A sad day for the music industry. The Beatles wouldn’t have been who they were without him.
Martin had been dubbed “The Fifth Beatle” for his work with the legendary rock band. He signed the Beatles to EMI’s Parlophone record label in 1962 and went on to produce some of the most popular and influential albums of modern times — “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Revolver,” “Rubber Soul,” “Abbey Road”. Along the way, Martin and the Beatles elevated rock LPs from ways to cash in on hit singles to art forms, “concepts.”
Martin later recalled meeting the quartet for the first time and realizing their potential, saying “I liked them as people apart from anything else, and I was convinced that we had the makings of a hit group.”
However, he was not convinced they had songwriting ability.
“As composers, they didn’t rate. They hadn’t shown me that they could write anything at all,” he once told the magazine Melody Maker. “‘Love Me Do’ I thought was pretty poor, but it was the best we could do.”
Martin both witnessed and enabled the extraordinary changes of the Beatles and of the 1960s. From a raw first album that took just a day to make, to the months-long production of “Sgt. Pepper,” the Beatles advanced by quantum steps as songwriters and sonic explorers, turning the studio into a wonderland of tape loops, multi-tracking, unpredictable tempos, unfathomable segues and kaleidoscopic montages.
“Once we got beyond the bubblegum stage, the early recordings, and they wanted to do something more adventurous, they were saying, `What can you give us?”‘ Martin told The Associated Press in 2002. “And I said, `I can give you anything you like.”‘
Martin was endlessly called on to perform the impossible, and often succeeded, splicing recordings at different speeds for “Strawberry Fields Forever” or, for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” simulating a calliope with keyboards, harmonica and a harmonium that the producer himself played with such intensity he passed out on the floor. Martin would have several good turns on the keyboards, performing a lively music hall solo on McCartney’s “Lovely Rita” and a speeded-up Baroque reverie on Lennon’s “In My Life.”