The Beatles were no less than an epochal musical happening, with their enormous fan base and the sway that they held over every area of global culture. Initially, the group has relied on their vocals and unbelievably exuberant imagination to rock their live performances. Back in the earliest 1960s, the group was performing mostly in Liverpool clubs, and it appears that guitar-and-drums were making a steady regression.
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Later on, other producers could just as well overdub the vocals and even speed up “Please Please Me.” But, when George Martin appeared, the man made a difference. As the group emerged into the late 1960s, George Martin became an unalienable part of the legend (Hertsgaard n.pag.). George Martin was someone who was actually able to accept texts like “Tomorrow Never Knows” without the slightest nonplus.
George Martin was a person of immeasurable knowledge and vast experience in electronic music making and tape-looping. He was the one creating ideal arrangements to the “Walrus” and a range of The Beatles’ Indian-inspired songs. Other arrangers could be employed just as well but none of them appeared as Beatle-minded as George Martin was at the time. The following paper is, thus, aimed at exploring George Martin’s remarkable contributions to The Beatles as they are known and renowned, to-date.
First and foremost, one of the keys to George Martin’s Beatle-mindedness lies in his past. The similar background and a childhood imbued with music constructed his remarkable talent and personality. As a result, by the time The Beatles auditioned for him, he was more or less tuned in to the same wave-length as the Fab Four, which is only too well demonstrated by the famous episode. After the recording discussion, Martin asked the Four to share their feedback and whether there was something they did not like. At that, George Harrison gave the famous reply, “well, we don’t like your tie, for a start” (Kenny 130-140).
The sense of humor that the group and the producer shared was a critical factor that smoothed out this complex partnership. George Martin seemed to realize the group’s stunning potential, which is why, to his credit, he found himself able to deliberately turn a blind eye to their massive egos. An unknown group is fully under its producer’s control, and it is true that The Beatles have gained some popularity by the time the partnership started but Martin was in the right to dictate his visions nonetheless.
What he did instead was, in fact, partially devesting himself of his influence in favor of the artists’ wishes. Their first single was to be a composition George Martin had purchased from some writer but the group persuaded him to record their own track (Kenny n.pag.). Thus, the primary contribution of George Martin as “the fifth Beatle” was the understanding that he showed at the very beginning, guesstimating the group’s potential and the vastness of the horizons they were quite likely to achieve together.
As it was mentioned, in contrast to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George Martin did not have a supermassive ego. He wanted a recording that would beat the rest. At the same time, what George Martin wanted, himself being a person of unique musical disposition, did not necessarily have to reflect his own visions. Another episode of The Beatles’ history demonstrates George Martin’s exceptional skills in coping with the whims of his protégés.
His suggestion to use a string quartet in “Yesterday” was at first vigorously opposed to by Paul McCartney. Martin, in his turn, did not take it as an offence; nor did he start to defend his view. What he suggested was that McCartney just listened to the track with the strings added, and if he still thought the strings were a bad idea, he could return to how he saw the track initially. McCartney came to like the quartet, the result of which was the “Yesterday” as it is known today (Womack 112).
Later, when the group wanted to take a step further in their career as recording artists, which was unprecedented at the time, George Martin consented that they might do so, if only they present to him something better than they already had (Womack 53). To understand what has happened one should bear in mind that the producer was a figure of unrestricted power over their artists back then, and it was usually the producer who prescribed the artist what to sing and how. The way George Martin found the ways to compromise and was able to give up some of his authority for the sake of art was an act of splendor on his behalf and another one of his contributions to the group’s success.
The like-mindedness and empathy were an important component of their partnership but George Martin’s contribution is by no means reduced to it. Nor can be his value confined to his work as a producer. As a person of considerable musical capabilities and outstanding arranger’s talent, George Martin was the key asset in making The Beatles’ sound as compelling as the listeners have come to acknowledge it. His work as an arranger is worth every praise since, combined with his Beatle-mindedness, his knowledge and skill turned the group’s talented but unrefined creations into masterpieces. With George Martin’s help, their psychedelic visions were transformed into tangibility.
The language that Martin taught the Fab Four, as well as his guidance and general attitude, was the ground for the deepest respect that no one else in the world could cause in them, or so it seems from the photos of the group and Martin engaged into some discussions. The respect can be partially explained by the fact that none of the Fab Four was actually able to read music (Hertsgaard 376). At that, the techniques George Martin deployed must have seemed a miracle.
The way this person was able to translate John Lennon’s language of pure psychedelics using conventional technical means is remarkable. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” for instance, features what Lennon himself might have called the sound of orange, which is created by the motives of Edwardian freak shows that make up for authenticity and create a multidimensional atmosphere (Womack 176). At that, George Martin’s work as an arranger is unique because the majority of the techniques were used by himself and The Beatles for the first time. “Yesterday” with its strings and “Please Please Me” than has been sped up from what was meant to be a lyric ballad were already mentioned.
Most of the tracks featuring the psychedelic album “Sergeant Pepper” would not come in the form the listeners know them, were it not for George Martin’s work. The sharp lyrics and musicianship were largely Paul McCartney’s merit; from George Martin’s side, there were arrangements that made the album deviate from avant-garde into pop and even progressive music (Kenny n.pag.). The album “Revolver” with its track “Eleanor Rigby” as well as some others features classical instruments such as strings.
Interestingly, the Fab Four did not participate in the comp, instead focusing on the vocals, and “Eleanor” was accompanied by a string octet. “Strawberry Fields Forever”, the single, was arranged and edited using a variable speed pitch control. “I Am The Walrus” was featured with an array of classical string instruments; some of the tracks, such as “In My Life” were featured by George Martin himself. He also played a variety of keyboard parts such as piano, organs, and harpsichord (Buskin n.pag.).
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From that it can be assumed that the man was involved with the group not only in financial terms. He clearly had a deep personal interest in the music and it is not for nothing that he was dubbed “the fifth Beatle”: George Marin believed in art and used his chance to take part and refine what might have appeared crude and underdone.
Overall, George Martin’s impact and contribution to The Beatle’s artistry is hard to overestimate. He showed the understanding the group needed as their popularity was picking up stream and was empathetic ever after. The sense of humor the Fab Four and Martin shared was the necessary component for the long and by all means prolific partnership. As to his arrangement skills and knowledge, they have polished the uncultivated genius and become an indispensable part of The Beatles’ legacy.
Buskin, Richard. Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Beatles, New York, NY: Alpha Books, 1998. Print.
Hertsgaard, Mark. A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of The Beatles, New York, NY: Delacorte, 1995. Print.
Kenny, Francis. The making of John Lennon: the untold story of the rise and fall of The Beatles, Edinburgh, Scotland: Luath Press, 2014. Print.
Womack, Kenneth. Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of The Beatles, New York, NY: Continuum, 2007. Print.