Last night, on a whim, I threw on the Beatles Anthology documentary, something I've watched countless times over the last twenty years, For whatever reason, I only watched the segments where George Martin and the band were discussing how they recorded tracks during the Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt. Pepper period of 1965-67. Then, the very first thing I saw when I checked the news this morning was that Sir George passed away at the age of 90. "I read the news today, oh boy..." To say I was very sad when I read this would be an understatement...though I never met the man, I have never read anyone say a bad thing about him, ever. From all accounts, he was a true gentleman and a gentle man, and the numerous tributes pouring in on social media today from Paul, Ringo, Yoko, Sean Lennon, his son Giles Martin, and anyone else who ever knew or met him, attest to that. I'm not going to get into the well-known story of his relationship with the Beatles, but I will say that he was the perfect producer for them and he (along with his staff) was just as instrumental in revolutionizing how music could be recorded and what new sounds could be realized, as were those four brilliant and creative lads from Liverpool. Everyone making and enjoying music owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the brilliance of George Martin and the chance he took on four scruffs from the north of England in 1962 after they'd been passed over by everyone else. He saw and heard something in them that no one else did and the rest, as they say, is history.
He was classically trained but open-minded and not at all stuffy or uptight. He had experience recording and producing comedy and spoken word records (including the Goons, beloved of the Beatles), and developed an incredibly fruitful and mutually enjoyable relationship with the Beatles. Whether it was devising how to make their aural requests a reality ("I want to smell the sawdust," John once told Martin), arranging and conducting strings for their songs, devising and playing clever overdubs (the neo-Baroque piano interlude for "In My Life"), or helping them sequence and arrange their albums (such as the second-side medley on Abbey Road), George Martin was an integral part of the Beatles' sound and, as I've thought for years and years, the true fifth Beatle. While he had his greatest success as the Beatles' producer, and that alone would be enough to constitute a hugely successful career for anyone else, he had many, many more successful records with numerous other artists. He also helped to revolutionize the British recording industry when he went independent in 1965 and formed AIR, which is still going strong today. This message from Paul today says it all, but the world will miss his kindness, his humor, and his titanic musical talent.
RIP Sir George Martin, and deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends. His legacy will live on, as will the great music he had a direct hand in creating.
|With the Beatles in 1964|
|In Abbey Road Studios recording Sgt. Pepper, 1967|
|Recording the White Album a Abbey Road, 1968|
|With the Threetles, 1995|