Ah ..could we ever have enough of the Beatles ?
The latest chance to rake over the ashes once again comes with the death of George Martin who inevitably is the ‘5th Beatle’ (along with Brian Epstein,Pete Best,Stu Sutcliffe, Mal Evans, Yoko Ono etc. etc)
So lets get one thing straight. I recently watched the BBC Arena Programme Produced by George Martin with a smile plastered across my face. He was lovely, not quite the toff history would have us believe but he was from a different generation, he’d fought in the war for Rod’s sake. The Beatles were lucky to find George but he was lucky to find them, imagine what it must have been like to have Paul McCartney to work with.
So George was a lovely bloke, old school but not stuck in his ways who could transform the half formed ideas of the most creative band ever into hard vinyl, everyone’s a winner.
But like us all he was cast adrift in the 70’s, the Beatles were no more, it took us a few years to acknowledge that the Beatles were never going to happen and get on with the idea that music had moved on without them. Inevitably that meant that anyone who had been part of the group, even the 5th member, had to find something else to do.
In the 70’s the very phrase ‘produced by George Martin’ had a lot of value so who did he choose to produce…..
Yes the poor man’s Crosby Stills and Nash, known almost entirely in Britain for ‘Horse With No Name’.
What I had never realised, until I took the trouble to research it, was that America were formed in England but being sons of USAF service men had called themselves America just in case we thought they were English guys singing in American accents (which of course everyone did anyway) Martin took over their production well after we had lost interest starting by recording them at his AIR studios in London and Montserrat. Martin worked with the group between 1973 and 1979, apparently adding to their acoustic sound with lots of other instrumentation . It may have been great but life’s too short to take a risk spending it listening to mid period America albums in my humble opinion.
But here is Tin Man its quite nice
Rather sadly a Martin production is taken to mean a rather plush effort post 1970, the sort of thing that Jeff Lynn took to it’s logical extreme. Lets not forget that this is a guy who could bang out Please Please Me in a day there’s no reason in theory why he couldn’t have been a punk and new wave producer but he didn’t, his tastes were rather old school. There were a couple of minor exceptions. The first was Stackridge the slightly eccentric west coast rockers (we’re talking Bristol here) to whom he lent a Beatles veneer. He also worked with cheap trick who were a bit beatley
The contribution was jazz/fusion/rock initially with the Mahavishnu Orchestra but more notably in the UK at least with Jeff Beck. Beck wasn’t exactly hot property when Martin took over production duties in 1975 .What makes him an exciting guitarist was a level of unpredictability and a reputation for being difficult. ‘Blow by Blow’ was Becks first solo record and introduce fusion to the sorts or people who didn’t think they liked it which was in no small part due to Martin’s consummate ability as a producer.
Its a record that’s stood the test of time and here’s a track. Oh no he’s only gone and recorded a Beatles number !
But saving the best to last here is my favourite Martin 70’s moment. Although its always been the second string to his bow he was an accomplished composer and one of his compositions was Theme 1 which would regularly creep onto Radio One. Initially it opened and closed the station each day (obviously we didn’t have 24 hour radio). My memory of it however is as the theme for ‘Sounds of the Seventies’ radio show which was dedicated to the joys of ‘progressive’ music. By this time the tune had been re recorded by Van Der Graff Generator, briefly without their leader Peter Hammill.
So here they are in a rare live clip which features one of my all time favourite drum performances by the mighty and totally underrated Guy Evans on drums
Not a Beatle in sight
Thanks George !