beatles, george martin, r.i.p.

A few personal thoughts on George Martin

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Listen, I know Sir George was 90 years old and I know 2016 has already proved to be a year of crushing losses, but this still hit me right in the gut. I literally gasped when I saw the news on Tuesday night.

Ever since watching the Beatles Anthology as a teenager and listening to George Martin explain the studio techniques of my favorite band, I’ve held a deep respect for the man behind the Beatles’ sound. In everything I’ve seen/heard, he always seemed so professional, humble, and kind. Not only did he give the Beatles their first recording contract and produce nearly their entire catalog, he contributed some key piano solos (“In My Life,” “Lovely Rita”) and arranged the orchestral parts for some of their most brilliant songs (“Eleanor Rigby,” “All You Need is Love,” “Strawberry Fields Forever”). He was the perfect bridge between the classical music world and the Beatles’ revolutionary experimentalism.

I can remember the first time I heard “A Day in the Life”: I was 12 years old, sitting at my parents’ dinky old computer with headphones on, listening with the eagerness of a budding music nerd who’d just spent 45 minutes downloading a queue of Beatles songs on Kazaa*. I had no knowledge of music production and couldn’t have explained why, when I heard John’s echo of a voice dissolve into that insane 24-bar orchestral buildup, I very nearly lost my sh!t. At the end of the song, after that colossal last chord, I might’ve actually flung the headphones off and rolled backwards in my swively chair in shock (I know for sure that I immediately ran to my spiral notebook journal and scribbled in it furiously about how FREAKY it was and Is this what doing drugs feels like?). It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

That musical experience—a song on a pop album creating a profound physical reaction that I still remember 15 years later—that is George Martin’s legacy. He was the man responsible for channeling the Beatles’ increasingly ambitious musical visions, and he did it more effectively than any other producer ever could.

Thank you, sir. Because of you I’ll always listen to music with a keener ear.

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Recommended listening: 
The progression of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with commentary by GM. His brass and strings arrangement for this song (2:25-4:55) is killer.
George + Brian Wilson in the studio. Too much genius for one room! Cool breakdown of “God Only Knows.”
Love – the album. (Pretty sure this will be taken down soon…honestly, just do yourself a favor and buy it.) A collaboration between George Martin and his son, Giles. Originally conceived by George Harrison. Listening to this makes me fall in love with the Beatles all over again.
A Day in the Life.” Relive the madness.


*In case you had any doubt, I’ve abandoned my pirating days and have since purchased all of the Beatles albums on CD and record.

 

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