"There was nothing on Career Day in high school that said 'Beatleologist,'" jokes musicologist Scott Freiman of his unlikely career trajectory.
Freiman is the type of guy you'd want on your team for Trivial Pursuit, and he's probably heard his fair share of "Phone-A-Friend" jokes about his Beatles expertise. He's the creator of Deconstructing the Beatles, a multimedia lecture-turned-film series that tells the story behind the making of the Beatles's albums in painstaking detail.
The latest Deconstructing the Beatles film, the fourth in the series, focuses on the Fab Four's first foray into mind-bending psychedelia: 1965's Rubber Soul. The slanted head-trip of a photo on the album sleeve became a visual representation of the band's musical departure from the days of puppy-lovesick songs sung in suits. The vinyl grooves include introspective gems like "In My Life," "Nowhere Man," and the philanderer's confessional, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)."
Rubber Soul — which consistently ranks as one of the most beloved classics of the modern era — was written and recorded in just thirty days. Freiman's film chronicles day-to-day progress to illustrate the high-pressure conditions under which Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr created their first true masterpiece.
"The Beatles came into the studio [and] they had 30 days to finish an album for Christmas," Freiman says. "And they came in with almost no material. Any other band would've just done a covers album or something, and the Beatles come out with Rubber Soul, one of the greatest albums ever."
"You don't have throwaway songs on Rubber Soul," Freiman continues. "It's just a perfect album, and to do it under that pressure and be innovating at the same time — that's what I try to get across... A lot of people have listened to those albums thousands of times, but this is like giving them new ears to hear it... they're hearing instruments that they haven't heard before or influences that they didn't know about."
Though the Deconstructing the Beatles series has thus far focused on the later output, including Sgt. Pepper's, The White Album, and Revolver, the band clearly innovated in its early days. As Freiman outlines, it started with their first single. "P.S. I Love You," the B-side to A-side "Love Me Do," introduced a new chord sequence that appeared in songs as diverse as Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," ABBA's "S.O.S.," and even the original Super Mario Bros. theme.
"But they innovated way beyond just the music, of course," Freiman says. "Their album art, their lyrics, their fashion, they helped to invent music videos... A Hard Day's Night — no one had ever seen a movie like that... They did it in such a short time frame [such] that every year there was something new coming from them. Every couple months they were a different band, practically."
These days Freiman continues to present his multimedia Beatles lectures at colleges, theaters, and corporate events, but he's also keeping busy working on the next three film installments in the series. "I'm sending the films on the road like the Beatles sent Sgt. Pepper's out on the road," he says, referring to the band's decision to stop touring and become a studio band in 1966.
He has not heard directly from the two surviving Beatles regarding his lectures and film series, but he's heard feedback from some in the Beatles' orbit who've worked or played with Starr and McCartney. "The general comment has always been, 'Oh, I've got to get Paul to see this,' or 'I've got to get Ringo to see this.'
Freiman isn't really concerned with hearing back from Starr or McCartney; he knows that by being able to share his passion project with audiences around the country, he's already defied the odds.
"There are really two types of people... My mother-in-law gets a book and she reads the last page because she wants to know how it ends. And then there are people like me, who roll with the punches... I'm just really one of those people who likes saying yes rather than no."
Deconstructing the Beatles' Rubber Soul
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 3, at the Landmark at Merrick Park, 358 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables; 786-574-4116; landmarktheaters.com. Tickets cost $15 via landmarktheaters.com.
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