Wednesday, March 09, 2016
Sir George Martin 1926-2016
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RIP George Martin. He had a good run, though.
It wasn't just his incredible ear, or his openness to experimentation -- Martin's decency and respect made the Beatles what they were:
Groups writing their own songs was not common in the early 60s - Martin could easily have insisted they use songs he brought to them and denied them the right to record their own tunes.*
Also, producers often put their names on song credits to earn extra money. He never did that.
And he steered them to Dick James, who gave them a fair (for the time) publishing contract; publishing was usually incredibly corrupt, just a way to rip off artists & songwriters. James never did that.
His openness to their production ideas made their partnership a true collaboration, also quite rare at the time. Another producer might have felt threatened, but Martin loved the innovations, the experiments, the new techniques the Beatles wanted to try.
Would they have been The Beatles without him? Maybe. But they definitely wouldn't have been THE BEATLES.
(*Martin actually insisted they record How Do You Do It for their first single, but was smart enough to realize that the Lennon-McCartney compositions they offered him were better.)
So, last night I was thinking about the Live at the Hollywood Bowl album and wondering why it has never been released on CD. (Yes, I think about such things.) Then I wondered if perhaps Sir George M. didn't want to reissue something of such poor fidelity. (If memory serves, he wasn't pleased with the original release in '77.) Then I got to thinking, hell, is George Martin even still alive?
This morning I saw the headline.
He lived a long and amazing life, especially after meeting the Beatles. Imagine all the Beatles touchstones we take for granted now, from the strings on Yesterday, to the miles of tape loops on Tomorrow Never Knows, to the satisfaction that he must have felt after making the impossible work with Strawberry Fields, all the way through to the "Giant Melody" of Abbey Road. And then carrying on with them throughout the rest of his life–"Anthology", remastering the albums in 2009 with his son at his side.
I could die content at having had the amazing good fortune to have been where he was when he was, and working with genius.
BBC Two's arts program "Arena" did a wonderful 90 minute documentary on him in 2011, which can probably be found if you know where to look; I'm betting that they'll also rescreen it sometime in the near future.
As I said earlier, he led a long, amazing life, and my only hope is that he died peacefully. As Dr. Seuss once said, "Don't cry because it's over–smile because it happened."
(Although this death shit is really starting to piss me off, too.)
Self-correction to the above: Martin and son didn't do the 2009 remasters, it was Allan Rouse and Guy Massey. "Love" was the George/Giles project.
Somehow losing a 90-year-old legend who lived longer than any of my parents and grandparents isn't as horrible as somebody like Bowie, who I thought was immortal. But as I said when Bowie and Glenn Frey went back to back, it's going to be a full year for rock 'n roll obituaries.
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