Friday, December 2, 2011

Beatles Deconstructed: An Interview with Scott Freiman

A Trip Through Strawberry Fields
Monday, December 5, 2011
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY

More than 40 years after the band’s breakup, The Beatles are as popular as ever: CDs keep selling like hotcakes, tribute bands are a cottage industry, and 69-year-old Paul McCartney is still one of the hottest stage acts on the planet, with fans from 4 to 84 at Sir Paul’s shows. There’s also a plethora of books that keeps on coming, from bios to musical analysis.

The latter is also what Scott Freiman does: for the past few years, his Deconstructing the Beatles lectures have been an entertaining showcase of the intense creativity that makes up the Beatles’ music. His multimedia presentations comprise video and audio samples, including snippets of rarely-heard demos and other stripped-down segments of the songs.

Freiman’s already done the White Album and Sgt. Pepper: his next lecture, at the IFC center in Manhattan on December 5, is A Trip Through Strawberry Fields, a dissection of that classic track along with “Penny Lane” and “A Day in the Life.” For a complete list of his upcoming schedule, visit

The composer-producer-engineer-Fab Four expert spoke recently from his studio about deconstructing the Beatles.

Kevin Filipski: How did your lecture series begin?
Scott Freiman: I’ve always been a Beatles fan since I was young, and now I’m a composer with my own studio. About two years ago, I invited some friends over to listen to the Sgt Pepper album, and I did a presentation with behind-the-scenes rare tracks. It worked very well so I was encouraged to do more with it. I found out there was great interest in these presentations, so I started to go to local theaters to do them: I have a variety of different shows, and I’m adding new ones. No one takes people into the Beatles studio work like I am, and I do it in layman’s language so everyone can get a lot out of it, no matter their level of Beatles knowledge.

KF: What kind of audiences do you see at your lectures?
SF: I’m finding at many shows I do that I have a 88-year-old great-grandmother bringing her young great-grandson. What other musical presentation would do that? I think that’s what’s unique about the Beatles, because they mean an awful lot to so many people and continue to resonate with every succeeding generation, which is why there continue to be hundreds and hundreds of websites, books, etc.

KF: Talk about A Trip Through Strawberry Fields.
SF: “Strawberry Fields Forever” is one of the few songs in the Beatles canon where you can show how the song evolved from the demo version to the final recording. It‘s such a pivotal song in music history, along with “Penny Lane” and “A Day in the Life,” which I also discuss and play different mixes of. I find that, by concentrating on the music, showing how the tracks got built in the studio, and showing the different recording and compositional techniques, it become a history lesson about the recording technology of the ‘60s along with being a tribute to the Beatles.

KF: How much did the 2009 remastered CDs--in both stereo and mono--help with your analysis of the Beatles’ music?
SF: I think that a great job was done with that remix, which allows us to hear a lot of things better. More importantly, they also released the mono albums: the Beatles mixed all their albums for mono pre-Abbey Road, and in a lot of cases, the mono mixes are different than the stereo mixes. It’s always interesting to hear those, since they weren’t really available except on bootlegs. I have a lot of fun with that: when I discuss Sgt Pepper, I play a few of the more significant mono and stereo differences. I have thousands of recordings, interviews and videos that I’ve picked up through a whole variety of sources and I’ve also done work in my studio to isolate parts of recordings. There’s still a lot more to be officially released someday, I hope.

KF: After “Strawberry Fields,” the White Album, and Sgt. Pepper, what are you working on next?
SF: For next year, I’m working on Revolver, which is one of my absolute favorite Beatles albums. I find more and more that Revolver does best Sgt Pepper in many ways. What’s fun is that I can put together a show that keeps people interested and listening to these amazing albums in a new way. I just did a lecture at Hunter College (in Manhattan): when I got in front of these college students who all have Beatles music on their iPods, who all know the songs and who know the group’s history, it's amazing to see.

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