Magical Mystery Tour

Beatles fanatic brings lecture series to the Cleveland Museum of Art

Last year, Scott Freiman's lectures on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club and The White Album went over so well that the Cleveland Museum of Art invited the Beatles fanatic to return this year to present a series of new lectures. Freiman, a composer and producer who started putting together Beatles lectures four years ago as a way to entertain his musician friends, says those same friends pushed him into putting together programs for the public. "I did a few local shows and talked to a couple of colleges and found there was this tremendous excitement about what I was doing," he says. "No one was talking in detail about the Beatles creative process and matching up the historical data with the music."This past year, Freiman has lectured in front of some 15,000 people nationwide, including employees at Pixar and theaters and museums. We asked Freiman to take us through each of the three programs he'll present this weekend at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Tickets to each program cost $15, but CMA members, seniors 65 and over and students pay only $12. You can also buy a weekend pass (all three programs) for $36, and members, seniors and students will pay only $30 for the weekend pass.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Deconstructing the Early Beatles

6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4

This is my latest program. This is the world premiere of what I'm calling "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Deconstructing the Early Beatles." I'm going to trace the evolution of the Beatles from their days as the Quarrymen to how they became the Beatles and walking through their first experience in the studio and those first tracks that made them a sensation, like "Please, Please Me" and "She Loves You." I'll play rare tracks from before they were the Beatles and show really interesting photos and videos and getting into the studio and learning about some of the things that went on in those first recording sessions. It's really fun to hear some of the very early recordings of John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney]. There are tapes of these songs and some of them showed up on Beatles albums years later. I was surprised by the fact that they immediately decided to write their own music. You can see how they became so good at it. You can see them evolve as a band. I've read every Beatles book out there, but it's different when you can hear how they get so good, so quickly. That's exciting. I have great stories to tell about when they walk into the studio at Abbey Road for the first time and the reaction to the staff and how they deal with this Beat group with long hair and Liverpool accents. I have great stuff about that and it's been fun uncovering this stuff.

Tomorrow Never Knows: Deconstructing the Beatles' Revolver

1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5

This is a great show also. It marks the first time that the Beatles started to use the studio as an instrument. Many of the techniques that they used on Sgt. Pepper were things they were already doing on Revolver. Revolver was an amazing chance to exploit every facet of the studio. We'll go through most of the tracks on Revolver and I'll be talking about the innovative technology they were using and inventing. I'll play the original loops from "Tomorrow Never Knows" and show how speed changes affect the quality of the songs. I'll play some rare video and talk about the wonderful, wonderful songs from that album. They were always trying to push themselves forward and do something that people hadn't done. They didn't want their guitar to sound like it sounded on the last song. They wanted to come up with some new twist and some new change and that meant pushing the limits of the studio. In those days, studios were very primitive. When you wanted to change the speed of your vocals, it wasn't a ProTools plug-in. It meant significant electronics work. The studio had become their sandbox and they had the money and time to start spending the time in the studio. They also had an extra long time to make Revolver. They had planned on another film and that got shelved. They were influenced by the underground movement in London and listening to avant garde music. That filtered in as well. They were ones to try something no one had tried before. They were all moving it forward. Paul [McCartney] was certainly the one most connected to the London underground. He wanted to talk to every filmmaker and musician and artist. He was very connected to the bookstore that was at the center of the underground movement in London. He was very connected to the scene. The drug use made a major impact. George [Harrison] was getting into Eastern culture and Indian music. It wasn't just throwing a sitar on the album. It was affecting the lyrics and rhythms and whole way they wrote. All three songwriters were changing in remarkable ways.

A Trip Through Strawberry Fields

1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6

That's a really interesting lecture because it's a chance for me to take one of their songs — "Strawberry Fields Forever" — and trace it through John Lennon's original demo to the final product. It's an incredible story of songwriting, arranging, orchestration and technology. It all factors in. I also talk briefly about "Penny Lane" and "A Day in the Life." Those three songs were the first three they created for what later became Sgt. Pepper. They really broke new ground, each one in their new way. It's fun to spend a whole lecture on just a few songs. People just love hearing these songs come to life. This is my most popular talk, actually. Certainly Lennon was doing a lot of drugs at the time, but [the Beatles] were careful, for the most part, not to use drugs in the studio. ["Strawberry Fields"] is a very deep song lyrically and very adventurous musically. Maybe the drugs helped open their minds to pushing the music in new directions. As I talk about in the lecture, it's not like this is a druggy song that they just went into the studio and recorded. This was loads of work splicing together different versions of it. It was an amazing arrangement by [producer] George Martin. It wasn't someone tossing off a drug song; it was a work of art. That will come out in my talk. Strawberry Fields was an orphanage in Liverpool and Penny Lane is the main roundabout in Liverpool. The scenes that Paul McCartney describes in "Penny Lane" are scenes that you would have seen around Penny Lane. You would have seen the barber and you would have seen the policeman and so forth. He was trying to conjure up the image of this place from Liverpool in song. John used "Strawberry Fields" as a metaphor for his childhood and a place where everything was at peace. Paul took "Penny Lane" more literally and described the scenes. Both are songs about places in Liverpool, but they have very, very different approaches.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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