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The Fifth Beatle, George Martin, has left us, so we turn to a musician who has been infinitely touched by his work to give the eulogy.
By the time you’ve met the start of this sentence, the news of Sir George Martin’s passing will be washing over the pale shores of mainstream and independent media worldwide. While this epitaph may add to the endless stream of pouring grief, I feel it’s important to chart his legacy. For, even if you haven’t heard of the name, we’ve all heard George Martin.
His foresight, creative vision and his fearless approach to recorded music changed how we listen to and perceive music, and for those sonically inclined, his name will forever be synonymous in the approach of writing, arranging and the recording of music forever.
Last night, as the needle lifted from that run-out groove at the end of my 1st UK pressing of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in mono, I marvelled (for the umpteen-millionth time) at what this man managed to put onto tape, using only four tracks, a couple of reel to reel tape machines and a razor blade with some splicing tape. The results of George Martin’s production genius were so towering that even with today’s technology it cannot be equalled, replicated or surpassed.
Whilst only one of many who were casually tagged as “The Fifth Beatle,” George Martin stands alone in his suitability to the throne. He played midwife from the embryonic stages of an idea of a song that would lead to the birth of Beatlemania. The Beatles’ first UK #1, Please Please Me, started out as a Roy Orbison-esque ballad. It was “Mr Martin” (as the boys called him) who elevated it to the sound that tore the world asunder.
While no one can refute the importance of The Beatles as songwriters, especially John and Paul, (as their words and music continues to resonate, even with today’s generation,) in 1962 they had been turned down by every record label in the musical landscape. It was George Martin who solely decided to give this ramshackle band from Liverpool a chance, under the proviso that they did as he said when it came to the recording of their music.
Those who know music will tell you that The Beatles’ impact is without compare. An irrefutable fracture in music history, the time surrounding the Fab Four’s searing emergence shall forever be split – an unrealistic watermark of “before” versus “after.” They brought life to the world stage at a time when society was addled by the staid disease of black and white conformity.
Unlike the previous generation, (which included a young George Martin), who had been armed with guns, The Beatles armed their generation with a metaphoric easel and gave use of the pandora’s paintbox that was their music. Minds were awash with the possibility of something different, and with that, a whole new colourful world began to replace the old, in turn becoming a new cultural aesthetic. And behind that recording console, painting those audible masterpieces, was one George Martin.
As we’ve followed his music, perhaps we can honour the man by following his instructions, before dipping into George Martin’s back catalogue: