'If you read about 'Blackbird' in most Beatles books, they'll tell you it's Paul on guitar with a metronome," says pop music producer and historian Scott Freiman. "But if it's a metronome, it is the worst metronome ever built, because it can't keep time."
In fact, there was no metronome on the recording, just McCartney's tapping his foot in time to an acoustic performance that favored feel over precision.
That's the kind of musical minutiae — illustrated with blown-up images of McCartney's amplified Beatle boot and a session track sheet — you can expect during Freiman's multimedia "Deconstructing the Beatles" presentation, which will find its way to Colorado College's Palmer Hall on Dec. 16.
The result of a lifelong obsession with the Fab Four, Freiman's work focuses squarely on the band's music rather than the all-too-played-out recitations of biographical trivia. His touring lectures have garnered much acclaim, and he recently taught a course on the band's music at Yale University.
While the Beatles' musical output is still considered the ultimate standard for pop perfection, it's easy to forget that they were barely out of their teens when they started. One of the best stories I've heard from the era is that producer George Martin was so exasperated that the young Beatles couldn't tune their own instruments perfectly that he insisted on doing it himself. Unfortunately, the fledgling musicians were so accustomed to their slightly off-pitch tuning that they couldn't adjust to the change, so Martin had no choice but to relent.
This may or may not be an apocryphal story — Freiman could probably tell you one way or the other — but it still speaks to a larger point about how dramatically recording standards have changed since the 1960s. Today, it's hard to imagine most young singers refusing to have their vocals Auto-Tuned — at least subtly — to make them more perfect than nature had intended.
For his local appearance, Freiman will be focusing in-depth on the band's late '60s "Strawberry Fields" period. The event is free to the public, and will also be streamed at coloradocollege.edu/live.
Before we bury the Beatles entirely, I should also mention that Colorado Springs will be tapping into the lucrative nostalgia market with at least three touring tribute acts on the post-holiday horizon, all of which happen to be visiting Stargazers. On Jan. 9, the procession of impersonators will begin with "Who's Bad — The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band." On Valentine's Day, you can get your live Beatlemania fix with "Yesterday — The Beatles Tribute." A week later, on Feb. 21, it's "Cash'd Out — A Tribute to Johnny Cash."
And finally, over at the Pikes Peak Center on March 6 and 7, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic will get in on the act by sharing the stage with a Who tribute band.
If you need a tribute-band fix in the meantime, Bullethead will be playing one of its semi-annual local gigs this week. Colorado Springs' homegrown homage to Van Halen — as opposed to Van Hagar or Van Cherone — will once again find Mike Stephens doing his best David Lee Roth, complete with chaps, yelps and jumps. Catch them between backstage fistfights this Friday at SouthSide Johnny's.