January 3, 2012

GEORGE MARTIN

It's interesting to see how one person can make a difference in so many lives. For anyone who saw Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life again over the holidays, the idea is probably fresh in your mind. As a person can act as a catalyst for others in daily life, like a conductor of sorts, so can a person conduct mass culture over the course of their career. Sir George Martin is the man with the golden ear. Blessed with musical genius and a sense of humor, Martin is a bit like the Wizard of Oz- the man behind the curtain- whose work as a producer and arranger defined the music and humor of the last half of the 20th Century and beyond. The artists he worked with include Flanders and Swann, Peter Ustinov, The Goons, Peter Sellers, Sophia Loren, Beyond the Fringe (with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore), Matt Monro (of From Russia With Love), Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cellia Black, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Jeff Beck, Elton John, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Paul Winter Consort, and America. In addition to multiple Grammys and other major awards, George Martin has scored 30 #1 hits in the UK and 23 #1 hits in the US. (See Spy Vibe's article Peter Sellers to John Lennon and Peter Sellers posts for more about comedy in the UK). Of special interest to Spy Vibers, Martin also produced two James Bond theme songs: Goldfinger (1965) with Shirley Bassey, and Live and Let Die (1973) with Paul McCartney.


George Martin is most famous as the producer/arranger behind The Beatles career. Legend has it that a shared sense of humor sealed the deal between Martin and the Fab Four. The band loved his records with Peter Sellers and The Goons. In their first meeting in the studio on June 6th, 1962, the group recorded four test songs that didn't quite measure up. Martin gave them a bit of talking to about what they needed to do in order to become recording artists. When he finished, he added, "Is there anything you don't like?" Without skipping a beat, George Harrison responded, "Yeah, I don't like your tie." Jokes and laughter followed. The producer appreciated their irreverent humor and committed himself to recording the band. Martin's expertise fostered musical experimentation throughout the 1960s, allowing The Beatles to push their songs into new territory. Martin often contributed as keyboard player in the studio, in addition to arranging the accompaniment to well-know songs like Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, and Penny Lane. George Martin recently worked with his son Giles to produce the soundtrack to the Cirque Du Soleil show, The Beatles Love.


Sir George Martin is 86 today. Happy Birthday, George! Below is one of my fave George moments. In 1997, he rallied Paul McCartney and an all-star line up to support disaster relief for the island of Montserrat. The concert climaxed in a powerful performance of the "opera" side of Abbey Road, "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." The DVD is available through Netflix and Amazon.



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