Wednesday Dec 28, 2022

Ep. 39 - Tomo Fujita

Tomo Fujita is a professional guitarist and an esteemed professor at Berklee College of Music. As a professor, he’s taught students, such as John Mayer, and has played with legendary musicians such as Steve Jordan, Susan Tedeschi, Phil Colins, and Steve Gadd. In this episode, Tomo and Jack discuss the intricacies of George Harrison's guitar solos, Tomo's favorite Beatles songs, and how The Beatles composed their songs - and how it makes their music timeless.


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The Beatles were an English rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960, that comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They are regarded as the most influential band of all timeand were integral to the development of 1960s counterculture and popular music's recognition as an art form. Rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock 'n' roll, their sound incorporated elements of classical music and traditional pop in innovative ways; the band later explored music styles ranging from ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As pioneers in recording, songwriting and artistic presentation, the Beatles revolutionised many aspects of the music industry and were often publicised as leaders of the era's youth and sociocultural movements.

Led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, the Beatles evolved from Lennon's previous group, the Quarrymen, and built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over three years from 1960, initially with Stuart Sutcliffe playing bass. The core trio of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, together since 1958, went through a succession of drummers, including Pete Best, before asking Starr to join them in 1962. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act, and producer George Martin guided and developed their recordings, greatly expanding their domestic success after signing to EMI Records and achieving their first hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962.


Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr all released solo albums in 1970. Their solo records sometimes involved one or more of the others; Starr's Ringo (1973) was the only album to include compositions and performances by all four ex-Beatles, albeit on separate songs. With Starr's participation, Harrison staged the Concert for Bangladesh in New York City in August 1971. Other than an unreleased jam session in 1974, later bootlegged as A Toot and a Snore in '74, Lennon and McCartney never recorded together again.

Two double-LP sets of the Beatles' greatest hits, compiled by Klein, 1962–1966 and 1967–1970, were released in 1973, at first under the Apple Records imprint. Commonly known as the "Red Album" and "Blue Album", respectively, each has earned a Multi-Platinum certification in the US and a Platinum certification in the UK. Between 1976 and 1982, EMI/Capitol released a wave of compilation albums without input from the ex-Beatles, starting with the double-disc compilation Rock 'n' Roll Music. The only one to feature previously unreleased material was The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (1977); the first officially issued concert recordings by the group, it contained selections from two shows they played during their 1964 and 1965 US tours.

The music and enduring fame of the Beatles were commercially exploited in various other ways, again often outside their creative control. In April 1974, the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo ... and Bert, written by Willy Russell and featuring singer Barbara Dickson, opened in London. It included, with permission from Northern Songs, eleven Lennon-McCartney compositions and one by Harrison, "Here Comes the Sun". Displeased with the production's use of his song, Harrison withdrew his permission to use it.Later that year, the off-Broadway musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road opened. All This and World War II (1976) was an unorthodox nonfiction film that combined newsreel footage with covers of Beatles songs by performers ranging from Elton John and Keith Moon to the London Symphony Orchestra. The Broadway musical Beatlemania, an unauthorised nostalgia revue, opened in early 1977 and proved popular, spinning off five separate touring productions. In 1979, the band sued the producers, settling for several million dollars in damages. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), a musical film starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, was a commercial failure and an "artistic fiasco", according to Ingham.

Accompanying the wave of Beatles nostalgia and persistent reunion rumours in the US during the 1970s, several entrepreneurs made public offers to the Beatles for a reunion concert.Promoter Bill Sargent first offered the Beatles $10 million for a reunion concert in 1974. He raised his offer to $30 million in January 1976 and then to $50 million the following month. On 24 April 1976, during a broadcast of Saturday Night Live, producer Lorne Michaels jokingly offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite on the show. Lennon and McCartney were watching the live broadcast at Lennon's apartment at the Dakota in New York, which was within driving distance of the NBC studio where the show was being broadcast. The former bandmates briefly entertained the idea of going to the studio and surprising Michaels by accepting his offer, but decided not to.


Tomo Fujita has been a professional guitarist for over thirty years and a faculty member at Berklee College of Music since 1993. 

Tomo’s philosophy, distilled into a one-liner, is that music is not just about playing; it’s about emotional expression.  He teaches students to inject emotion into every phrase, whether the style is blues, jazz, funk or rock.

Although he has resided in the United States for three decades, Tomo remains closely connected with musicians and the music business in his native Japan. He visits for a quick tour two or three times each year. Japanese guitar players have bought more than 160,000 copies of his (Japanese language) instructional books and videos.

Tomo has performed with some of the best, including Will Lee, Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Steve Jordan, Susan Tedeschi, Phil Collins, John Mayer, James Gadson, Travis Carlton, James Genus, Kenwood Dennard, Darryl Jones, Lemar Carter, Paul Jackson and Janek Gwizdala. When he is not performing on his own, Tomo likes to sit in with others, like Ronnie Earl, Coco Montoya, Eric Gales, Josh Smith, Kirk Fletcher, and Matt Schofield.

Tomo has been an instructor to many great players over the years. The most famous of his former students is John Mayer. Tomo and John stay in touch to this day. Pictured above is a guitar that John signed for Tomo, next to the factory signature. Check out the video of these guys playing together during John’s 2008 visit to Berklee, in the sidebar.

Tomo also taught Eric Krasno of “Soulive” and Adam (“Shmeeans”) Smirnoff of “Lettuce” at Berklee. And there are three entertaining videos in the sidebar on this page featuring another former Berklee student: Tyler Larson, a shredder who has become an impressive teacher of guitar and music theory.

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