A Day In The Life
A biography of Sir George Martin

| Sir George's Life and Career | Updated! When I'm 80! (Recent activities) |
George Martin in the studio
George Martin in the studio
Sir George Martin is widely acclaimed by both his fans and his peers as the most influential and prolific record producer in history. His overwhelming commercial success -- with an astonishing thirty number one UK hits under his belt -- remains unparalleled. No other producer has enjoyed a track record as creative or as versatile, as Sir George has produced over 700 recordings in a career spanning almost 50 years, and encompassing genres as diverse as jazz, blues, metal, avant-garde, classical, comedy, and film soundtracks. Although today frequently ascribed the title of the elusive "Fifth Beatle," Sir Georgeís life story began far from the clamour of the music industry. George Martin was born on 3 January 1926, in Holloway, North London, growing up with no formal musical training. However, the young George taught himself to play piano by ear, and by the age of sixteen was actively involved in his own school dance band. From 1943, he served with the British Fleet Air Arm as an observer in planes, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. Paul McCartney later credited George Martinís legendary composure to his time in military service, explaining, "He pulled it all together, you're ultimately responsible, you're the captain. I think that's where George got his excellent bedside manner. He'd dealt with navigators and pilots...he could deal with us when we got out of line."

George Martin
George Martin
Having been demobbed in 1947, George gained a place in London's Guildhall School of Music, where he studied composition and classical music orchestration, at the same time developing his talents in the piano and the oboe. After graduating, George officially entered the music industry in 1950, when he was hired as assistant to the then head of Parlophone Records, and was soon made responsible for overseeing the classical recordings for the label, which was an offshoot of the EMI Group. Over the years, George established himself as a jazz and light music producer, working with such names as Cleo Laine, Stan Getz, John Dankworth, Humphrey Lyttelton and Judy Garland. Yet he was eager to seek out new recording markets, and produced a string of hit comedy records with legends of British humour, including Peter Ustinov, Bernard Cribbins, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and, most notably, the Goons. In 1955, at the age of twenty-nine, he was appointed head of Parlophone, so becoming one of the youngest people ever to take the helm of a record label. In the early 1960s, he was keen to acquire successful pop artists, just as the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, was anxiously seeking a recording contract on behalf of the band. Having been turned down by major British labels Decca, Pye, Phillips, and even EMI itself, Brian approached George Martin, who at length drew up a recording contract, provisional upon the outcome of an audition set for 6 June, 1962.

Brian Epstein's dream of a team
The Beatles and George Martin,
manager Brian Epstein's "dream of a team"
When The Beatles first set foot in EMI's Abbey Road studio for their recording test, history was in the making. Balance engineer Norman Smith recalls the events of the evening: "At the end of it all George Martin said that we had been talking to them for quite some time...and was there anything they didn't like. George Harrison looked up and said to George, 'I don't like your tie.' I still maintain that was the turning point...They didnít stop talking for an hour or more after that...they were so funny and had so much wit, we couldnít stop laughing." George Martin impressed the Beatles, in turn, when it was revealed that he had produced the solo comedy records of Goons members Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, whose surreal humour had long been admired by John and George, in particular. Having been satisfied, therefore, that the Beatles had fine pop potential, with their vocal harmonies and tremendous charisma, George Martin finalised the deal which was to be a turning point in music history, and Brian Epstein declared in his autobiography that "from that moment on they have been a dream of a team." In the years to come, Martin would produce not only the Beatles, but numerous other Merseyside artists under the wing of Brian Epstein, including Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Billy J. Kramer. In 1963, records produced by George Martin held the number one position on the British charts for an unprecedented 37 weeks of the year.

George Martin runs through a number with Paul and George
George Martin runs through a number with Paul and George
Such heights of innovation and success could scarcely be imaginable had Brian Epstein not brought the Beatles to George Martin. It may have seemed an unlikely partnership at first -- a classically-trained, thirty-six-year-old Martin and four rough-edged lads from Liverpool -- but the relationship bloomed. In the words of Beatles biographer Ray Coleman, it was one which "began as record producer and young pop stars and then developed into that of a wise uncle, and eventually to friendship." When George Martin himself released an album of orchestral Beatles music in 1964, John Lennon penned the sleeve note: "Some of the sounds on the album may be new to you (and me), that's 'cause George has a great habit of matching unlikely instruments together (like a Jew's harp and a twelve-stringed finger) but the results are great and I think he should get a raise." In their first years together, George Martin directed the Beatles' recording sessions, guiding their early sound, and on his suggestion, their first number one disc in the UK, "Please Please Me," was transformed from its original incarnation as a slow, Roy Orbison-style ballad into an upbeat, commercially popular hit single. In years to follow, his classical influence would grow increasingly prevalent among the recordings, and shone through again in such tracks as "Eleanor Rigby," "In My Life" with its baroque-style middle eight, the classic crescendo of "A Day In The Life," and Yellow Submarine's "Pepperland Suite." However, growing disgruntled with EMI, George Martin left the firm at one point to form an independent production company called Associated Independent Recordings (AIR). EMI could well have assigned the Beatles another producer, but it was clear to all involved that such a successful team should not be divided, and Martin remained with the Fab Four throughout almost their entire career.

George Martin with Paul, George, and Ringo
George Martin with Ringo, Paul and George
in the studio, creating "The Beatles Anthology"
Beatles Historian Mark Lewisohn affirms that "George Martin was the perfect producer for the group -- creative, keen to experiment, willing to listen, an expert about music but nicely inexperienced in pop and rock, and a veteran of comedy-sound effects records." Indeed, George's experience with the Goons had provided him with a diverse repertoire of recording trickery, which came into play when the Beatles, worn by the pressures of live performance and touring, progressed in the studio to ever more complex tracks, including "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "I Am The Walrus." The creation of such masterpieces called for a mutual understanding between producer and artists, a partnership in which Martin's patient nature was invaluable. Musician Peter Asher, brother of Paul McCartney's former girlfriend Jane, and one half of Peter & Gordon, saluted Martin: "The Beatles were brimming over with brilliant ideas and radical concepts but it took extraordinary diplomacy, exceptional musical expertise, limitless patience and visionary clarity to bring these ideas to fruition and greatness. Sometimes George's genius was knowing when to jump in and offer musical advice; sometimes it was knowing when to go down to the canteen and have a cup of tea, letting them get on with whatever they were up to."

Sir George during the recording of In My Life
Sir George during the recording of the "In My Life" album
To this day, George Martin remains an active and energetic figure on the music scene. Even after the Beatles broke up in 1970, he stayed a close friend and colleague, and has worked on at least one album for all four solo Beatles, including nine for Paul McCartney. Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s he was much in demand as a producer, arranger and conductor for such diverse artistes as Jeff Beck, America, Elton John, Jose Carreras, Celine Dion, Little River Band, Cheap Trick and Ultravox. In 1987, he produced and presented a documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, winning a Palme at the Cannes Film Festival. He also produced and directed the Beatles Anthology albums in 1995, and was the first of the Beatles clan to be honoured with a knighthood, in 1996. The following year, he oversaw a benefit concert -- involving such music names as Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, and Sting -- for the people of the volcano-ravaged island of Montserrat, where an outpost of his AIR Studios had formerly been based. In 1998, Sir George released In My Life, an album of Beatles covers performed by world-famous musicians and actors, debuted his popular The Rhythm of Life 3-part documentary series, in which he explored the whys and wherefores of music, and was named the British Phonographic Industry's "Man of the Year." He has won six Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame alongside Sir Paul McCartney in early 1999. Sir George continues to tour the globe, conducting performances of his own orchestral arrangements, and presenting multimedia lectures on The Making of Sgt. Pepper. He announced that one of his final studio endeavours would be producing and scoring Elton John's Candle In The Wind '97, a tribute to the late Princess Diana. "It became my last No.1, and probably my last single," he said. "It's not a bad one to go out on." However, in 2000 he returned to produce the hugely successful 1 album, a compilation of the Fab Four's number one hits, watching the Beatles soar to the top of the charts yet again. In 2001 he released Produced By George Martin: 50 Years In Recording, a lavish 6CD retrospective of his entire studio career, and in 2002, he launched Playback, his limited-edition illustrated autobiography.
When I'm 80!

When George Martin announced that the 1998 In My Life album would mark his departure from recording, due to hearing difficulties, we were worried that he really would retire. But we know Sir George would never just fade away, and are proud to see he has been involved in many endeavours since his official "retirement"...

Recent Projects:

  • Put together a sumptuous limited-edition autobiography and CD set, entitled Playback, and launched it at the Dinner With Sir George Martin in Sydney, Australia.

  • Worked as a musical director for Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee celebration events, and as a consultant on the superstar Party At The Palace pop concert which featured Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Rod Stewart and Cliff Richard.

  • Released Produced By George Martin, a lavish limited-edition 6CD boxed set retrospective of his 50-year studio career.

  • Lent his name and services to Sir George Martin Presents, a 6CD series of mp3-enhanced classical music, on which he provides video commentary.

  • Continues to work tirelessly to raise funds for the people of the volcano-ravanged island of Montserrat, through proceeds from the Music For Montserrat all-star concert, and most recently by holding a "Yesterday" For Montserrat internet auction of autographed prints of his and Paul McCartney's original score.

  • Produced and wrote the liner notes for the record-breaking 1 album, a compilation of the Beatles' number one singles.

  • Was involved as executive producer with a series of classical recordings on the Canadian Atma label.

  • Toured the USA and Scandinavia with his multimedia presentation The Making of Sgt. Pepper.

  • Conducted orchestras in Europe, the Middle East, and at the USA's Hollywood Bowl, in a special classical Beatles tribute which he arranged and scored.

  • Was appointed chairman of the advisory board of garageband.com, an up-and-coming Internet music initiative.

  • Is also chairman of London's Heart Radio, and a member of the advisory committee for Revels Inc., a non-profit performing arts company.

  • Saw the international debut of his two television documentaries: In My Life, a "making-of" special accompanying his 1998 album, and the ever-popular Rhythm Of Life, which explores how rhythm, melody and harmony fit together to create music that moves us.

  • Donated his original score for the world's best-selling single, Elton John's Candle In The Wind '97, to a charity auction.

  • Was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame at the same time as Paul McCartney.

  • Was named the British Phonographic Industry's "Man of the Year" for 1998.

  • Received accolades from the British Music Industry when he was awarded the annual Music Industry Trusts Award at a dinner held in his honour.

  • Attended a luncheon as one of Britain's "top 300 achievers of the century," joined by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Lord Mayor of London.

  • Saw Jeff Beck's version of "A Day In The Life," from the In My Life album, nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance category.

  • Received a Gold Medal for Services to the Arts from the CISAC (the World Federation of Authors and Composers).

  • Will collect a Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Film at Belgium's Flanders Film Festival.

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