The Beatles wouldn't have been as famous without their producer, George Martin. He was the true fifth Beatle and contributed more to the band's music than fans realize. Whether he was playing an instrument none of them knew, meticulously splicing together tape in production, or being a guiding musical force, Martin made every Beatles song better.
'Love Me Do'
When The Beatles came into the recording studio to record "Love Me Do," Ringo Starr wasn't their drummer yet. They knew virtually nothing about recording music, and Martin was the only person who could guide them. He noticed immediately that the group's drummer, Pete Best, wasn't up to par. He suggested the band replace him, and they did. They re-recorded the song with Ringo.
'Please Please Me'
Martin didn't like the speed of "Please Please Me" when Paul McCartney and John Lennon first showed him and the rest of the band. He suggested they record it faster, but they didn't want to do it. However, Martin was persuasive and asked them to simply try it and see how it sounded. So, the band did and realized Martin was right.
In The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Paul wrote, "That was one of the great things about working in collaboration. I could bring something in that John would spot needed alteration. He would bring something in that I would spot needed alteration. Then, if neither of us spotted the problem, George Martin would. That collaboration made The Beatles a very lucky little group to be in."
'And I Love Her'
Paul was very proud of "And I Love Her" when he entered the recording studio. However, as was often the case, Martin always knew how to improve a tune, even if the band thought their tunes were perfect already. Martin suggested the tune have an introduction, and George Harrison jumped in with that classic riff.
Martin also contributed some of his classical music knowledge to elevate the tune. He added a chord modulation in the solo. Paul said it was "a key change that he knew would be musically very satisfying; we shifted the chord progression to start with G minor instead of F-sharp minor – so, up a semitone. I think George Martin's classical training told him that that would be a really interesting change. And it is.
"And this sort of help is what started to make The Beatles' stuff better than that of other songwriters. In the case of this song, the two Georges – George Harrison with the intro and then George Martin on the key change into the solo – gave it a bit more musical strength. We were saying to people, 'We're a little bit more musical than the average bear.'"
Martin convinced Paul a string quart was possible in a rock 'n' roll song, and he fell in love with the idea. So, he added one to "Eleanor Rigby." When he brought it to Martin, he said he wanted an accompaniment of a series of E minor chord stabs. However, he "conflated" Paul's idea of the stabs and his own inspiration from Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the music for the film Psycho.
"George wanted to bring some of that drama into the arrangement," Paul wrote in The Lyrics. "And, of course, there's some kind of mad-cap connection between Eleanor Rigby, an elderly woman left high and dry, and the mummified in Psycho."
'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!'
John based "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" on an old antique circus poster. Then, he went to Martin for help. He wanted the song to have a carnival atmosphere that was so authentic he could "smell the sawdust on the floor (per Rolling Stone)." Martin meticulously chopped recordings of various fairground organs into pieces and reassembled them into the song. The product was a chaotic swirl of sounds that perfected the song.
'For No One'
Since The Beatles couldn't read or write music, they needed Martin, who was classically trained. The producer informed Paul that the note he hummed for the French horn on "For No One" didn't exist. However, Paul insisted. Somehow, session musician Alan Civil managed to hit the incredibly high note.
Martin frequently contributed piano to The Beatles' tracks, but some of his best work appears on "Lovely Rita." Paul needed some masterful honky-tonk piano playing, so Martin stepped in because he was the best. You can hear Martin's beautiful work about halfway through the song.
'All You Need Is Love'
The Beatles recorded "All You Need Is Love" live on a television special broadcast worldwide by satellite, but that isn't the only special part of the song's recording. Martin had the complex task of orchestrating the fade-out. Rolling Stone considers it "an orchestral proto-mashup, with fragments of 'Greensleeves,' Bach's Invention No. 8 in F Major and the big-band swing classic 'In the Mood' all weaving in and out." Martin nearly got in trouble for copyright infringement for adding the last title.
'Within You Without You'
George Harrison initially intended his "Only A Northern Song" to be added to Sgt. Pepper, but Martin blocked it. He claimed George could write a better song. So, George wrote "Within You Without You." Martin arranged one of the greatest Eastern-meets-Western musical compositions for the track. He blended Indian instrumentation with a beautiful string section.
'Strawberry Fields Forever'
"Strawberry Fields Forever" took forever to record. The band used 55 hours' worth of tape. There were two versions -- John's dreamier one and Martin's faster and more orchestrated one. John was torn between the two and asked Martin to join the beginning of the first to the end of the second. Martin said it wasn't possible, but John insisted. Somehow, Martin managed to edit it all together.
'In My Life'
John was very proud of "In My Life." It was his first introspective song. However, he wasn't sure about the solo. He knew he wanted "something baroque sounding" but didn't know which instrument to use. Martin found the right instrument. "While they were having their tea break, I put down a baroque piano solo which John didn't hear until he came back," Martin said (per Rolling Stone). "What I wanted was too intricate for me to do live, so I did it with a half-speed piano, then sped it up, and he liked it."
When Paul entered the recording studio with "Yesterday," the rest of The Beatles were unsure of how to contribute. That's when Martin stepped in and convinced Paul to record the song solo, playing an acoustic guitar, with a string quartet in the background, both a first in Beatles history. They were hesitant initially, but he insisted it would be done well.
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