THE BEATLES & THE AVANT-GARDE by Aaron Krerowicz. AK Books, Hartford, CT.
Fans of the Beatles know that one form of art that the Beatles explored was the avant-garde and when they think of this fascination, they immediately think of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with good reason. It was Yoko’s influence that drew John into the avant-garde. However, Paul also experimented in the avant-garde as did, to a lesser degree, George Harrison. The other person within the Beatles’ circle to enter the avant-garde was George Martin. Krerowicz delves into many of the Beatles’ avant-garde projects and illustrates how those artistic productions reflected the lives of their creators.
The truth of the matter is that Paul McCartney was the first of the Beatles to become interested in the avant-garde. Paul was the only Beatle living in London, as the other three Beatles had married and moved out into suburbia. Paul explored the avant-garde through friends and colleagues, such as Peter Asher, Barry Miles, John Dunbar, and others, who shared recordings and took him to concerts. The avant-garde scene in London was growing and one of the most popular locations was the Indica Gallery and Book Store. Through his exposure to the avant-garde, Paul became an admirer of John Cage, who experimented with indeterminacy, unorthodox instruction, and silence as part of his creative process, as well as unconventional instrumentations. The impact on Paul resulted in compositions such as the famous, but seldom heard, song “Carnival of Light.”
Yoko Ono was a well-known and respected artist in the avant-garde, in the Flux movement in New York City, long before she met John Lennon at her exhibition at the Indica Gallery, and it was through her that John became interested in the avant-garde. It was her “Ceiling Painting” piece that spiked John’s interest in what would become a lifelong partnership.
John Lennon began his career in the avant-garde as a result of his relationship with Yoko and as with many things in his life, he dove into the artform full force with film, music, and events. His two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, demonstrated his early awareness of experimental avant-garde literature and poetry,
George Harrison explored the avant-garde with his musical creation Electronic Sound, which consisted of two tracks, “Under the Mersey Sound” and “No Time or Space,” both large scale compositions produced on a Moog synthesizer.
George Martin, even before the Beatles, created atmosphere and sound pictures.
The Beatles & The Avant-Garde is the only book that delves into the Beatles’ interest in the art. Krerowicz, a professional Beatles scholar and lecturer, won a research grant in 2011 and used his findings to present the many avenues the Beatles used to create innovating and world-changing music. It is a topic often overlooked by Beatles fans but one that played a major role in their accomplishments. Krerowicz does an excellent job explaining this period in a way that fans will enjoy. I give this book a grade of A. It’s well worth reading and having in your library.