Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5: George Martin

Though they are exceptionally few and far between across the entire history of recorded music, there are a handful of individuals that somehow manage to eclipse themselves in a matter of speaking.  That is to say, these select few people have accomplished a single achievement that has managed to almost completely overshadow their contributions as a whole.  Whether it be penning a single song or taking an iconic photograph, there is little arguing that it is a single instance that defines them, as opposed to their overall work in the more general sense.  This does not mean that the singular achievement in question is not important or not worthy of such a bright glow; but at the same time, one must understand the entirely of a body of work to completely understand an artist.  Taking all of this into account, there are few individuals who better represent this idea than George Martin, as while he has certainly etched his name into the history books as "The Fifth Beatle," there was far more to the man than "just" his work with that band.  In fact, it was his work with The Beatles, as well as other bands, that enabled him to make many innovations and inroads within the world of music, an due to all of this, there is no question that popular music would not have developed as it has without the presence of George Martin.

Even in his early years, George Martin was drawn to music, as he was a gifted pianist, and even after World War II, his interest in the classical form continued.  This led to his enrollment at Guildhall School of Music and Drama following his time in the war, and following his graduation, he found work in the classical department at The BBC.  This quickly led to him working for EMI Records, eventually becoming the head of the labels' German imprint, Parlophone.  During this time, Martin oversaw a rather significant diversification of the output at Parlophone, as they branched away from "just"" jazz and classical.  It was also around this period that Martin began handling duties as a producer, though it was mostly with single artists or comedy acts.  However, his tenacity for exploring new forms of music and his willingness to take a chance on a "new" sound were quite apparent, and this would lead to a historical moment in the early 1960's.  Around this time, Martin had largely perfected the approach to recording comedy acts, and he was making a name for himself in that arena.  Yet he had made it known that he wanted to work with pop acts, and yet he was clearly aware that he would need a "perfect" group if he was going to attempt to distribute such a sound on the Parlophone imprint.

Then, in February of 1962, George Martin met with a friend of his to listen to a demo tape from a band that hand been turned down by Decca Records.  Though he was not initially all that impressed with the sound, he was taken by the enthusiasm of the bands' manager, and on that alone, he signed the then-unknown group, The Beatles.  This would lead to a teaming that is nothing short of legendary, as Martin would produce almost every Beatles track over their career, and the results of their working together would shape not only the entire world of music, but world culture as a whole.  However, many are unaware that along with his work "behind the boards," George Martin also played a vital role in the actual arrangements and orchestrations of many Beatles songs.  When there were parts or instruments that the band could not play, it was Martin who stepped in to work with other musicians to achieve the correct sound and style for the song in question.  Furthermore, beyond his work with The Beatles, Martin worked with a wide range of artists like Jeff Beck, America, and even country legend Kenny Rogers and the hard rock band, Cheap Trick.  One can also find George Martin's name in the credits of many of the "James Bond" films, including the two most famous songs from the franchise, "Goldfinger" and "Live And Let Die."  Due to this combined contribution to the world of music, it is understandable why to this day, George Martin is held in a regard far beyond almost any other figure.

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