By Diamond Victoria
The music industry in the 1960s set today’s standard for artistic freedom and self-expression. It was a decade of free love and rock ’n’ roll, in a time that was definitely a-changin’.
It was the ’60s that saw Andy Warhol’s Factory inspire Lou Reed, Bob Dylan become the voice of the generation, and Freda Kelly, a seemingly unnoticed 17-year-old, hired on as secretary for a band out of Liverpool.
It was this job that eventually led to her introducing the rest of the world to the Beatles. “Good Ol’ Freda” offers a glimpse into the fairly private life of the Beatles’ former secretary. Her modest lifestyle is captured with interviews at her home and work. She remained a secretary long after her heyday with Liverpool’s favorite sons.
Kelly, who became the Beatles’ secretary while also managing their fan club, spent late nights and early mornings shoveling through and replying to letters authored by legions of fans hoping for locks of George Harrison’s hair or for Paul McCartney to show up at their birthday party.
She spent what could be considered the most influential years of her life with what could also be considered the most influential band of all time. So, why haven’t you heard of her? Documentaries, even Oscar winners, tend to tread the same waters when it comes to ’60s music – the usual black-andwhite photograph montages set to familiar pop songs of the decade. The emphasis is centered on an obvious subject: the musicians.
This doesn’t mean films and documentaries that fall into this category aren’t interesting or informative. But they are worn out. Most viewers are already aware of the drug-induced recording sessions, the drunken pool parties and the string of lovers left behind.
Through Kelly’s interviews, we see the Beatles in a different light. Any die-hard fan knows the Beatles’ discography, influences and political stances. We’ve seen their growth from clean-cut teenagers performing pop-heavy love songs to inebriated young men writing music that will likely outlive us all.
It eventually becomes evident that Kelly is almost reluctant to talk about her experiences of 50 years ago. We feel her nostalgia through her stories.
We catch a glimpse of what it was like to know the Beatles personally, before they were slapped across every newspaper and magazine and before the hordes of screaming girls greeted them in every city.
Kelly was a secretary, but she also makes it clear to viewers that she was a fan like any other. The film is saturated with scenes of Kelly poring through numerous almost-forgotten boxes in her home; boxes that hold rare and valuable mementos of her times heading the Beatles’ fan club in the ’60s. She shares stories of her time with John, Paul, George and Ringo, even hinting at a love affair or two.
“Good Ol’ Freda” is an interesting, fresh look into the Beatles during their 11 years as a collective. Black-andwhite photographs are abundant throughout, but not without Kelly’s commentary alongside, keeping the narrative fluid. The film makes it clear to the audience that the plot is Kelly and her compelling stories of times past.
Rating: Four out of five “Diamonds”