Wednesday, March 9, 2016

".....John, Paul, George, Ringo...and George..."

George Martin is dead at the age of 90.

Discovering his passing upon opening eyes and Facebook first thing this AM, I immediately experienced two things.

First, an almost instinctive temptation to be clever, disguised as poignant, by sharing the headline in some lyrical way.

"I read the news today, oh, boy..."

"All things must pass..."

"And in the end..."

Like that.

Second, realizing that offering some words in praise of this man who was a very important part of the 1960's was going to require, in the year 2016, some answers to questions bound to be asked by those in the population under the age of say, 50.

The first, and most likely, question being, of course....


To the first, let's just leave it at the examples I shared of ways that I could have been clever had I chosen to go the clever way (although there is a case to be made that opting to not be clever about it by sharing the ways in which I would be clever about it was, it turns out, somewhat clever).

As to the second, here's a garden variety bio I cut and pasted from Pulse of Radio, one of many garden variety broadcasting show prep websites.

George Martin, who was the man most people considered the true "fifth" Beatle was a staff producer at EMI Records and head of the label's Parlophone imprint, signed the Beatles in 1962 and served as their producer for the duration of their career -- along with overseeing such modern-era projects as The Beatles Anthology and -- with son Giles Martin -- the music to the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show, The Beatles LOVE. His knack for orchestration served the Beatles in such timeless recordings as "Yesterday," "Eleanor Rigby," "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "A Day In The Life," and "Let It Be" -- with Martin himself supplying piano on such legendary tracks as "In My Life," "Lovely Rita," "Good Day Sunshine," and "Rocky Raccoon," among many others.

Martin also produced numerous comedy and novelty records. His first hit for Parlophone in 1952 with the Peter Ustinov single "Mock Mozart" – a record reluctantly released by EMI but successful after all.  Later that decade Martin worked with Peter Sellers on two very popular comedy LPs. One was released on 10" format and called "The Best Of Sellers", the second released in 1957 being called "Songs for Swinging Sellers" (a spoof on Frank Sinatra's LP "Songs for Swinging Lovers"). 

His production of British comic Spike Milligan and his Goonies albums are considered classics of the genre'.

In later years, Martin started AIR Studios and over the course of his career produced key recordings by America, Jeff Beck, Cilla Black, Cheap Trick, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Carly Simon, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Kenny Rogers, Neil Sedaka, Jimmy Webb, Dire Straits, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, and Kate Bush.

In 1997, Martin produced Elton John’s remake of "Candle In The Wind" as a tribute to Princess Diana, which went on to become the second-biggest selling single of all time.

In the early-1980's Martin produced a trio of Paul McCartney albums -- Tug Of War, Pipes Of Peace, and Give My Regards To Broadstreet, marking his first production work since his 1973 teamup with McCartney for Wings' theme to the 007 James Bond film, Live And Let Die. He continued to occasionally orchestrate the odd McCartney track.

The accolades and tributes for a man of Martin's sonic contributions will come sure and steady for the next couple of news cycles, a refreshing, welcome, high class time out from the noise of the low class clown car of American politics roaring around the track.

The best, and most appropriate, in my humble o, of that praise coming from the four who became fab thanks to George Martin bringing them to our radios and our record stores and our world in 1964.

Starting with John Lennon.

“We did a lot of learning together. He had a very great musical knowledge and background, so he could translate for us and suggest a lot of things; which he did. And he’d come up with amazing technical things, like slowing down the piano, playing it slow and putting it on. . . . and things like that. Where who’d be saying: ‘Well can we, we wanna go ‘ooh’ and ‘eee-eee’ and he’d say (imitates Martin), ‘Look chaps, I thought of this this afternoon. Last evening I was talking to . . . .’ - whoever he was talking to - ‘. . . and I came up with this.’ Y’know, and we’d say, ‘Oh, great!’ But he’d also come up with things like, ‘Well, have you heard an oboe?’ -- ‘’Oh, which one’s that?’ -- ‘It’s this one.’”

 And Paul McCartney, talking about the aforementioned timeless orchestration George Martin brought to the iconic pop music ballad, "Yesterday".

“It was basically studio musicians that George Martin would book. ‘Cause George was the one who knew the classical field -- we didn’t have a clue at all. George was always very good; he always got the best people.”

Ringo, of course, sent peace and lover and best wishes to the family and, surely, not without a fond and affectionate remembrance of his own unusual beginnings with the producer, a story that Martin, himself, was never reluctant to tell on himself.

"I didn't even know the guy was coming. I'd had this fellow, Pete Best, and I didn't. . . I thought we could do better and I booked a good session drummer (Andy White) to replace him, and then the boys turn up with a fellow called 'Ringo Starr.' And they say, 'He's our new drummer.' And I said, 'No, no he's not. I booked this fellow. We're paying good money for this chap. I'll let your fellow in later on, but I want to be sure of this track.'"

And George Harrison, who, as the pop history books will tell, was the subject of the last work George Martin's did before retiring, crafting the soundtrack for Beatles' 2006 Cirque du Soleil LOVE production and soundtrack. He composed his final score for hire to accompany George Harrison's 1968 demo for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," which was officially released in 1996 on The Beatles Anthology 3 collection.

"The song itself, on the Anthology is a demo and then someone had the idea of asking me to write a score of this demo. And this was a bit of a shock for me, because I never thought I'd be writing a score for George long after he died. And also with (his wife) Olivia listening to it, I had to write something that she would like, as well as something the show would like. And anyway, we did it, she came to the session and I could see by the look on her face she approved it, so that was okay, and everyone seemed to think that it worked very well ["It was fairly emotional going back on all the stuff I'd done so long ago. But of course, I had Giles with me -- my son -- who's got a great pair of ears, and his help on this was absolutely vital, I think, because first thing his did was to transfer everything that was on tape to hard disc, to preserve it, because these tapes, some of these tapes were very fragile, and now, I mean, they're over 40-years-old."

And those songs that George Martin was speaking of are now, at this writing, on the day after his passing, over 50 years old.

And yet.... some what now seems a little poetically ironic coincidence, a friend and I were having a conversation about the current state of pop music, in particular, a meme that has floated to the surface a time or two in recent months on social media.

In the course of that conversation, I mentioned, as I've shared both in print and on air more than once, that the subjectivity of the art of music and/or one's personal tastes acknowledged and notwithstanding, that it was a pretty safe bet that come, say, fifty years from now, the amount of attention, even awareness, let alone the amount of listening to, and, even, purchasing of today's popular music will be minimal, at best. Meanwhile, the recorded work of The Beatles, if no other of George Martin's recording studio proteges, will continue to be discovered and enjoyed by each new generation.

Put more bluntly....

2066....industry sources report overwhelming demand and skyrocketing sales for the newly released "Nicki Minaj Anthology."

Uh, no. Not so much.

The music of The Beatles?

Still just as popular and beloved as it was a hundred years ago, in 1966.

Oh... and the poetic irony of the conversation that I referred to a few moments ago?

My friend and I just had that conversation....yesterday.

Somehow, you just had to know that I wasn't going to be able to completely resist the clever thing.

But, also, somehow, I can't help but think that a man with the extraordinary talent, wit and remarkable style of the marvelous maestro who produced Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, not to mention four cheeky lads from Liverpool, would fully appreciate the clever.

Thank you, Sir George Martin. I have listened to every Beatle recording you gave us for fifty plus years now...and...

In my life....I've loved them all.

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