Often referred to as the Fifth Beatle, the English record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer and musician Sir George Henry Martin CBE Was Born 3 January 1926. When he was six, Martin’s family acquired a piano that sparked his interest in music. At eight he began piano lessons, but those ended after only eight lessons because of a disagreement between his mother and the teacher. After that, Martin explained that he had just picked it up by himself.
As a child he attended several schools, including a “convent school in Holloway”, St. Joseph’s elementary school in Highgate, and St Ignatius’ College in Stamford Hill, to which he won a scholarship. When war broke out and St. Ignatius College students were evacuated to Welwyn Garden City, his family left London and he was enrolled at Bromley Grammar School. Despite Martin’s continued interest in music, he did not initially choose music as a career. He worked briefly as a quantity surveyor and then for the War Office as a Temporary Clerk (Grade Three) which meant filing paperwork and making tea. In 1943, when he was seventeen, he joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and became an aerial observer and a commissioned officer. The war ended before Martin was involved in any combat, and he left the service in 1947.
Between 1947& 1950 Martin attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he studied piano and oboe, and was interested in the music of Rachmaninov and Ravel, as well as Cole Porter. Martin’s oboe teacher was Margaret Eliot (the mother of Jane Asher, who would later become involved with Paul McCartney). On 3 January 1948—while still at the Academy—Martin married Sheena Chisholm, with whom he had two children, Alexis and Gregory Paul Martin. Following his graduation in 1950, he worked for the BBC’s classical music department, then joined EMI in 1950. Martin produced comedy and novelty records in the early 1950s, working with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Bernard Cribbins among others.
Following his graduation, he worked for the BBC’s classical music department, then joined EMI in 1950, as an assistant to Oscar Preuss, the head of EMI’s Parlophone Records from 1950 to 1955. Parlophone was only used for EMI’s insignificant acts. After taking over Parlophone when Preuss retired in 1955, Martin recorded classical and Baroque music, original cast recordings, and regional music from around Britain and Ireland. Martin also produced numerous comedy and novelty records. His first hit for Parlophone was the “Mock Mozart” single by Peter Ustinov with Anthony Hopkins. Martin worked with Peter Sellers on two comedy LPs. “The Best Of Sellers”, and “Songs for Swinging Sellers” (a spoof on Frank Sinatra’s LP “Songs for Swinging Lovers”). he was introduced to Spike Milligan, with whom he became a firm friend, and best man at Milligan’s second marriage: He loved The Goon Show, and issued an album Bridge on the River Wye, which was a spoof of the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, and was based on the 1957 Goon Show episode “An African Incident” and featured Milligan, Sellers, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook, playing various characters
Other comedians Martin worked with included Bernard Cribbins, Charlie Drake, Terry Scott, Bruce Forsyth, Michael Bentine, Dudley Moore, Flanders and Swann, Lance Percival, Joan Sims, Bill Oddie, Jim Dale and the Vipers Skiffle Group. In 1962, under the pseudonym “Ray Cathode”, Martin released an early electronic dance single, “Time Beat”—recorded at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Martin also recorded the two-man show featuring Michael Flanders and Donald Swann called At the Drop of a Hat. He also produced the Beyond the Fringe show cast album, which starred Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, and the accompanying soundtrack album for David Frost’s satirical BBC TV show That Was the Week That Was.
George Martin met Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles, in 1962 and After another meeting at the Abbey Road studios, Martin was impressed by Epstein’s enthusiasm and agreed to sign the unknown Beatles to a recording contract without having met them or seen them play live. The Beatles auditioned for Martin at the Abbey Road studios where George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney started making jokes which made Martin think that he should sign them to a contract for their wit alone. During The Beatles’ first recording session they recorded a cover of Gerry and the Pacemaker “How Do You Do It” which spent three weeks at No. 1 in April 1963 before being displaced by The Beatles “From Me to You”. The Beatles then re-recorded “Love Me Do” and “Please PLease Me”
Martin wrote or performed many of The Beatles’ orchestral arrangements and instrumentation (as well as frequent keyboard parts on the early records) alongside the band. It was Martin’s idea to put a string quartet on “Yesterday”, against McCartney’s initial reluctance. Martin played the song in the style of Bach to show McCartney the voicings that were available. Another example is the song “Penny Lane”, which featured a piccolo trumpet solo. His work as an arranger was used for many Beatles recordings. For “Eleanor Rigby” he scored and conducted a strings-only accompaniment inspired by Bernard Herrmann. For “Strawberry Fields Forever”, he and recording engineer Geoff Emerick turned two very different takes into a single master through careful editing. For “I Am the Walrus”, he provided a quirky and original arrangement for brass, violins, cellos, and the Mike Sammes Singers vocal ensemble. On “In My Life”, he played a speeded-up baroque piano solo. He worked with McCartney to implement the orchestral ‘climax’ in “A Day in the Life”.
Martin contributed integral parts to other songs, including the piano in “Lovely Rita”, the harpsichord in “Fixing a Hole”, the organs and tape loop arrangement that create the Pablo Fanque circus atmosphere that Lennon requested on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (both Martin and Lennon played organ parts for this song), and the orchestration in “Good Night”. Martin was in demand as an independent arranger and producer by the time of The White Album, so the Beatles were left to produce various tracks by themselves. Martin arranged the score for the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine and the James Bond film Live and Let Die, for which Paul McCartney wrote and sang the title song. He also helped arrange Paul and Linda McCartney’s American Number 1 single “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”. Paul McCartney once commended Martin by saying: “George Martin [was] quite experimental for who he was, a grown-up.”
In the 1950s, Martin began to supplement his producer income by publishing music and having his artists record it. He used the pseudonyms Lezlo Anales and John Chisholm before settling on Graham Fisher as his primary pseudonym. Martin composed, arranged and produced film scores since the early 1960s, including the instrumental scores of the films A Hard Day’s Night (1964, for which he won an Academy Awards Nomination), Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965), Yellow Submarine (1968) and Live and Let Die (1973). Other notable movie scores include Crooks Anonymous (1962), The Family Way (1966), Pulp (1972) starring Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney, the Peter Sellers film The Optimists of Nine Elms (1973), and the John Schlesinger directed Honky Tonk Freeway (1981). He also composed the David Frost theme “By George”, “Eary-Feary” (the theme from the 1970 LWT horror series Tales of Unease), “Theme One” for BBC Radio 1, “Adagietto for Harmonica & Strings” for Tommy Reilly, and “Magic Carpet” for the Dakotas.
Martin oversaw post-production on The Beatles Anthology with Geoff Emerick. Martin decided to use an old 8-track analogue deck to mix the songs for the project, instead of a modern digital deck. He explained this by saying that the old deck created a completely different sound, which a new deck could not accurately reproduce. He also said he found the whole project a strange experience (and McCartney agreed), as they had to listen to themselves chatting in the studio, 25–30 years previously. Martin stepped down when it came to producing the two new singles reuniting McCartney, Harrison and Starr, who wanted to overdub two old Lennon demos. Martin had suffered a hearing loss, so he left the work to writer/producer Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra.In 2006, Martin and his son, Giles Martin, remixed 80 minutes of Beatles music for the Las Vegas stage performance Love, a joint venture between Cirque du Soleil and the Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd. A soundtrack album from the show was released that same year.
Martin’s contribution to the Beatles’ work has received regular critical acclaim and has led to him being described as the “Fifth Beatle” (in 2016 Paul McCartney wrote that “If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George” However, he distanced himself from this claim, stating that assistant and roadie Neil Aspinall would be more deserving of that title.In the immediate aftermath of the Beatles’ break-up, a time when he made many angry utterances, John Lennon trivialised Martin’s importance to the Beatles’ music. In his 1970 interview with Jann Wenner, Lennon said, “[Dick James is] another one of those people, who think they made us. They didn’t. I’d like to hear Dick James’ music and I’d like to hear George Martin’s music, please, just play me some. In a 1971 letter to Paul McCartney, Lennon wrote, “When people ask me questions about ‘What did George Martin really do for you?,’ I have only one answer, ‘What does he do now?’ I noticed you had no answer for that! It’s not a putdown, it’s the truth.” Lennon wrote that Martin took too much credit for the Beatles’ music. Commenting specifically on “Revolution 9”, Lennon said with ironic authority, “For Martin to state that he was ‘painting a sound picture’ is pure hallucination. Ask any of the other people involved. The final editing Yoko and I did alone.” Lennon later retracted many of the comments he made in that era attributing them to his anger. He subsequently spoke with great affection and fondness for Martin. In 1971 he said: “George Martin made us what we were in the studio. He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians.” According to Alan Parsons, he had “great ears” and “rightfully earned the title of “Fifth Beatle”.Julian Lennon called Martin “The Fifth Beatle, without question”.
Martin also produced recordings for many other artists, including contemporaries of the Beatles, such as Matt Monro, Cilla Black, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, The Fourmost, David and Jonathan, and The Action, as well as The King’s Singers, the band America guitarists Jeff Beck and John Williams, sixties duo Edwards Hand, Gary Brooker, Neil Sedaka, Ultravox, country singer Kenny Rogers, Cheap Trick, Elton John, Celine Dion and Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan. He also produced the album The Man in the Bowler Hat (1974) for the eccentric British folk-rock group Stackridge. Martin worked with Paul Winter on his (1972) Icarus album, which was recorded in a rented house by the sea in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Winter said that Martin taught him “how to use the studio as a tool”, and allowed him to record the album in a relaxed atmosphere, which was different from the pressurised control in a professional studio. In 1979 he worked with Ron Goodwin to produce the album containing The Beatles Concerto, written by John Rutter. In 2010, Martin was the executive producer of the hard rock debut of Arms of the Sun, an all-star project featuring Rex Brown (Pantera, Down), John Luke Hebert (King Diamond), Lance Harvill, and Ben Bunker.In 1991, Martin contributed the string arrangement and conducted the orchestra for the song “Ticket To Heaven” on the last Dire Straits studio album On Every Street. In 1992, Martin worked with Pete Townshend on the musical stage production of The Who’s Tommy. The play opened on Broadway in 1993, with the original cast album being released that summer. Martin won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 1993, as the producer of that album.
In 1995, he contributed the horn and string arrangement for the song “Latitude” on the Elton John Made in England album, which was recorded at Martin’s AIR Studios London. He also produced “Candle in the Wind 1997”, Elton’s tribute single to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, which topped charts around the world in September 1997. Martin became independent at a time when many producers were still salaried staff—which he was until The Beatles’ success gave him the leverage to start Associated Independent Recording, and hire out his own services to artists who requested him. This arrangement not only demonstrated how important Martin’s talents were considered to be by his artists, but it allowed him a share in record royalties on his hits.
Martin’s Associated Independent Recording (AIR) remains one of the world’s pre-eminent recording studios. Martin later opened a studio on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, in 1979 however This studio was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo ten years later. Martin directly and indirectly contributed to the main themes of three James Bond films. Although Martin did not produce the theme for the second Bond film, From Russia with Love, he was responsible for the signing of Matt Monro to EMI. Martin also produced two of the best-known James Bond themes. “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey in 1964 And ”Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings in 1974.
In 1979, Martin published a memoir, All You Need is Ears (co-written with Jeremy Hornsby), that described his work with the Beatles and other artists (including Peter Sellers, Sophia Loren, Shirley Bassey, Flanders and Swann, Matt Monro, and Dudley Moore), and gave an informal introduction to the art and science of sound recording. In 1993 he published Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt Pepper (co-authored with William Pearson), which also included interview quotations from a 1992 South Bank Show episode discussing the album. Martin also edited a 1983 book called Making Music: The Guide to Writing, Performing and Recording. In 2001, Martin also released Produced by George Martin: 50 Years in Recording, a six-CD retrospective of his entire studio career.
In 1997–98, Martin hosted a three-part BBC co-produced documentary series titled “The Rhythm of Life” in which he discussed various aspects of musical composition with professional musicians and singers, among them Brian Wilson, Billy Joel and Celine Dion. In 2011 a 90-minute documentary feature film was broadcast Produced by George Martin and co-produced by the BBC Arena team. It combines rare archive footage and new interviews with, among others, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Beck, Cilla Black and Giles Martin and tells the life story of George Martin from schoolboy growing up in the Depression to legendary music producer. The film, with over 50 minutes of extra footage, including interviews from Rick Rubin, T-Bone Burnett and Ken Scott, was released world-wide in 2012. Martin sadly died on 8 March 2016 at the age of 90.