George Martin’s work with the Beatles means that over 30 years later he is still regarded by many as the ultimate record producer. A musician, engineer and inspirational collaborator, without whom the Beatles’ music would have been unrecognisable, and – in my opinion – nowhere near as fascinating, important or influential.
Today I came across this superb ITV documentary online, which brilliantly chronicles the making of this watershed album in the history of pop music. I remember my excitement when I first watched it back in 1992, and I enjoyed it just as much today. Narrated largely by Martin himself, it’s easy to read between the lines of his typically mild, unassuming delivery and see exactly how important he was to the writing and recording process.
There are fascinating insights into the history, recording and production process throughout. Lennon’s early demo versions of Strawberry Fields forever; Martin writing string arrangements to complement and mimic the Indian instruments George Harrison wanted to play. The simple but brilliant idea of writing an album as characters in a fictional “Lonely Heart’s Club” band, which allowed the Beatles to stretch their creative ideas further than ever before; their “competion” with Brian Wilson after hearing Pet Sounds. The real inspiration behind a track with a name whose initials spell “L.S.D”, and the simple magic of what can be achieved with only 4-tracks of analogue tape.
For me, listening to Martin solo up the rhythm track of Strawberry Fields or McCartney’s vocals from the title track sends a shiver down my spine, to this day.
So, whether you’re already a convert like me and avidly watched this when it was first aired, or if you’ve always wondered what the hell all the fuss was about the Beatles and why we should even care how records were produced in the 1960’s, watch this now !
If you enjoy the video, please head off and read Ian MacDonald’s fantastic book about all the Beatles’ music, “Revolution in the Head, and perhaps George Martin’s book “Summer Of Love – The Making of Sgt. Pepper – or even Mark Lewisohn’s stunning, exhaustive “Complete Beatles Recording Sessions“.
And while you’re at it, you could even listen to the album, too 😉