Remembering Sir George Martin, Beatle Visionary and British Lion
by Steve Stav
There would have have been – there was – a Beatles without him, but there wouldn’t have been an Electric Light Orchestra (or countless other acts) if he hadn’t produced the Beatles’ albums.
Such is the lion’s share of Sir George Martin’s legacy and influence. Martin passed away at his home on March 8, at age 90.
And Martin was indeed a lion. A kind, gentle, behind-the-scenes king of a landscape that he helped create, beginning with his signing of four lads from Liverpool to Parlophone Records in 1962. Martin had previously produced a myriad of albums – not just classical, but many comedy offerings and some early British rock efforts, as well. With such diverse experiences under his belt, Martin recognized the Beatles’ potential both as music artists and individual personalities; he realized stardom when other labels were dismissing the quartet as another example of the passing fad of rock ‘n’ roll.
A lion with vision.
Martin, who received most of his classical training as an adult after WWII, is of course most often associated with his signature marriage of symphonic elements with rock ‘n’ roll. However, when re-examining his discography, one realizes that he developed that hybrid incrementally as the Beatles themselves progressed.
Ironically, one early example of Martin’s classical influence can be found with some of the Beatles’ Merseybeat contemporaries. The lush arrangement of Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying?” That’s Martin, who produced that band’s – as well as Billy J. Kramer’s – biggest hits.
Martin’s success, determination and innovation created a new climate in which top-notch record producers escaped the previous age’s salaried existences to become acknowledged, higher-paid commodities in the industry. Indeed, it seems that almost everyone in the business owes the man a debt, at least indirectly.
What an astounding life George Martin lived. Incredible to consider that a man who came of age when Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller reigned would go on to produce America’s “Sister Golden Hair” – let alone “I Am The Walrus.” To direct Jeff Beck, Ultravox and Cheap Trick albums. A former Royal Navy officer who weathered German bombing raids as a teenager helped guide, over 40 years later, “Ebony and Ivory” and “Reap The Wild Wind.”
A very savvy, very hip lion whose tracks are so deeply embedded in cultural soil, time’s erosion will never wipe them away. A hundred years from now, young people will sing and hum Lennon-McCartney lyrics and melodies… but with intact arrangements and instruments – oboe, flute, strings, tuba, french horn, that lovely piano – floating in their heads as they do so.
Thanks to Martin, “Penny Lane” stretches forever. ◼