Now that it has been a steady fifty years since their heyday, everything related to the Beatles seems like it’s spoken in reverential hushed tones. All the familiar benchmarks have been trotted out and dissected, from the Cavern Club to the Rooftop Concert. When the subject of the “Fifth Beatle” comes up, various names fit the bill: roadie Neil Aspinall, manager Brian Epstein or any number of former drummers. However, it was George Martin who made the Beatles sound like the Beatles. Sure, the lads provided the charm, look and song essentials, but it was Martin who added a french horn to “For No One” and a piccolo trumpet to “Penny Lane.” “Eleanor Rigby” would not have sounded as macabre without the string arrangement carefully crafted by Martin.
Thank you for all your love and kindness George peace and love xx😎✌️🌟💖 pic.twitter.com/um2hRFB7qF
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) March 9, 2016
As the Beatles progressed in style and sound throughout the sixties, they caught up with Martin sonically. Songs like “A Day in the Life” and “Lovely Rita” found the producer and the band working in symmetry and exchanging ideas to push the Sgt. Pepper’s album into the deity status it enjoys today. Though Martin will obviously be remembered most for his legacy with the Beatles, it shouldn’t be diminished that he was an in-demand producer and arranger in popular music for nearly six decades. Post-Beatles, he continued to work with Paul McCartney on gigantic pop hits like “Live and Let Die” and “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Martin also added his singular touch to varied music from Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” to America’s “Sister Golden Hair.”
When standout figures in music like George Martin pass away, eventually it just feels like a giant list of songs because you can’t believe that one person had his hand in so much history. Everything regarding Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr has been written down and taken apart. It still feels like there’s a mystery surrounding Martin even though he was there the whole time, working behind the scenes and adding magic to already-great songs. We compiled a Spotify playlist of some of Martin’s greatest work that you can listen to below. Listen close for the arrangements.
What’s your favorite George Martin arrangement?