Copyright Waffling with Mark Lewisohn Part 1 – The Beatles and copyright

Jane and Chris with Mark Lewisohn (design by Chris Jones)

The latest episode of our podcast Copyright Waffle is with none other than the highly acclaimed Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn. Some of you may know that in addition to being mad about copyright, Chris is a huge Beatles nerd. After hearing Mark talk in February at the Faversham Literacy Festival, we dropped Mark a line to see if he might be willing to talk to record a podcast with us. He had said several things that intrigued us about how he did his research and there were a few hints that Mark might have some interesting things to say about copyright and the Beatles.

In 2013, Mark published volume one of his trilogy The Beatles – All These Years: Tune In. This book covers the early career of the Beatles and runs from 1958-1962 – the level of detail and the quality of his research is forensic. Mark is currently working on the next two volumes but he has written numerous books on the Beatles including The Beatles Day by Day – a diary-like account of the group as stage performers, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions (1988, recently republished) and The Beatles’ London (1994, 2008).

Mark agreed to meet us in person in March 2022 and we recorded almost 3 hours of audio about his approach to research, his publications, his archives and of course about the Beatles and their relationship to copyright and music publishing. We recorded the podcast at Mark’s archive, which is an incredible collection of not just all things Beatles (books, music, original documents), but a social history of Britain in the 1960s.

We decided to divide the podcast into two and this first episode covers the Beatles early career and their first encounters with copyright, music publishing and the music industry in the late 1950s and 1960s. We discuss the Beatles’ relationship with their music publisher Dick James including the creation of Northern Songs, its floatation on the Stock Exchange and the subsequent sales of the shares that led to the Beatles losing control of their back catalogue. Mark reads from Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics book published in 2021 and explains how the songs were eventually acquired by Michael Jackson (see Paul talking about this on the David Letterman show). We also talk about the Beatles approach to writing credits on their songs (the famous Lennon and McCartney credit line), explore the Beatles and accusations of copyright infringement and hear about their views on parody versions of their songs. We discuss the recent Peter Jackson documentary ‘Get Back‘ (which I am now avidly watching) and we were really honoured that Mark gave us some outtakes from a 1965 recording from a Beatles Christmas message which we have used to open our podcast. We can’t thank Mark enough for giving up his valuable time to talk to us and we really hope you enjoy this very special edition of Copyright Waffle, including the brand new Beatles inspired jingle!

If this isn’t enough, part 2 will be coming soon in which we get to delve into various archive boxes in Mark’s collection, hear about how he approaches his research and his thoughts on what might happen to his archive in the future. Chris also gets to have his fan boy moment and we get some insights into Mark’s views on my home baked banana loaf. Watch this space!

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