Sir George Martin Portfolio
Sir George Martin was born in Highbury, North London on 3rd January, 1926, the elder of two children born to working-class parents. His father was a carpenter. He went first to a Jesuit college in Stamford Hill; then the family moved to Kent and he went to Bromley County School. He developed an early love for music, which manifested itself at the age of fifteen with the formation of his own dance band -- The Four Tune Tellers. In 1943, he joined Britain's Fleet Air Arm, the aviation wing of the British Navy, subsequently being commissioned as an officer.
In 1947, he left military service to pursue his love of music. After studying classical composition at London's Guildhall School of Music and playing the oboe as a professional musician, he entered the British recording industry in 1950.
He was engaged as the assistant to the head of Parlophone Records, a small label within Britain's EMI Music group. His position entailed working as a combination of A&R executive and record producer, a very rare breed in the British industry. His principal task was recording classical and baroque music. However, he also showed a keen aptitude for jazz and pop music.
Parlophone had been bought just before the war from Germany. It had done little since being taken over and a lot of people inside expected it not to last very much longer. Its familiar symbol "óG", in the shape of the pound-sterling sign, has no connection with the millions of pounds it had make since. It comes from the initial of the founder's surname, Carl Linderg, plus a fancy stroke in the middle, on the lines of a continental figure seven.
Sir George was appointed Head of Parlophone Records when his boss retired in 1955. Sir George was paid the princely sum of óG3,000 per year, with no royalties on his productions or bonuses based on the performance of his work or signings. This was the arrangement that prevailed through the first three years of the Beatles' colossal success.
Between 1955 and 1962, Sir George carved out a niche for himself and the Parlophone label in two comparatively neglected areas of the British record industry. Since unable to compete with rival labels which boasted top American stars or Britain's few home-grown pop artists, Sir George recorded top jazz acts such as Cleo Laine, Johnny Dankworth, Humphrey Lyttelton and Stan Getz. His other area of expertise provided the surprising bond that cemented the improbable relationship between the young Beatles and the comparatively older producer when they met.
Sir George became the preeminent producer of comedy recordings in Britain. His credits included recordings with Peter Ustinov, Peter Sellers, Britain's new satirical heroes "Beyond The Fringe" (which featured the young Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller); and several other British comedic pioneers who were to influence Monty Python including: comic genius Spike Milligan, Britain's legendary Goon Show comedy troupe, musical satirists Flanders & Swann and "Carry On..." movie star Bernard Cribbins.
In May 1962, Sir George met Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager. During that time, Epstein had been turned down by every other British label. Sir George sensed a potential in the tapes that Epstein played him and agreed to give the group a recording test. The Beatles were immediately deeply impressed by Sir George's comedy producing background, and a warm rapport and creative bond was forged that would change the world.
Between 1962 and 1970, under Sir George's enlightened nurturing, The Beatles blossomed from promising but derivative provincial pop group to becoming the architects and practitioners of a new culture. Together they transformed all notions of popular music and the way it was recorded.
In 1967, their creative aspirations caused them to quite independently "invent" contemporary multi-track recording. Since unable to otherwise create the complexities of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album they envisaged, Sir George linked two 4-track tape recorders together to create the first 8-track recorder.
Sir George continued as Head of Parlophone until 1965, signing and producing a slew of other artists, principally those discovered and managed by his new friend Brian Epstein.
Sir George provided even greater success for EMI in 1964 and 1965 when the Beatles and most of his other artists conquered America and the rest of the world. Yet he was still receiving absolutely no royalties and just earning a paltry annual salary of less than óG8,000.
In 1965, Sir George took a revolutionary step. He left EMI and took two other A&R men with him -- John Burgess and Ron Richards. Along with a fourth, Peter Sullivan from Decca, they founded their own independent production company, Associated Independent Recording, AIR for short.
It was a record producer's equivalent to the original United Artists founded by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith. British record companies reluctantly agreed to pay royalties to producers for the first time, rewarding Sir George's contributions to the Beatles success with an entire one-fifth of one percent! Top record producers these days just earn a 4-5% royalty.
Sir George continued his groundbreaking work with the Beatles. In one eighteen month period, he produced the triumvirate of "Rubber Soul", "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". In 1969, he produced the Beatles' finale album "Abbey Road", which was recorded after the "Let It Be" sessions though released before that album.
After the Beatles' break-up in 1970, Sir George continued his illustrious career as a record producer and simultaneously became involved in a variety of other projects.
His AIR company opened several recording studios, firstly in London, and then in 1979 on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. These studios have been regarded as among the premier studios in the world, which attracting practically every major artist from the Rolling Stones and The Police to Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. Unfortunately, the Montserrat studios were sadly destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The latest incarnation of AIR Studios in London was opened in 1993 in a converted Victorian church in Hampstead, NorthWest London. Sir George was intimately involved in the design and building of the new complex. It is now one of the busiest, most desirable studios in the world.
During the 90's, Sir George worked on several multi-artist projects. This allowing him to produce an even greater array of contemporary talent, ranging from: Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Sting, Sinead O'Connor, Lisa Stansfield, Elton John and Elvis Costello to Jon Bon Jovi, Cher, Meat Loaf, Carly Simon and Carl Perkins.
Continuing his earlier work with comedic performers, Sir George also worked with a number of comedians and actors including: George Burns, Steve Martin, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce.
Sir George occasionally revisited his producing relationship with the former Beatles. He produced two hugely successful albums "Tug Of War" and "Pipes of Peace" with Paul McCartney, which included McCartney's chart-topping collaborations with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson; he also produced and/or arranged several tracks on McCartney's Grammy-nominated 1997 album "Flaming Pie". He produced an album for Ringo Starr and a recording with George Harrison; he also acted as music supervisor for the feature documentary "Imagine: John Lennon".
In the mid-90's, Sir George returned to working with The Beatles and produced four double-albums of previously unreleased treasures from the Beatles' archives, "The Live At The BBC" album and the three volumes of "Beatles Anthology", all of which were multi-platinum sellers. He also supervised all the music included in the TV and home video versions of the "Beatles Anthology".
He has been an active film composer since the 60's, scoring and producing films such as "A Hard Day's Night" (for which he received an Academy Award nomination), "Live And Let Die" (for which he received a Grammy), "Yellow Submarine", "The Family Way", "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "Give My Regards To Broad Street", "Honky Tonk Freeway" and "Pulp".
Sir George has produced the original cast album of several shows ranging from the 1960's London production of "Beyond The Fringe" to the 1990's Tony Award-winning Broadway production of "The Who's Tommy" (for which Sir George received his fifth Grammy). In 1989, he conceived, composed, arranged and produced a musical version of Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" specially for record -- a production that featured Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce and Tom Jones among many.
He has written three books including his autobiography "All You Need Is Ears (1979)", a guide to the music industry "Making Music (1983)" and his analysis of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album "With A Little Help From My Friends... (1994)".
Sir George has written, hosted and produced several TV shows including "The Making Of Sgt. Pepper (1994)" and "The Rhythm Of Life (1998)" -- a three-part TV series in which he explores the wonder of music with fellow musicians such as Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Dionne Warwick and Paul McCartney.
He has served as producer and consultant for many important charity events such as the 1993 Prince's Trust Concert and UNESCO's 1994 benefit in Japan, The Great Music Experience, which featured Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder and INXS. He has also organized and produced several benefits, most recently and notably was the September 1997 Music For Montserrat show for the victims of the 1995 volcanic eruption. This internationally televised concert featured Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Sting, Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler and the late Carl Perkins.
During the 60's, Sir George formed "The George Martin Orchestra" and recorded a series of acclaimed albums of orchestral versions of Beatles music and some of his own compositions, which included the theme music for TV personality Sir David Frost and BBC's then-new Radio One national music station. After scoring the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die", Sir George playfully titled one of his orchestral albums "From The Beatles To Bond And Bach". In recent years, he has appeared with the major national orchestras of England, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Brazil, conducting programs of his compositions and Beatles arrangements.
Sir George's decision to retire from record producing arose in part from his loss of hearing in recent years. However, Elton John persuaded him to make one final production apart from his own farewell album. This was the moving "Candle In The Wind 1997" tribute to Princess Diana, which Sir George recorded with Sir Elton just hours after the song was performed at Princess Diana's funeral. This fund-raising record rapidly became the best-selling single of all time.
Sir George Martin lives with his wife, Judy, of 32 years in their English countryside home -- a 14th century converted rectory nestled in a small village in the county of Wiltshire a few hours from London. They have two children, Lucie and Giles. Giles has followed in his father's footsteps and become a musician and record producer, assisting his father on several productions and co-producing "In My Life" with Sir George. Sir George also has two children, Alexis and Greg, from his first marriage
In 1988, Sir George was decorated by Her Majesty the Queen with the title of C.B.E. (Commander of the British Empire) for his services to the music industry. In 1996, he was made a knight of the realm and became Sir George Martin. Away from music, Sir George enjoys sailing, snooker and "wrapping myself round a dry martini".
Having determined that he wished to retire from record producing, Sir George decided that he wanted to bring his career to a conclusion by producing a one grand farewell album, which would be a summation of his life and career.
He decided first of all that he wanted to pay tribute to the music that has played such an integral part in his life for the past 36 years -- the compositions of the Beatles. He would write new arrangements of some of his favorite songs by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, particularly those less frequently covered by other artists, and then invite a selection of special guests to perform the songs, either vocally or instrumentally, under his direction.
He decided that he would favor the same eclectic approach to both the musical styles of the arrangements and to the range of the guests, that has been the hallmark of his producing work.
Sir George did not wish to do the obvious or the expected. He has always veered towards the unusual and the adventurous. Those who are surprised at the unusual range of artists on the album - which contrasts Jim Carrey and Celine Dion; Jeff Beck and Sean Connery; Robin Williams and Phil Collins - should recall that Sir George has always been the master of juxtaposition. On the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album for example, Sir George was able to arrange and produce such radically different songs as "When I'm 64" and "A Day In The Life" and yet blend them into the same album. The "White Album" features an equally diverse range of tracks as exemplified by the juxtaposition of the avant-garde "Revolution 9" with the sentimental "Good Night".
Sir George chose to work with a mixture of old friends such as Phil Collins, Jeff Beck and "heroes" -- people whose work he particularly admired. This category included actors such as Robin Williams, Goldie Hawn, Jim Carrey and Sean Connery, and musicians such as Celine Dion and classical virtuoso John Williams.
His decision to create fresh interpretations of Beatles classics, pairing unlikely performers with familiar songs to craft something new, has its roots in Sir George's past.
As early as 1964 for example, he produced the first cover version of a Beatles song by a major jazz artist when he produced Ella Fitzgerald's notable rendition of "Can't Buy Me Love". Sir George's affection for offbeat readings of "Lennon / McCartney" tunes was evident in a series of recordings he made with Peter Sellers in 1965. These included a version of "A Hard Day's Night" as though recited by Sir Laurence Olivier in Richard III mode; "Help!" delivered as a sermon by a plaintive priest; and a Teutonic delivery of "She Loves You" by Sellers in his Dr. Strangelove character.
Sir George's past work with comedic actors such as Peter Sellers, Sophia Loren, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore thus inspired his desire to work with Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, just as his producing experience with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce prompted his wish to work with Sean Connery.
In addition to the ten Beatles tunes, the album also features two compositions written by Sir George himself, though both have Beatles associations.
One is "Pepperland Suite", a new arrangement of melodies from his acclaimed score for the animated film "Yellow Submarine", which is to be reissued theatrically in 1999 for the first time in 31 years. The other is "Friends And Lovers", an instrumental composition that Sir George wrote shortly after the murder of John Lennon. Its title inspired by a line in John Lennon's classic 1965 song, which Sir George chose as the title track for his farewell album.
Ultimately Sir George regards his "In My Life" album as a tribute to the music and the people who have inspired him throughout his life and career.
We always miss you and your production, Sir George!