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With A Little Help From My Friends: A Tribute To George Martin (1926-2016)

A reflection on the legacy of Beatles producer George Martin


George Martin? Isn’t he the guy who wrote Game Of Thrones? Twitter, as it often does, jumped to the wrong conclusion following the death of the great man, who passed on Tuesday 8th March aged 90.

No, George Martin did not produce fantasy novels, George Martin produced The Beatles.

It’s often the way with producers. They work their magic behind the scenes, their seemingly secret art a mystery to the general public. But George Martin was both a friend and a mentor to John, Paul, George and Ringo; he helped guide and craft the music of the most influential band ever.

There’s some mystery surrounding how he came to be involved with The Beatles, with the official story being that he received a demo via EMI, and decided to give them a chance based on the band’s charisma rather than their music. However, recent evidence from Mark Lewisohn’s definitive biography of the band (‘Tune In: The Beatles’) suggests that it was in fact the strength of a Beatles song that got the label’s attention, and that Martin was forced into the role. Whatever the case, what’s certain is that the fab four were by no means a polished effort when Martin found them. They were rough around the edges, according to the man himself, timid even. Martin’s contribution to The Beatles was of huge importance to their sonic expansion.

It was Martin who encouraged the replacement of drummer Pete Best, Martin who supposedly introduced Lennon to the concept of reversing tapes during the Revolver sessions, Martin who wrote some of the band’s most famous orchestral backings, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to name just a few. His background in comedy and novelty music also gave him an understanding of sound effects, of which are littered throughout the band’s recordings.

Martin was a gateway for the band. He enabled the four scruffy Liverpudlians in their campaign to create music of greater depth and individuality. In the early days, it was Martin suggesting alternative instrumentation; as time progressed, he became the man who made their outlandish ideas possible, bringing them to life. He rose to any challenge, splicing songs together, speeding them up, and did so, up until 1967 (the year of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), with the restriction of a four-track recorder.

George Martin was a man of integrity and respect, and the band came to completely trust his wisdom and expertise. He did what any great producer does, he accommodated the band’s vision, and enriched their songwriting. He may have parted ways with The Beatles on Let It Be, but returned for Abbey Road, and went on to produce LOVE, a Beatles mash-up album, with his son. His death marks the end of a remarkable musical career, and the departure of a true English gentleman.