Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Good Ol' Freda" review

I recently took the time to watch Good Ol' Freda, the charming indie documentary released last year about The Beatles' faithful and beloved secretary, Freda Kelly. Several things stood out.
First, this is Beatles history that we really haven't encountered before, or not in meaningful detail anyway. Yes, a chapter of the Fabs' story that hasn't already been painstakingly probed in books, dramatized in movies and plays, and otherwise combed through and commodified. It's strange. A small miracle even. As you learn in the film, the explanation is that Freda is someone who has long valued privacy and loyalty over the limelight and the almighty dollar. She probably would've felt she had betrayed The Beatles' trust by cashing in early and often on her unique vantage point. And all these years later, Freda only agreed to do this project at the urging of her young grandson. Who could find fault there?
At the same time, there is an unmistakable streak of melancholy to Good Ol' Freda, underscoring that integrity can come with material costs. Freda hasn't penned a smash memoir. She hasn't spent her life busily on the hunt for the next media op. Right after The Beatles split, she simply gave away most of the merchandise and memorabilia she had accumulated over the years. As a result, this would-be minor celebrity has had to provide for herself in that most familiar, blase manner: as a 9-5er. A 9-5 secretary no less. True, this was to a certain degree by design. It doesn't seem (seem) much out of step with the path that Freda claims she wanted for herself. But, watching Good Ol' Freda, it's hard to elude the "what could've been" angle. Might she have been able to reap some measure of financial security through her former life while still maintaing her sense of integrity? Perhaps, perhaps not. Regardless, the broader point is that the film almost forces you to consider the question.
Last, and most rewarding, it's a treat to watch and listen to Freda as she - fondly but with a notably casual tone - revisits her past. Memories like seeing The Beatles nearly 200 times at the Cavern Club (she was a fan first) or developing a deep bond with Ringo's mother or forcing John down onto one knee as part of an apology he owed her. It's wild. From basically the start of the Fabs' run to the end, she was right there in the thick of things - not just an up-close witness to history but an active participant. She was a "family member" to the boys, a confidante, an object of respect and adoration. Yet, to Freda - this impossibly down-to-earth woman - it was just part of her life. She has to be the luckiest Beatles fan who ever lived.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Watch below as Macca serenades and grooves with a robot named Newman in the just-released video for "Appreciate", the excellent fourth single off last year's New. Both the song, which boasts a heavily processed, cinematic sound, and the futuristic video, which comes with a "presented by Microsoft" tag, convey a message that Paul has long seemed keen to emphasize: this knighted legend is no wrinkly legacy act, proudly and permanently chained to the past. No, even at the ripe age of 71, Sir Paul remains fresh and vital. He just wants to party.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday reading

- "Beatlemania in 1964: 'This has gotten entirely out of control'" - Here's a vividly detailed first-look at The Beatles' maiden visit to the U.S., published in The Saturday Evening Post in March of 1964. What stands out most is that, even at this early stage of band's mega-prominence, the press had already identified the role of each Beatle - roles that quickly became familiar and overstated to the point of cliche. John as the intellectual, Paul as the Cute One, etc, etc.
- "The Beatles’ first U.S. concert: An oral history of the day the Fab Four conquered D.C."
Macca: The press conferences were quite funny. It was always: “Hey, Beatles, is that hair real, or is it a wig?” Well, that’s a very good question, isn’t it? How dumb are you? But we didn’t mind it at all. We expected it. It was a completely different world. It’s not like now where you’ll find all these kids writing for the Internet. It was elderly, balding gentlemen who smoked a lot — grown-ups looking disapprovingly at the children having too much fun. We knew it wasn’t hard to beat that kind of cynicism. It was like a chess game. And the great thing was, being four of us, one of us could always come up with a smart-ass answer.
- "The 10 Most Technically Amazing Beatles Songs" - I was delighted to see what song occupies the top spot of this list. Hugely underrated, imo; the atmosphere is matchless.
- Lastly, "Listen Closer! 35 Songs You Didn’t Know Feature Famous Background Singers"