Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: "Deconstructing the Beatles"

The best thing about Scott Frieman's "Deconstructing the Beatles" lectures is watching the people in the audience. Their eyes light up with discovery and recognition. They smile. And they sing along to the Beatles' music.

It turns out that watching people watch a lecture isn't as boring as it might seem. This is because, duh, the Beatles are a great band. But also because Frieman is a gifted teacher. He helps reinforce people's connections to the Beatles' music by deepening their knowledge of it. 

Frieman does presentations nationwide, but if you don't get a chance to see him in person, you can stream or purchase videos of four of them, each focusing on a different Beatles album: Sgt. Pepper, "The White Album," Rubber Soul and Revolver.

Each of these are key entries in the Beatles' catalog make for good demonstrations of how they evolved musically, how they embraced new instruments and recording techniques, and how they pioneered popular music throughout their career. Each lecture recounts what was going on at the time, both in the Beatles' lives and in the wider culture, and then brings us into the recording studio with the band.

Frieman, a musicologist, doesn't get overly technical, but he makes sometimes complex topics easy to understand via graphics and musical examples. He knows his bootlegs, too, and frequently uses multi-track isolations, outtakes and rarities to chart the evolution of different songs. While many readers here have probably heard these rare tracks, it's fun to listen as they're shared with an audience in this way.

While his technique involves deconstructing the Beatles' tracks, Frieman doesn't just pull the songs apart, he puts them back together again, giving us a better sense of how they are constructed and providing us with new ways to hear them. 

That the Beatles' music can withstand such scrutiny is a testament to their songwriting and their work in the studio. Fifty years later, we're still listening and learning.

You can get more information about Frieman's lectures and purchase the videos here.

 

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