I’ve gone back and forth on whether to include producers and have generally preferred to focus on the performers instead. But it’s hard not to make an exception for Sir George Martin, the producer known affectionately as the “Fifth Beatle.” Throughout the group’s short but prolific career, he mentored, collaborated with and helped the group reach the pinnacle of rock stardom. It’s hard to think of another celebrity producer so adept at morphing to an artist’s changing tastes and doing it with such mastery.
Martin, a classical and jazz producer (with a few comedy albums to boot!), was not initially interested in overseeing a pop band. But he graciously agreed to hear them in the studio, and he saw enough raw talent to give it a go. He ushered them through their initial hits–the songs that sparked the British Invasion and launched Beatlemania. But as they pushed themselves away from being teen idols to experiment with new kinds of songs and recording, he had the musical knowledge and expertise to help them along.
It’s amazing when you stop to think that only a handful of years separated “Meet The Beatles” from “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Martin was the wizard in the control room who helped make the group’s creative dreams come true. He added strings to “Yesterday,” over the initial objections of Paul McCartney. He showed them the effects of playing tape backwards and even cutting up and reassembling sounds, techniques that can be heard in songs like “I Am the Walrus” and “A Day in the Life.” With each Beatles album, new heights were reached and the rest of the rock world scrambled to stay relevant, often trying to mimic the sounds, instrumentation, recording techniques and attitudes that The Beatles originated in Sir George’s lab.