August 28, 2012


It's interesting to see how one person can make a difference in so many lives. For anyone who have seen Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, the idea is probably clear 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. Producer George Martin was celebrated last year as part of BBC's Arena series. The film covers George's long career working with Peter Sellers and The Goons, The Beatles, Cilla Black, and many other iconic artists. The documentary film, Produced by George Martin, will be released in September 11th (10th in the UK) on Blu-ray and DVD. 

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.

I had a chance to make a music re-mix a couple of years ago for Yoko Ono that won a contest she was holding with the Plastic Ono Band. I followed it up with an experimental short film that you can see on Youtube: The Sun is DownSee Spy Vibe's secure Amazon Store for films and books about The Beatles, James Bond, and other 1960s coolness. 

Check out our recent posts, including Experimental Beatles and Magical Mystery Tour, Beatles First Recording Anniversary,  Neil Armstrong: One Last Step, Celebrating 450,000 visitors, Interview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger Langley, Craig Arthur, Fleming Short, Matt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker Conversations

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