Some of the most significant and lasting musical passages of my young life were finessed or half-created or arranged by the great George Martin, who died yesterday at age 90. His passing is sad but hardly tragic — we should all have nine good decades. And of course his life and career were about a good deal more than just his Beatles collaborations. But c’mon — that’s all anyone’s talking about this morning.
Martin’s contributions as the Beatles producer (i.e., recording-studio confidante & collaborator, instrumental performer-arranger, “fifth Beatle”) and all-around side man were wondrously rich and innovative and influential beyond measure, particularly during the group’s epic ’65 to ’67 period — Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. I’m not a lordly Beatles historian. I don’t know who composed this or that instrumental bridge or performed what instrument on each and every track in the making of those albums, but I’ve always heard and/or believed Martin was largely responsible for the more elegant and sophisticated elements.
“In My Life’s” speeded-up piano that sounded like a harpsichord — I know that was Martin. I’m not certain if it’s Martin playing piano on “Good Day Sunshine” but I’d like to think so. I’m not sure if he composed Alan Civil‘s French horn solo on “For No One” but I’ve read it was his idea to repeat the solo as Paul McCartney sang the final verse.
I know Martin composed and handled the whole “Eleanor Rigby” string accompaniment (which was inspired by Bernard Herrmann‘s Psycho score), and that he and recording engineer Geoff Emerick had much to do with mixing the trippy elements into what finally became “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
And I know Martin composed and played the “Lovely Rita” piano solo, the circus organ on “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” and the harpsichord on “Fixing A Hole.” I know he and McCartney were the main composer-arrangers on the mad, swirling, overlayed orchestral crescendo used twice in “A Day in the Life.”
I’m sure there was many dozens if not hundreds of other innovations, refinements and grace notes that he dreamt up or finessed or complimented in one way or another. George Martin, George Martin, George Martin forever.