Producer Insight – George Martin

Mixxin Academy News

Sir George Henry Martin, CBE was born in Highbury London the 3rd of January 1926 and past away on March the 8th 2016 in Wiltshire England. Sir Geroge was an English record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer, and musician. At times he was referred to as the “5th Beatle” as Paul MacCartney said upon his death, in reference to his extensive work and involvement on each of The Beatles original albums. His career spanned for six decades in music, film, television and live performance. In the early 50s before working with The Beatles and other pop musicians he produced comedy and novelty records together with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Bernard Cribbins.

During his career, he produces 30 number one hit singles in the UK and 23 in the USA. During his career, he also held senior executive roles at media companies and contributed to a wide range of charitable causes. He was made Knight Bachelor in recognition for his services to the music industry and popular culture.

In his early years, Marin’s family acquired a piano that sparked his interest in music. At eight, Martin persuaded his parents, Henry and Betha that he should tale piano lessons, but those ended after only eight sessions because of a disagreement between his mother and the teacher. Martin attended several schools, including a convent school in Holloway, St Joseph’s School (Highgate), and at St Ignatius’ College (Stamford Hill), where he had won a scholarship.

After the second world war broke out, his family left London and enrolled George at Bromley Grammar School. Attending this school, the first time he heard a symphony orchestra was when Sir Adrian Boult brought the BBC Symphony Orchestra to his school for a public concert. He was absolutely blown away by such glorious sounds

Sir George Martin did not choose music as a carrier at first, he worked briefly as a quantity surveyor and later for the war office as a temporary clerk. His interest in music persisted during the time and he even fantasized about being the next Rachmaninoff. When Martin was 17 he joined the Fleet Army of the Royal Navy and became an aerial observer and a commissioned officer. WWII ended before Martin got involved in action and left service in 1947. At that time George was encouraged by the pianist teacher Sidney Harrison and used his veteran grant to attend Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1947 to 1950, where he studied piano and oboe. Martin’s oboe teacher was Margaret Eliot, the mother of Jane Asher, who would later become involved with Paul McCartney.

Martin started to work for the BBC’s classical music department, following his graduation. After that, he joined EMI in 1950 as an assistant to Oscar Preuss, The head of EMI’s Parlophone Records. In 1955 when head of artist and repertoire Oscar Preuss was retired, Martin recorded classical and Baroque music and regional music from around Britain and Ireland. He also produced numerous comedy and novelty records. Mock Mozart single was his first success for Parlophone. Later that decade Martin worked with Peter Sellers on two popular comedy LP’s. Working with Sellers, he came to know Spike Milligan, with whom he became a firm friend and best man at his second wedding. They both produced to LP’s for Parlophone “I Love The Goon Show” and “Bridge on the River Wye”.

Other comedians Martin worked with include Bernard Cribbins, Charlie Drake, Terry Scott, Bruce Forsyth, Michael Bentine, Dudley Moore, Flanders and Swann, Lance Percival, Joan Sims, Bill Oddie, and The Alberts. In 1962 Martin released an early electronic dance single “Time Beat” which was recorded at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Martin’s interest to add rock and roll to Parlophone was grand but he struggled to find a hit-making pop artist or group at that time.

The turn around for Parlophone Recordings from a “sad little company” to a very profitable business came after Martin’s work that leads to transforming the company. As a producer, Martin recorded the two-man show featuring Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, At the Drop of a Hat, which sold constantly for twenty-five years. Martin’s breakthrough as a producer came with the Beyond the Fringe show cast album, which starred Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, and Jonathan Miller. He also produced the accompanying soundtrack album for David Frost’s satirical BBC TV show That Was the Week That Was in 1963.

Here is where The Beatles story begins. Martin was contacted by Sid Coleman who told him of a man called Brian Epstein. This man was the manager of a band, a band that will later be called one of the best bands of all times. Brian Epstein thought Martin might be interested in this group, who hay already been turned down by Decca Records. At this time Martin has not had success with rock bands but only with comedy records and some hits like “Who Could Be Bluer” by Jerry Lordan and singles by Shane Fenton. After the telephone call by Coleman, Martin arranged a meeting on February 13th 1962 with Brian Epstein. During the meeting, Maring listened to a tape-recorded at Decca and thought the group was “rather unpromising” but liked the sound of Lennon’s and McCartney’s vocals.

Another meeting with Epstein was held on the 9th of May at EMI Studios in London, Martin was impressed by Epstein’s enthusiasm and agreed to sign the unknown Beatles to a recording contract, without having even met them or seen them play a live gig. The contract was not what it seemed, as Martin wound not sign it himself until he had heard an audition and later said that EMI had nothing to lose as it offered practically nothing for every record sold, and even had to be split among the four members. After this, Martin suggested to EMI that the royalty fee must be doubled without asking anything in return and was thought as a traitor in EMI.