When your mind got twisted, but you never felt numb, that was George Martin.
The anchor. The facilitator. The fifth Beatle? The only George Martin. “Well, there’s your tie for a start.” Cheers, George (H). The strings on ‘Yesterday’ – a lightness of touch and a boat load of experienced grace around the green of McCartney. Six million radio plays and counting? They got that one just right.
That first album session and pushing The Beatles on to that magical final take of ‘Twist & Shout’. The school master voice, with the arm around the shoulder. The five of them were playing roles and none did a better job than Mr Martin. Did he know? It doesn’t matter, he was the one who took the chance. EMI had “nothing to lose”. Martin did – but he followed his ear anyway and became one of music’s greatest muses.
Never under estimate how much “the boys” were trying to impress him. Each new trick, each new experiment, George Martin was there every step of the way. Too square? Only for people who were too cool to feel… The Fabs’ knew that George knew where it was at. Even Ringo… at least he forgave him (and he does play a mean tambourine on ‘Love Me Do’).
‘Please Please Me’ was an Orbison-esque ballad until Martin stepped in. The Beatles were confused (The Beatles?) about ‘She Loves You’ – until the facilitator stepped in: “Start with the chorus…” Thank you, again, George. Music still misses this clarity and concision. The most famous piccolo trumpet spot in history? That was George Martin. Sure, Macca hummed the melody he was after for the solo break of ‘Penny Lane’, but it was George who wrote the notes down. He got that right, an’ all. And there was always his never-hidden distaste for Phil Spector…
Elsewhere? His early love of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. The hits with Cilla, Gerry and the rest, as he responded to every Epstein whim and continued to conjure up magic in Abbey Road. Ella Fitzgerald and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’… the world had turned and George was at the front of the bus. Back to Wings for Macca’s big hit with ‘Live And Let Die’ – George was still there. Hits with Robin Gibb and Kate Bush. Air Studios. Montserrat. And then back to the egg with The Beatles Anthology.
An omnipotent talking head in all the best Fabs’ documentaries, he was always there with a story… as he was there. He. Was. There. You know? Tales of finding feedback, taping tape and original thought. All about the music? Sound… yes, that’s the word, in every way… George Martin was sound.
Let’s hope he’s got a suitable tie on to meet George and John at the after-show. RIP.
George Martin (1926-2016)
Pic courtesy of Capitol Records