Sir George Martin — 1926-2016
We are fortunate for George Martin having signed the Beatles to Parlophone records in 1962. A meeting that warmed up after Martin asked the band if there was anything they didn’t like, to which George Harrison jokingly replied, “I don’t like your tie,” ultimately served as the beginning of a personal and musical partnership that altered the course of popular music, the music industry, and even the way records were created.
We are also fortunate that the relationship between Martin and the Beatles is so well documented. His autobiography All You Need Is Ears provides a candid look at the many roles Martin, often described as “The Fifth Beatle”, played for the band. A detail that stands out from this particular book is how Martin was enamored with the personalities of the band. In addition to arranger and mentor, he served as a caretaker and friend. This is evidenced in a detailed description of John’s infamous rooftop incident and again in his mournful reaction to Lennon’s tragic death. Patience, professionalism, and the ability to show compassion for often-sensitive creative types are undervalued skills found in the modern music producer.
Perhaps my favorite literature on the masterful technique and execution that went into producing the band is Recording The Beatles by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew. It’s in this book that we are provided a microscopic look into the Beatles’ recording sessions, right down to which instruments were recorded on which tracks. On so many pages of this book, we discover the influence of George Martin. From his wild use of using tape loops to create a “tremendous chaotic sound” on “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite”, also documented at Beatles Bible, to his ingenious performance and unique half-speed recording of the piano solo on “In My Life”, there is no shortage of information on how Martin shaped the sound of the greatest selling band of all-time, along with dozens of other hugely-successful artists.
We are part of a community that enjoys absorbing and repurposing information about techniques, tools, and experiences in the field of music production. Although there have been hundreds of individuals that have made significant contributions to the evolution of the art form, one could argue that Martin defined what a music producer actually is. With this, I encourage anyone interested in expanding their knowledge to refer to the many resources available on the timeless and influential work of Martin, and by of course listening to the many recordings he was a part of.
Rest in Peace Sir George Martin, I am fortunate to have you as my greatest musical influence.