Deconstructing the Beatles

Studio: CultureSonar

Nov 01, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


At this point in time, the history of The Beatles has been so thoroughly researched and studied that some publishers have put a moratorium on Beatles-related titles, save for truly original work. It’s understandable that the most popular rock group of all time would be the most published-about rock group of all time. So a six-hour lecture series from a musicologist about The Beatles seems like a pretty dry, dull proposition, of interest only to those with an intimate knowledge of music theory and technique, no?

Wrong.

Deconstructing The Beatles is the project of Scott Freiman, and is clearly a labor of love. Four lectures have recently been released, covering the Beatles’ recorded output from 1965’s Rubber Soul through 1968’s The Beatles. Each lecture is 90 minutes long, and each lecture is a fantastic tour through the creative process of all four albums. Thankfully, Freiman approaches each album not from a highly technical perspective; instead, he blends cultural history, the Beatles’ own history, and the musical culture of the era, and in so doing he presents complex material in a way that’s very easy to understand and appreciate. Nor does Freiman stick with examining each album in the same way; for instance, Rubber Soul was made under a tight deadline of less than a month, and so he examines the sessions from day one to completion. He examines Revolver and Sgt. Pepper track by track, while The Beatles he devotes his time to examining the tracks the band worked on as a group, which unfortunately means he only examines about half of the record. (It also means that unlike the other albums, he devotes time to outtakes.)

Freiman uses a lot of unreleased and rarely heard outtakes and studio rehearsals to show how each song is developed from demo and rehearsal to final product, and he breaks down the songs into individual tracks to highlight what the band is doing on each song, often using this to highlight the band’s influences and musical methods. For instance, you probably wouldn’t have caught how “Good Day Sunshine” is a thinly veiled homage to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream,” nor would you particularly catch that nearly every song on Rubber Soul utilizes a tambourine, while the mysterious kazoo on “Lovely Rita” was actually an improvised creation utilizing a comb and toilet paper. And have you ever heard each of the five tape loops utilized in “Tomorrow Never Knows” played individually? If you haven’t—and you probably haven’t—then prepare to be amazed. Furthermore, he offers up a lot of background information that is quite compelling, such as how the wife of the man who introduced Paul and John wrote out the French passages in “Michelle,” nor would you have known that “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on, brah” was an expression used by London musician Jimmy Scott, whom McCartney respected (and who later attempted to sue The Beatles over the use of the expression.)

Those facts don’t even begin to scratch the surface of all of the delightful information found in these four lectures. Deconstructing The Beatles is a welcome addition to any music fan’s collection, and even for die-hard Beatles fanatics who may know the albums and history as if it were Gospel, Freiman does an excellent job presenting well-known music in a completely unique and fascinating light.

deconstructingthebeatles.com




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