Thank you, George Martin, for turning the 20th century in a new direction. Nice work.
It's arguable that The Beatles would've been "discovered" even if George Martin and Parlaphone hadn't brought the band in for auditions. But don't count on it. When you read Mark Lewisohn's epic book about their beginnings, Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years Vol. 1, it's clear the Beatles were perpetually on the edge of falling apart. In their earliest efforts to get noticed by the London-based recording industry, The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein had struck out repeatedly. They were hicks from Liverpool with no track record beyond a German release of My Bonnie with them as a backing band. Not exactly a juggernaut.
Fortunately we don't have to ponder the what-ifs. George Martin DID find them intriguing enough musically; he DID like their personalities; he DID like their voices and he DIDN'T like Pete Best's drumming. He gave them the shot they needed. In no time, his hunch paid off and The Beatles story happened the way it happened and we're all the beneficiaries of the greatest musical tale of all time.
There's no denying The Beatles and George Martin's life-changing influence on me and most of my friends. We all know it and accept it in the same way others might acknowledge the influence of their religion or family lineage. I became a musician because of the insane thrilling sound made by The Beatles and all the bands and artists that followed in their wake. I write love songs because The Beatles wrote love songs. I own equipment by Gretsch and Vox because of you know who. I proposed marriage in the place I consider to be the holiest of grails: Abbey Road Studio Two.
The Beatles were an amazing, history-making band...but without Brian Epstein and George Martin--the adults in the room--it's likely The Beatles would've flamed out in Liverpool. They were kids making magic, not forward-thinking entrepreneurs. Epstein was responsible for keeping the magic alive (literally by steadily increasing the band's pay through better gigs) and Martin helped forge skilled craftsmen from mind-blowing raw talent. Together, it all worked…to say the least.
What was so great about George Martin? He was the producer's producer. His mission was to bring out the very best from the artist. To not only honor the artist's impulses and instincts, but to hone and refine them as well. John presented Martin with Please Please Me, a Roy Orbison nod. Martin suggested they speed it up. Think about that--an "old" man telling teenagers to play their song faster! It went to number one.
He was a musician. He knew what he was talking about. Martin's string arrangements (Yesterday) and baroque piano playing (In My Life) turned great songs into recorded masterpieces. That's the mark of a real producer.
I wish I'd met him but that's okay. I've met his work. I could hardly wish for more.
Rest In Peace.