Wednesday, 9 March 2016

So farewell, George Martin, famed producer of The Vipers Skiffle Group!

But, of course, George Martin is probably better known for his work with...

Dick James - in particular, the theme tune for the TV series, The Adventures of Robin Hood, which may have been the first television programme I saw after arriving in London (and therefore the first TV programme I had ever seen):

And of course there was his work with Ron Goodwin, especially this lovely rendition of "Elizabethan Serenade":

I almost wore a hole in my copy of this 1962 Bernard Cribbins' recording, which Noel Coward chose as one of his desert island discs:

Or perhaps you remember him better for his work with the popular Liverpudlian beat combo... The Dakotas:

He also produced this memorable version of the hauntingly beautiful "Unchained Melody":

Or maybe you know him best for his work with the beloved 1960s four-piece English pop quartet... The Action:

Or for this superb 1963 hit version of "I (Who Have Nothing)" by Shirley Bassey (he also produced her recording of "Goldfinger"):

Then there was this 1977 production of the singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb's modern classic, "Highwayman":

Oh, okay - he also produced The Beatles and changed popular music for ever. But the other stuff matters as well - at least, I suspect it does for people of a certain age. For instance, he produced the LP of Beyond the Fringe (you can sample "Aftermyth of War" here), Flanders & Swann's At the Drop of a Hat,  Peter Seller's and Sophia Loren's "Goodness Gracious Me", Bernard Cribbins' "Right Said Fred", Charlie Drake's "My Boomerang Won't Come Back", Peter Sellers' "A Hard Day's Night" and various Goon Show-related stuff. If you haven't heard "Bridge on the River Wye", a parody featuring Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook, you might enjoy it - I've just listened to it for the first time and almost did myself a mischief. And, yes, he produced several Rolf Harris hits, including "Sun Arise", which I adored (all right, officer, I'll come quietly...), and "Jake the Peg"( whose "extra leg" seems to have taken on rather sinister connotations in light of recent events.)   

George Martin came from a fairly humble background, and acquired a middle-to-upper-middle-class accent (he ended up sounding like a cross between Douglas Hurd and Christopher Lee) and his clothes were impeccably tailored. None of this seemed in the least fake, because he was one of nature's gentlemen and a natural member of the officer class (he joined the Fleet Air Arm at 17 and became a commissioned officer). He was admirably and (one would like to think) typically English: quietly-spoken, dignified without being stuffy, even-tempered, hard-working, effortlessly commanding, able to get on with all sorts, happy to take risks, and possessed of a sense of humour. Those - and a good dollop of ruthlessness and creativity - were the qualities that built the greatest and most benevolent empire the world has ever seen, after all. The Beatles - and the whole of the British pop music industry - were lucky to have him. As were we all. 


  1. He also produced 'Blow by Blow', Jeff Beck's massive selling jazz/funk/pop crossover album. After 3 months, Beck, a never satisfied perfectionist, said 'George, I just need to come in and re-do a couple of guitar tracks, is that OK?' "Well that would be Jeff, except that the record has been in the shops for the last two weeks".

    Great post, and well done for leaving the inevitable, and for the most part badly researched Beatles tributes to others.

    1. Thank you, ex-KCS. The only thing I was going to say about Martin's involvement with the Beatles was the pleasing ruthlessness he displayed in making sure his contribution to their recordings wasn't overlooked. What was particularly pleasing about his determination to take credit was how much it annoyed John Lennon, who, inevitably, proved himself to be mean-spirited and ungrateful when it came to the man without whom the Beatles probably wouldn't have made it. Still, having done a lot of work with Spike Milligan, Martin was evidently a master at dealing with impossible people.