it in the same place of thought. For example, “Instead, the artist, with his/her penetrating insight, simply noticed them and made them into artworks or parts of artworks”. This way of seeing things is exactly how Yoko Ono and Lennon saw things when they were creating art that connected things that were not previously connected to create a work of art that made people feel more connected to a dream-like world. Drugs like LSD also added to the memorizing state where they were able to gain a higher consciousness and awareness in themselves and of the world.

The Beatles heavily used LSD to see the world in a more favorable way to escape the unfortunate and unequal practicalities that the elites in society put into place. They wanted to see the world as a free and accepting place where everyone was free to do and think as they pleased which LSD allowed them to do. For instance, “Among the commonest states of the ‘altered states’ induced by LSD is depersonalisation or ‘ego-loss’. In this condition, awareness of self of a separate entity dissolves in what Jung termed ‘oceanic consciousness’: the sense that all things are one and individual awareness an illusion”. The Beatles loving being in this desirable lead them to create the song “Tomorrow Never Ends” on the Revolver album which has to do straight away with the drug. They were able to express how they felt on the inside that pushed them to create other LP’s that revolved around the theme of going inside ones imaginations and changing their reality for a period of time. For instance, “This time, the character finding it hard for her to express herself was an orphan at Strawberry Fields, a girls’ reform school in Beaconsfield Road… he turned the anxious orientation of She Said She Said into something more ambiguous on the one hand, a study in uncertain identity, tinged with the loneliness of the solitary rebel against all things institutional”. The Beatles wanted to rebel against unequal things going on in society that were keeping them in the trance-like state where they were unhappy with their reality. Through the use of LSD, they were able to branch out of what society wanted them to act like and create freedom through their music which attributed to their “random” style where every detail was thought out and made sense. It just did not make sense to those who did not have the same frame of mind and consciousness as The Beatles.

The Beatles being heavily influenced by Surrealism allowed them to get in to a state of consciousness where their minds had the free range to explore and go deep into their imaginations which is how their “random” style came to pass. After reading the texts from Module 9, it is clear that The Beatles “chance procedures” were not random or a chance but were calculated very precisely to give off a reality that was desirable to those who felt they were being depressed by their current reality. Ultimately, Surrealism pushed The Beatles to separate their creative mind from the logical mind in order to unleash what has already been on their mind that they were not previously able to access due to their state of consciousness.

Bibliography

  • Everett, Walter. On Yoko One From The Beatles As Musicians: Revolver Through An Anthology.
  • MacDonald, Ian. Excerpts from Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties Fully Updated Edition.
  • Miles, Barry. Avant Garde London in Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.
  • Module 9 – “Random”, “Rishikesh”, and “Revolution” 

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