Wednesday, March 09, 2016

"Love These Goon Shows!"

‘Take it away, wanna hear you play ‘til the lights go down...’

Ah, RIP Sir George Martin. 

In an uncharacteristic blip of a Queen’s English slip, the Holloway-born, Bromley-schooled producer said in advance of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: ‘It’s going to be a stonching [sic] record.’
They all were. He did so much to make them so.
The Beatles provided the tunes - whatever David Cameron might have, inevitably clunkily, claimed - and the genius flights of fancy, but their producer was necessary to give them studio reality.

Creatively, too - witness the difference tween the jaggedly beauteous string arrangements he provided for Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby against the workaday alternative a too-impatient McCartney accepted from elsewhere for She’s Leaving Home.
Ah, take it away: those first strings on Yesterday, those exultant horns on Got To Get You Into My Life, that double-speed piano intermission in In My Life, those persistent mixes making something of several Strawberry Fields Forever, those maniacal fairground loops on Being For The Benefit Of Mister Kite - that sensitive yet stirring reunion on Beautiful Night, an Eighties Macca ballad brought to beautiful fruition in 1997...
Paul, Ringo and *this* George had come together again for 1982’s Tug Of War LP, including single Take It Away with its nostalgic crooning, deft tubbing and rousing parping. 
Now only two of the four - sorry, ‘five’ - Beatles remain, alas. (Time for it to become *Sir* Ringo, no? Let’s warn the queen with peace and love, peace and love...)
(Sir) Paul certainly knew who could produce - despite his own experience and expertise, much of it learnt under the elder statesman’s tutelage in Abbey Road’s Studio 2.
Sir George claimed in 1967, endearingly enduringly jocularly, his role had turned from ‘the gaffer to four herberts from Liverpool’ to ‘clinging on to the last vestiges of recorded power’.
He could bristle, mind, if he felt his contributions to the toppermost of the poppermost group of all-time were unfairly under-played.
Why, he ticked off John Lennon for the infamous 1970 Rolling Stone interview in which the most acerbic (newly-)ex-Beatle dismissed their producer’s input.
‘I was stoned out of my f***ing mind’,’ came the sort-of-apologetic reply. 
He also only just about managed to conceal how affronted he felt to be overlooked in favour of Jeff Lynne to produce the so-called ‘Threetles’ comeback songs Free As Bird and Real Love in 1995.
But he did oversee that same year’s three Anthology LPs, invaluable insights into not only how fast and fervently The Beatles transformed themselves and popular music but how such studio artistry came to stitch together.
This was a man whose own musical ambitions were perhaps previously being stymied at EMI offshoot Parlophone, then seen as a layby for novelty and comedy records.
Carpenter's son Martin was a classically-trained pianist and oboist - the latter instrument he took up aged 21 because he felt it was too late in life to pick up a violin.
His oboe tutor at the Guildhall, by the by, was Margaret Asher - mother of McCartney’s Swinging Sixties girlfriend Jane, that sadly-ill-fated couple sharing homes off Harley Street and in Cavendish Avenue within sauntering distance of Abbey Road.
Martin, mind, did however teach himself the guitar, all the better to understand instructions from the band who - unable to read nor write music - would describe chords in terms of shapes their fingers formed.
‘Put some tomato sauce on it’ or ‘make me sound orange’ were some of Lennon’s pleas to his producer when somehow failing to enjoy hearing his own alternately-visceral and vulnerable singing voice played back.
Then there was overseeing the Day In The Life session at which an orchestra in fancy dress was given few more Beatle-y instructions than: start here, end there, do whatever you like in between.
‘A hundred chanting Tibetan monks’ was the guidance for Tomorrow Never Knows, 1966 album Revolver’s epic, pulsating closer that sounds just as fresh and entralling 50 years later.
Yes, Sir George put up with a lot - was given a lot - managed to craft-ily make even much much more out of that such a lot.
(That means a lot.)
He gave such a fab four such freedom ... yet also such additional finesse.
All together now: one, two, three, four - can I have a little more...?
And in the end: when I find myself in times of trouble, Beatles music comes to me - even if, somehow, the Let It Be both before and after Abbey Road was the LP that wasn't one of his. Sadly so...
(No one really beats The Beatles, socio-culturally as well as merely musically and, well, feelingly, this past century, no? Most-significant still-living man Macca included: click here, thumbs up...)

So, though, now it’s time to say goodnight, Sir George Martin. As portrayed on screen by Nigel Havers (ticked off by "Nasty" Nick Cotton), Griff Rhys Jones and - never better - Kevin Eldon

An impeccable gent - and giant of modern times, all-time musical achievement, invention and enjoyment.
I’d have to say: the best of the Fifth Beatles...

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