News of the passing of Sir George Martin could only ever be greeted by both sadness and the deepest gratitude.
George Martin produced the first 45rpm disc and long-playing records that I was given as a child. He produced the first E.P. for which I paid with my own pocket money. This is an experience that I know I probably share with thousands upon thousands, if not millions of listeners and admirers.
We should all be grateful that he signed, The Beatles, a band overlooked by others and that he was the man to keep pace with the explosive development of their talents, whether lending his elegant touch to a piano doubling a melodic guitar line or with his perfectly judged orchestrations and production.
Almost anybody working in a recording studio today probably takes for granted the very many recording innovations developed on his watch at Abbey Road by succession of engineering geniuses.
By the time I met George Martin personally in 1981, he had long since left Abbey Road and founded AIR Studios that in those days sat above Oxford Circus in the very centre of London. The Attractions and I were recording “Imperial Bedroom” in an adjacent studio to the one in which he and Paul McCartney were making “Tug of War”. We quickly got used to running into both of them in the hallway. It was all a bit head-spinning.
The two records actually shared the engineering expertise of Geoff Emerick and it was at Geoff’s request that George cast an experienced eye over an elaborate orchestration written by Steve Nieve for my song, “And In Every Home”, trouble-shooting any potentially difficult passages ahead of our most extravagant recording session to date.
My favourite memory of this generous and gentlemanly visit was George’s amusement at Nieve’s coded references to some of his orchestrations for The Beatles, which might not have leapt out at the casual listener but which were obviously clear enough on the manuscript page.
In 1994, I made my sole appearance on a George Martin produced record, “The Glory Of Gershwin” on which guest singers from Meatloaf to Kate Bush and Cher to Sinead O’Connor joined the mouth organ virtuoso, Larry Adler to record the songs with his friends, George and Ira Gershwin, at AIR Lyndhurst in Hampstead.
My modest contribution was actually overseen by George’s talented producer son, Giles but perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the project was simply sharing a lunch table with Larry and George prior to the session.
While Mr. Adler might begin one of his many anecdotes, “So, there I was at the ruins of the Reichstag with Ingrid Bergman, just after the fall of Berlin”, while I tried to make subtle conversations that might encourage George to divulge a few little secrets from his time producing his most famous charges. He must have been asked such questions hundreds of times but was faultlessly gracious and discreet in equal measure.
You certainly don’t need me to tell you the names of the many remarkable records George Martin produced though the musical world really wouldn’t have been the same without him but as I’ve mentioned George Gershwin in passing, I will add one more record to the noble pile.
It is the 1959 release, “Songs For Swingin’ Sellars”, which you should hear, if only for the pop music satire, “So Little Time”. The record is pretty hard to find these days but perhaps you can still find a way to spin that closing track - “Peter Sellars Sings George Gershwin” - as you raise a thankful glass to the great man who sat in the producer’s chair.
I send my deepest condolences to his wife and children.