Sad news to hear of the passing of Sir George Martin. The “Fifth Beatle” has died. He was 90. A great innings. A classy guy. Martin produced The Beatles’ records. He helped them find their sound. He had, prior to working with The Beatles, produced classical and comedy records. He was not a pop-music guy. Well, he had a bit of a background with pop music but more the novelty side of it. Again, comedy as much as anything…
Martin was an arranger for The Beatles, a mentor of sorts, teacher. He helped them to discover the studio. He enabled them. His work is so important on their records. From the Symphony/Suite he created for the Yellow Submarine record (that’s as much a Martin solo record as it is a Beatles record) back to deciding that Ringo couldn’t play on an early single. He knew what The Beatles needed.
You will read all about him in the coming days – if you didn’t already know all about him.
But I wanted to add a couple of stories, my point of view. George Martin started to mean a lot to me when I watched – and then re-watched (obsessively) The Compleat Beatles. For my money it’s still the best Beatles documentary. Footage from it has been used in the Anthology and in many other documentaries. The star of that documentary is George Martin. He’s the cool head reflecting. He’s the guy that looked over all the work, and looked after it – afterwards. And he’s clear-headed but passionate. His insight is crucial.
He also helped to make a couple of my favourite records – outside and away from The Beatles. There was his early comedy work, with The Goons. And in particular not one but two key Peter Sellers albums.
And he produced Blow By Blow, Jeff Beck’s Masterpiece. Actually he assisted Beck for its follow-up, Wired also. But Blow By Blow was a life-changing record for me. I bought the tape in a little music store in Gisborne. Actually, it was a sporting good store that also sold music. That tape was everything to me for years. And then there was the CD and the record. By the time I had made it to Blow By Blow I was a full blown Beatles nut. I’d also just seen The Compleat Beatles and so George Martin was a big deal in my life. To see his name mentioned in the credits to Blow By Blow was everything to me.
The recent documentary, Produced by George is an okay starting point. The Beatles records are a must. And anything he had a hand in – in some sense. Historical sense, that is.
George Martin is one of few “behind the scenes guys” who meant nearly as much to me as the rock-stars. And in some ways he meant a bit more too. Some days anyway.
What a life. He was 90. And how many lives he must have touched.