George Martin supplied exactly what Beatles needed

LONDON -- He was a quiet man, urbane and sophisticated, impeccably dressed, loyal to the queen and fond of his Rolls-Royce motor car -- and he played a pivotal role in the transformation of four scruffy young lads from Liverpool into the most influential rock band in history.

See Full Article

Under George Martin's magisterial guidance, the Beatles transcended pop culture and created music that has stood the test of time. The work they produced has been covered and copied for decades, played as reggae music or chamber music or given a salsa beat.

It has been more than half a century since Martin heard what better-known executives had missed and took a gamble on the Beatles, transforming their raw, atomic energy into an early run of infectious hits that captured the optimism of the early 1960s.

It turned out he had a sharp instincts, proclaiming "Boys, that's your first number one" just moments after they laid down "Please Please Me" in the Abbey Road Studios.

As the Beatles grew, he provided the classical background and willingness to innovate that paved the way for melancholy, mature songs like "Eleanor Rigby", "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "A Day In the Life."

It is impossible to try and separate his contribution from that of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. It was simply a magical mix: the horn flourishes on "Penny Lane," the harpsichord on "In My Life" and the elegant introduction to "Ticket To Ride" are collaborations in the truest sense.

The Lennon-McCartney songwriting team has taken its rightful place in the pantheon, joining the giants who produced the great American songbook. And it was Martin's subtle work that helped make so many of the recordings unforgettable.

Hearing of Martin's death, McCartney Wednesday cited the producers work's on "Yesterday" as a prime example of the master's easy touch. It was Martin who suggested the string quartet that helped turn what might have been just another ballad into one of the world's most beloved, and most covered, songs.

Their styles at first seemed to clash: Martin was a product of the British establishment the Beatles loved to lampoon, and even his necktie drew early scorn from Harrison. He was not a rocker who worshipped at the church of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, preferring symphonic music and comedy records, and he was not steeped in the American blues tradition so revered by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the other British invaders.

The Beatles developed a famous fondness for marijuana and LSD, indulgences that held no interest for Martin. But his open-minded approach helped them integrate Indian music and dreamy, fanciful imagery into their songs without losing their shape, structure or propulsive beat.

Martin was at first skeptical of Starr's drumming ability, using a stand-in on an early disk, but later gave Starr free rein to develop the unique, subtle style heard on "Rain", "She Said" and other time-bending songs.

Consider the Beatles' collective good fortune: while Elvis Presley's musical legacy was squandered to a degree by Col. Tom Parker's crude management style, and his preference for Hollywood over Memphis, the Beatles always had Martin's support and exquisite taste.

When Brian Wilson tried to move the Beach Boys beyond their tried-and-true hit single formula, he met resistance from some band members who didn't want to risk of alienating their core audience. When the four Beatles tried to push that same envelope, Martin's response was: "Let's go."

And when the Rolling Stones tried to make a psychedelic album, the result was the much maligned "Their Satanic Majesties Request," remembered primarily for a novelty 3-D album cover. The Beatles and Martin had already done so much better with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

There was never a George Martin scandal. He stayed on the sidelines when the Beatles suffered their acrimonious breakup.

When Lennon later lashed out at him -- even criticizing his producing work -- Martin held his tongue.

He enjoyed a long, productive recording career post-Beatles, and in later years became a regal, spectral presence who graced the occasional public event.

Martin was seen at the Royal Festival Hall when Brian Wilson first performed his long-delayed masterwork "Smile" and helped organize a Buckingham Palace concert honouring Queen Elizabeth II on her Golden Jubilee in 2002.

He led the very British "hip hip hooray" in her majesty's honour after the encore.

It was fitting that in one of his final public appearances Martin was leading tributes for someone else. He never boasted of his musical accomplishments, but they have grown in stature over time and will be enjoyed as long as recorded music is played.


Latest Entertainment News

  • Selfies banned from Cannes red carpet due to 'unwanted disorder'

    Entertainment CTV News
    The head of the Cannes film festival said Friday he was banning selfies on the red carpet, claiming they caused "unwanted disorder" before premieres. Thierry Fremaux tried once before to ban the "ridiculous and grotesque" practice at the world's most prestigious film festival in 2015, before backing down. Source
  • No laughing matter: When exactly did clowns become scary?

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- His nose was round and bright red, his face as white as a sheet. His mouth was surrounded by an exaggerated smear of red makeup and his arched eyebrows hung ridiculously high on his forehead. Source
  • How Lights, IsKwé and other women are making change in the Canadian music industry

    Entertainment CBC News
    As the Canadian music industry gathers in Vancouver to celebrate the Juno Awards this weekend, inclusion, gender parity and the #MeToo movement will undoubtedly be topics of conversation. In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against EDM DJ Datsik and Jacob Hoggard, the frontman of pop rock group Hedley, as well as lingering concerns over the #JunosSoMale debate of recent years, Canada's music industry is — like many other industries — grappling with how to create a balanced, safe and…
  • Hedley plays final show before 'indefinite hiatus'

    Entertainment CTV News
    KELOWNA, B.C. - Fans of embattled Vancouver pop-rockers Hedley were handing out flyers in support of the band ahead of what could be their last concert in Kelowna, B.C. The group announced they'd be going on an "indefinite hiatus" earlier this month under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations against frontman Jacob Hoggard. Source
  • Taylor Swift gets political with anti-gun message

    Entertainment CTV News
    Taylor Swift, the American pop star long accused of sidestepping politics to broaden her appeal, waded into the gun control debate Friday with a clear message: guns don’t belong in schools. Swift used her Instagram account Friday to throw her support behind March For Our Lives, an anti-gun protest taken up in the wake of the Parkland, Fla. Source
  • Mister Rogers honoured with postage stamp from the US Postal Service

    Entertainment CBC News
    It's a beautiful day to honour Mister Rogers with a postage stamp. The U.S. Postal Service has released a stamp featuring Fred Rogers, the gentle TV host who entertained and educated generations of preschoolers on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Source
  • Remai Modern defends artist whose Indigenous heritage has been questioned

    Entertainment CBC News
    The Remai Modern's director is defending the decision to feature a retrospective of Jimmie Durham's work. The world-renowned artist self-identifies as a Cherokee, but his heritage has been questioned. Much of Durham's work depicts Native American themes and uses materials often found in Indigenous work, like wood and bone, metals, and beads. Source
  • 15th defence lawyer in Suge Knight's murder case leaves

    Entertainment CTV News
    Attorney Matthew Fletcher, left, speaks for his client, Marion "Suge" Knight, right, in a court appearance for a bail review hearing in his murder case in Los Angeles in this file photo from March 20, 2015. Authorities say the high-profile Los Angeles attorney, Fletcher, has been arrested. Source
  • T-shirts, flowers showing support banned at Cosby retrial

    Entertainment CTV News
    PHILADELPHIA - People attending Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial won't be allowed in with T-shirts, flowers and other items that show support for one side or the other. The trial judge issued the ban Thursday. Source
  • Neil Young says 'Paradox' film has a message about a music crisis

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Beneath all the whimsy in Neil Young's trippy new dystopian Western "Paradox" lies a serious message about a "crisis" facing the music industry, says the Canadian rock great. Actress Daryl Hannah wrote and directed the surreal Netflix film, in which prospectors looking for old technology jam on guitars and ruminate on the importance of music and "the seeds of life" in the Rocky Mountains. Source