By Donovan Day
A lot of people like/love the Beatles and their music but then there are those go well beyond fandom. These are the folks who seem or do make The Beatles the center of their lives. As the author of a Beatles book myself, these super-fans fascinate me! So I’ve decided to highlight some of these Beatles experts who know far more about the group than your average groupie, like me.
First up is Aaron Krerowicz who calls himself “America’s only full-time professional Beatles music scholar.” True to his word, Aaron analyzes the Beatles music in something he calls “The Beatles Minute.” Here is just one example but there are many more on Aaron’s website.
Aaron is also an author and has a new book out about his travels around the country as he gives his Beatles presentations with his father who gave Aaron his love of Beatles music. It’s a heartwarming read about father and son bonding over the Beatles, baseball and birding–the three B’s of course.
What’s especially interesting about Aaron is that he makes his living doing this work. Now that’s hard!! I asked him about that and a bunch of other things in an online Q & A that follows. I hope you enjoy it….more Beatles experts to come (and if you know of one or are one and wanted to be featured, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re interested in having Aaron give his presentation to your group, I’m just something can be arranged by writing to him at his website.)
Donovan: Tell me about the first time you became aware of the Beatles?
Aaron: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of this band and their music. My dad grew up listening to The Beatles; I grew up listening to them through him.
Donovan: A lot of us think there was some kind of magic associated with the Beatles. Do you believe that or rather think they were a great band that got extraordinarily lucky?
Aaron: Neither! There was no magic going on behind the scenes, though there is what Richard Dawkins describes as poetic magic, “an inspiring beauty which is all the more magical because it is real and because we can understand how it works.” As a professional Beatles scholar, part of my job is illuminating “how it works”, thus enhancing The Beatles’ poetic magic.
On the other hand, I don’t believe they were “just lucky”, either. Thomas Jefferson once said, “I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” No amount of luck could have compensated for a lack of effort or musical abilities. The Beatles were first and foremost phenomenal musicians. So yes, they were lucky in the sense that they came along at the right time in history, when the world was willing and able to consume their product and catapult them to super stardom.
Donovan: A lot of people like the Beatles but why are you making it your life’s work?
Aaron: I believe in the music. I believe The Beatles are a landmark in music history, at least on par with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky, or any other musician you can name, and are consequently worthy of extensive analysis and study. My tours are designed to share that belief and enthusiasm.
Donovan: Can you make a living only writing about and studying the Beatles?
Aaron: Yes, but it takes a ridiculous amount of work. I spend many hours every day reading, researching, analyzing, and writing. In addition, there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into the non-Beatles components of my career. Things like finding locations at which I can present and organizing my tours take almost as much work as the actual analysis. There’s a reason most people don’t do what I do…
Donovan: Do you play an instrument? And if so, do you play Beatles songs?
Aaron: I’m the kind of guy who can pick up any instrument and play it, but I can’t play any of them terribly well! I rarely play Beatles music. I could never make a career as a performer – I’m just not good enough at it. My degrees are in music theory and composition, not performances. However, in January 2016, I did release an album of original music called Odds ‘n’ Ends, on which I play several (but not all) of the tracks. Details on my website: http://www.aaronkrerowicz.com/odds-n-ends.html.
Donovan: What separates you from every other Beatles expert out there?
Aaron: Two things: 1) Most Beatles experts focus on the band’s history and biography – who did what, where, when, why, how. And while that’s absolutely fascinating, it’s not what I do. I’m a music scholar, which means I focus on the music itself. I study melodies, analyze chord progressions, and dissect song structures to observe the compositional techniques underlying the music. I’m interested in the nitty gritty nuts and bolts that make these songs what they are. It’s the kind of detail that a listener doesn’t need to know to like the music, but once you realize what’s happening musically it gives a greater appreciation and understanding for the band’s extraordinary music.
And 2) I do Beatles-study full-time. Since I have no other career demands, I contribute 100% of my professional efforts to analyzing, writing, and speaking about The Beatles. Since quitting my other jobs in June 2015, I’ve done 167 presentations in 24 different states and in England. I have another 67 already booked for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017, and I’m adding more daily.
Donovan: Do you think part of what makes The Beatles mysterious or puts them on a different plane than everyone else has to do with John’s murder? Once he died, the Beatles were gone forever, weren’t they?
Aaron: Well, yes and no. Obviously Lennon’s murder didn’t change his recorded output – the songs he helped record are exactly the same as they were before his murder. But there is a certain retrospective idealization of him. And that’s true for any death of a celebrity – look the resurgence of popularity of David Bowie and Prince, both of whom died earlier this year. Deaths that resemble martyrdom are revered even more so – look at Kennedy and Lincoln, who remain popular five plus decades after their assassinations. As with so many others, John Lennon’s death sealed his immortality. His murder has certainly shaped public perception of his music, but none of that would matter if his recordings weren’t superlative to begin with.
Donovan: What are you trying to get across in your Beatles Minutes?
Aaron: My entire career is designed to answer one fundamental question: Why were The Beatles so great? Everything I do – every blog I post, every book I author, every presentation I give, and every BEATLES MINUTE video I produce – contributes to the single but extremely large and multi-facted goal of answering that question.
Donovan: Tell me about the subject of your latest book, traveling around the country with your father?
Aaron: I planned my March tour to coincide with my father’s interest in an excursion out west. We have friends in Arizona, and it was a part of the country neither of us had ever visited, so we turned my tour into a joint road trip. Along the way we both kept journals, documenting life on the road. The resulting book, Days in the Life: A Father and Son on a Beatles Tour, is a travelogue based on those journals.
Donovan: What will the audience learn during one of your talks?
Aaron: Again, I’m a music scholar, so I emphasize The Beatles’ musical sophistication. So, though some of my programs are more history-oriented, the majority are music-oriented. Audiences will learn some of the “behind the scenes” musical facets, which can increase understanding and appreciation.
Donovan: If you could time travel, when is the moment you’d like to be with the Beatles?
Aaron: People sometimes ask me if I wish I could have lived through the 1960s. Not at all! I love the decade, and its music and culture, but life in the 2010s strikes me as far superior (if more complicated) than life a half century ago.
So, if I could go back in time and for any length of time, I’d like to go back to a generic week around 1965. I’m less interested in the major events like Ed Sullivan or Shea Stadium because they have been preserved reasonably well. I’m more interested in a less-celebrated or scrutinized couple of days to get an authentic flavor of life at the time. But I wouldn’t want to stay there longer than a week!