Thursday, April 28, 2011

The true "Fifth Beatle"

A new BBC documentary, Produced by George Martin, has the legendary producer back in the news.

- Jon Savage of the Guardian examines Martin's role in the beat-rock revolution of 1963.

But the Beatles were unprecedented, and, as 1963 went on, the mania built. You can hear it in the records as they escalate in confidence and intensity: From Me to You is still teen pop, but She Loves You is incandescent. Sophisticated yet ecstatic, tricksy yet, on occasion, pulverising, With the Beatles defined the pop album.

This excitement spread into the pop charts in general that year, with, among others, the Searchers (Sweets for My Sweet), the Hollies (Stay), and the Rolling Stones (I Wanna Be Your Man, a Beatles cover). It was the year of Phil Spector's peak, with UK top 10s by the Crystals (Then He Kissed Me, Da Doo Ron Ron) and the Ronettes (Be My Baby).

The question remains: why did this happen in 1963? Some of it is to do with a natural pop cycle. Although Cliff Richard was almost exactly the same age as John Lennon, he had been having hits since 1958 and was thoroughly integrated into showbiz. A younger generation – coinciding with the demographic surge of the postwar baby boom – wanted something of their own.

- The Irish Independent's interview with Martin.

But his ability to remain grounded doesn't lead him to underestimate their achievement altogether. He may regard it as just work, but he knows The Beatles' work was very good.

"I think we recorded well over 200 titles and of those probably 60% were great songs. I mean not just a pass-by thing, but really great. And I would have given my teeth to have written even one of them."

I am unable to resist asking the most clich├ęd of all Beatles questions. "Do you have a favourite song?" He grimaces slightly: "Not really, no. People ask me this all the time."

But when I promise to tell him mine if he tells me his, the characteristic Martin humour and courtesy triumphs and he relents. I say 'Here, There and Everywhere' and he replies: "Well now, if I ever give an answer, I take it into Paul and John's territory. If it's Paul, I say 'Here, There and Everywhere' and if it's John, 'Strawberry Fields Forever'."

No comments: