The world has lost one of the best and most respected record producers, ever - Sir George Martin, who died aged 90. PMT pays tribute to the man who was so much more than "just" the "Fifth Beatle."
When George Martin first met The Beatles in 1962, he was already established as a top producer working for EMI at Abbey Road studios in London, where he produced several comedy records- which were popular at the time - by well-known names such as Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Spike Milligan and others. He was also an electronic music pioneer and, under the pseudonym Ray Cathode, recorded the first commercial release by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the single 'Time Beat', which also featured 'Waltz In Orbit' as a b-side:
George Martin wasn't impressed with the Beatles and the band, in their turn, where not impressed with his "tie, for a start" as George Harrison put it at their first meeting. As it turns out, that was a great start - Martin loved the Fab Four's sense of humour, and felt that their strong personalities were as important for their success as their music. And he was right. He believed that on charisma alone, the Beatles were destined to be great, which helped EMI to seal the deal with the band.
Making the Fab Four... fab!
Then there was the music, of course. Even though George Martin wasn't all too keen on The Beatles, to begin with, he didn't let that get in the way. And crucially, THAT was a very, very important lesson for record producers ever since. Because Martin had sympathetic ears and humility, and didn't let his more sophisticated musical tastes get in the way of working with a bunch of young lads playing rock'n'roll - which, for all Martin or anyone else knew back then, could be just a fad! As a producer, he pushed the Beatles to always do better, and gave precious advice, such as telling them to play 'Please, Please Me' faster, to make sure it'd be a hit - and he was right!
Martin remained a strong-minded producer all along his relationship with the band, and famously said he always thought The White Album would be better if it had less songs. The Beatles didn't take him on board this particular time - but it goes to show that Martin had that important quality for a producer, of being understanding and appreciative of an artist's talent, but also being critical, always trying to get the best possible results out of the musicians, always trying to make the best possible album.
And he certainly helped to lift The Beatles' music to new heights, by introducing sophisticated string arrangements to songs such as 'Yesterday', 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'I Am The Walrus'. Martin was also the first non-Beatle to play on one of their tracks - the piano solo of 'In My Life'.
George Martin - beyond The Beatles
While it's true that it was his work with The Beatles that propelled Martin to worldwide acclaim, his talent made sure his contribution to music went much further than this. For instance, he produced the quintessential James Bond theme tune, 'Goldfinger' by Shirley Bassey!
His contribution to the James Bond cannon didn't stop there, either. He composed the score for 'Live And Let Die', one of the best Bond soundtracks not written by John Barry - besides also producing Paul McCartney's title tune, of course!
Since the seventies, Martin has become a very in-demand producer, besides helping with the sound of Beatles reissues, becoming an important help with the legacy of their music. Artists who've worked with George Martin include Jeff Beck, Ultravox, America, UFO, Cheap Trick and Elton John, whose ubiquitous "Candle In The Wind" was produced by Martin.
In recognition of his services to the music industry and popular culture, he was made a Knight Bachelor in 1996. He'll still remain an inspiration to anyone who wants to become a great producer. Rest in peace, Sir George Martin!