A few personal thoughts on George Martin

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Listen, I know Sir George was 90 years old and I know 2016 has already proved to be a year of crushing losses, but this still hit me right in the gut. I literally gasped when I saw the news on Tuesday night.

Ever since watching the Beatles Anthology as a teenager and listening to George Martin explain the studio techniques of my favorite band, I’ve held a deep respect for the man behind the Beatles’ sound. In everything I’ve seen/heard, he always seemed so professional, humble, and kind. Not only did he give the Beatles their first recording contract and produce nearly their entire catalog, he contributed some key piano solos (“In My Life,” “Lovely Rita”) and arranged the orchestral parts for some of their most brilliant songs (“Eleanor Rigby,” “All You Need is Love,” “Strawberry Fields Forever”). He was the perfect bridge between the classical music world and the Beatles’ revolutionary experimentalism.

I can remember the first time I heard “A Day in the Life”: I was 12 years old, sitting at my parents’ dinky old computer with headphones on, listening with the eagerness of a budding music nerd who’d just spent 45 minutes downloading a queue of Beatles songs on Kazaa*. I had no knowledge of music production and couldn’t have explained why, when I heard John’s echo of a voice dissolve into that insane 24-bar orchestral buildup, I very nearly lost my sh!t. At the end of the song, after that colossal last chord, I might’ve actually flung the headphones off and rolled backwards in my swively chair in shock (I know for sure that I immediately ran to my spiral notebook journal and scribbled in it furiously about how FREAKY it was and Is this what doing drugs feels like?). It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

That musical experience—a song on a pop album creating a profound physical reaction that I still remember 15 years later—that is George Martin’s legacy. He was the man responsible for channeling the Beatles’ increasingly ambitious musical visions, and he did it more effectively than any other producer ever could.

Thank you, sir. Because of you I’ll always listen to music with a keener ear.

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Recommended listening: 
The progression of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with commentary by GM. His brass and strings arrangement for this song (2:25-4:55) is killer.
George + Brian Wilson in the studio. Too much genius for one room! Cool breakdown of “God Only Knows.”
Love – the album. (Pretty sure this will be taken down soon…honestly, just do yourself a favor and buy it.) A collaboration between George Martin and his son, Giles. Originally conceived by George Harrison. Listening to this makes me fall in love with the Beatles all over again.
A Day in the Life.” Relive the madness.


*In case you had any doubt, I’ve abandoned my pirating days and have since purchased all of the Beatles albums on CD and record.

 

The Beatles weren’t the Beatles without….

Fun fact: I’ve had this post in draft form since 2008. Not sure why I never posted it.

Another fun fact: It’s now 2013 and George Martin is pushing 90 years old WOW. 

Alright. Time to address the age-old question: Who is the real Fifth Beatle? There are a lot of opinions, and here are just a few of mine…

Brian Epstein – Probably the biggest contender. In terms of elevating the Beatles to pop culture icon status and securing them a permanent place in music history, Brian Epstein is to thank. It’s hard to come across a band who has such a close relationship with their manager as the Beatles did, and I think his untimely death was a huge factor in their eventual rift. +1 for Brian.

Lovin the popped collar, Brian. The man had style (tumblr agrees).
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Pete Best – Ok so he was there for the early rise of Beatlemania, and he was a member of the group for several years…but since he virtually disappeared after getting the boot, I don’t really associate him with the Beatles. Plus he charges 20 bucks for autographs. -1 for Pete.

About to get pwned by Ringo!
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Stuart Sutcliffe – Awwww Stu. I love Stu. But he wasn’t really that keen on being in the Beatles from the start, and had to learn how to play bass just to stay in. But he had a lot of artistic influence on John, and was also there when the Beatles started to get popular (and their crazy Hamburg days), so he definitely deserves some credit. It would’ve been interesting to see where he ended up. +0.5 for Stu.

Hipster Stu: was in the Beatles before it was cool.
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Yoko Ono – …no.

George Martin – In my humble opinion, Sir George deserves the most props and is my personal vote for 5th Beatle, although he has publicly denounced the title. I have so much respect for this man. He took the Beatles through their entire recording career, produced all their albums (except Let It Be…that’s another story), and was very much involved in their creative and musical progress. Many of the orchestral pieces were scored/conducted by him (think Eleanor Rigby), and you can hear him playing the keyboard solo in “In My Life.” What a bamf. +100 for Sir George.

Demonstrating proper guitar technique, undoubtedly.
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Sgt. Pepper Era = GM going along with everyone’s crazy ideas.
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Judging Paul’s engineering skills.
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Aww, cute.
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climb in the back with your head in the clouds

The Love show was amazing. I can’t really explain it…it’s just like you’re sucked into this world of elaborately constructed psychedelia for two hours, with people and colors and sound all around you. And the MUSIC…I was blown away. George Martin is a god. The soundtrack is like a whole new Beatles album; songs are combined and remixed and they sound incredible. I love not knowing what comes next, and the way he pieced everything together blows my mind.

In terms of Cirque du Soleil and the entire production, the acrobatics were CRAZY. There was so much to watch that I can’t have possibly seen it all, and still wouldn’t even if I went back and saw the show a hundred more times. Right down to the props and lighting, EVERYTHING was so detailed. It was incredible.


The pictures in this post are from the Beatles Love website…they kind of give you an idea of what it was like, though nothing compares to actually being there.

Lately I’ve found myself in awe of how perfectly the Beatles’ music can represent an entire decade, an entire generation, and everything that came after it. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing whether the 60s shaped the music of the Beatles or if it was really the other way around. Out of all my favorite artists and idols, I can’t think of a single one who wasn’t influenced by them.

At the end, the screens came back down and played a little montage of Beatles pictures. The whole show had this ethereal, larger-than-life kind of feel to it, and then to see the familiar pictures of the Beatles at the end and realize that these four guys were responsible for it all, it was pretty crazy. What I think – and what was pretty much epitomized by the Love show – is that the Beatles’ music is an experience. It is experiencing the 60s – from innocence to experimentation to revolution, and everything in between. For someone who never got to live it, it’s probably the closest I can come to knowing what that time was like. I guess all I’m trying to say is I’m glad these guys came along and wrote some songs together; I’d be awfully empty without them.