Tuesday, March 22, 2016
WORDS FOR SIR GEORGE MARTIN
It was very late in the evening on Tuesday, March 8th when I first saw the news. I was just poking around the internet, most specifically Facebook, unwisely trying to delay my inevitable need to head to bed when I saw a posting from Ringo Starr's Twitter feed which read:
"God bless George Martin peace and love to Judy and his family love Ringo and Barbara George will be missed xxx"
I went straight to the MSN home page as well as Google to see if there had been an official statement proclaiming that Sir George Martin had indeed passed away. I clicked and found nothing. I clicked and re-freshed and still found nothing. I returned to Facebook to see fans had responded to Ringo's statement and so it went for perhaps another twenty to twenty five minutes. I went back and forth from Facebook to Google, hoping to see that perhaps this news was some sort of sick internet hoax. One fan even questioned if Ringo's Twitter account had even been hacked as the official news had not been released as of yet. But soon, Sean Lennon offered his condolences through his Facebook account and by the morning of Wednesday, March 9th, the news was official and even Paul McCartney had issued a beautifully written and recounted eulogy of his former mentor and musical co-conspirator. Yes, and sadly so, Sir George Martin had passed away. He was 90 years old.
While the death of Sir George Martin has certainly been an easier one for me to process due to the longevity of his life, the sadness remains because it really, truly confirms that there will soon be a day when there are no more Beatles remaining in the world--a reality that feels unfathomable, even with both John Lennon and George Harrison no longer with us, for I have always existed in a world where there were Beatles. Even so, for me, and for always, Sir George Martin, above all other collaborators, will forever exist as that fifth Beatle. For certainly, whom else could have ever laid claim to ever having that title bestowed upon themselves other than Sir George.
The genius and innovation of the legendary career of Sir George Martin carries a mammoth influence regarding my relationship with music and it has indeed shaped my ears for all time. On the morning of March 9th, I wrote the following words in tribute and solace:
"This musical loss is seismic...without question. The artistry of George Martin is paramount to everything we all even know about popular music. It's that simple and that titanic. To think of what he accomplished as he essentially taught us how to hear music in ways that generations upon generations of musicians and producers are STILL attempting to discern is staggering. His distinct touch and golden ears gave life to the music of my existence. To Sir George Martin, with love, respect and honor, may he rest in peace."
To all of you, I am not remotely versed in the technological jargon and techniques of the recording studio to really be able to talk about the intricacies of Martin's recording techniques. All I can do is to speak to how his work has made me feel and as I ruminate over his career at this time, all I can say, is that Sir George Martin performed nothing less than bestowing sound to dreams. He gave sounds to the dreams of the artists he collaborated with throughout his lifetime, most especially The Beatles. And therefore, he gave sounds to the dreams of any and all of whom that happened to be listening and then transformed by the music which was experienced. Of course, we can point to The Beatles' psychedelic era as Martin treated the recording studio itself as an instrument, using imagination and innovation to create the sorts of sounds we had never quite heard before. We can also point to how Martin utilized orchestral landscapes to paint wondrous new sonic colors in the world of rock and roll, forever changing the possibilities, as with songs like "Eleanor Rigby," "A Day In The Life" and of course, "Yesterday." But we can even look back to more deceptively simpler sounding songs as well.
Just days after Martin's passing, I happened to hear a public radio program on which a Beatles' scholar (whose name escapes me now) was the guest. The program played an interview clip with Martin, who expressed that he desired to collaborate with The Beatles because he enjoyed their personalities and decidedly not their music, which he felt to be "rubbish." In turn, The Beatles were excited to work with Martin due to his work with recording comedy albums for the likes of Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore and the deeply influential antics of "The Goon Show." What was forged was relationship of mutual admiration and respect, allowing for five individuals who were willing to listen to each other's ideas to serve the music itself as best as conceivably possible while also trying to invent techniques and experiences that were not only cutting edge but pushed the medium forwards.
It is fascinating to hear how tracks like "Love Me Do" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" were originally composed and how Sir George Martin helped to shape them into the iconic works we now know them to be. One track may have been originally written to sound more like a Roy Orbison standard but Martin might suggest that the song would be served best by speeding up the tempo. With "Love Me Do," I was fascinated to hear how it was Martin who suggested to place a short pause in the music before Paul McCartney sings the title, thus not only giving such an innocent puppy dog of a song a sense of drama and romantic urgency, Martin effectively figured out how the sound of silence itself could become musical!
Sir George Martin was not a figure who simply recorded sounds. He curated them. Through the pristine and warmth of the clarity of the instruments and voices. The meticulous attention to detail. The loving care to which the music itself was nurtured into the fullest of its being. Whatever the role of a Producer means to you, it was Sir George Martin who transformed that definition into being an artist in its own right.
Because of that, I believe that Sir George Martin's greatest accomplishment is that he helped to create the very type of music that is representative of the time in which it was created yet still transcends any specific periods to become timeless. Especially since The Beatles' catalog has been fully remastered to glistening sonic glory, we can easily hear how beautifully recorded and realized the work of Martin actually was, helming a musical discography that sounds as if it could have been recorded just days ago rather than 50 years.
What a legacy. As pristine as it is untouchable. And how I owe a lifetime of musical dreams to the artistry of this man.
To Sir George Martin, I thank you for absolutely everything. Rest in peace.