George Martin, The Real 5th Beatle

george martin

The man who made the Beatles into rock pioneers.

Hello followers and readers of Beatle Me Do! I have returned from a hiatus for which I greatly apologize, but I have a few ideas for fun posts that I will be publishing throughout the summer! In the meantime, I have decided to dedicate a post to the late Beatles producer, George Martin, who died on March 8 of this year at age 90. Before becoming a music producer with the Beatles, Martin primarily produced comedy albums. However, he is most well known for signing the Beatles to a record contract in 1962 and producing every single Beatles album except for Let It Be, which was (some say) infamously produced by Phil Spector.

The debate over who is “the fifth Beatle” has gone on for decades and is practically a cliche by now. Some Beatles fans support awarding this illustrious title to members of the Beatles camp such as their manager, Brian Epstein, or their first drummer, Pete Best. However, if there really is such a thing as “the fifth Beatle,” I strongly believe that George Martin deserves that title.

His work in the studio with the Beatles helped transform their songs from acoustic demos into sonic masterpieces. He was a major player in the Beatles’ studio experimentation starting in around 1965 and strongly supported their use of the studio itself as an instrument. When the Beatles were on top of the charts and the musical world, George Martin was the man behind the curtain, the wizard of Oz who literally orchestrated their success. His death marks the passing of a figure essential to the Beatles’ musical innovation.

I’d like to touch on a few Beatles songs on which Martin had a particularly noticeable influence. First up is the acoustic version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps from the Beatles Cirque de Soleil show, Love. This show features some remixes of Beatles songs, but these remixes are composed only by compiling bits and pieces from different Beatles songs. This particular version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps originates from a demo version from the Beatles Anthology 3. It features a George Martin-composed orchestration that was the only original music composed for the Love album. I absolutely love this version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps; it’s a beautiful song made even more poignant and striking by the orchestra. Seeing the Love show is definitely on my Beatles-related bucket list!

Next, I’m going back to one of Martin’s first orchestral contributions to Beatles music, the famed song Yesterday, which features only Paul McCartney, an acoustic guitar, and a beautiful Martin-composed string quartet. Supposedly Paul was a bit skeptical about the idea of putting a string quartet on a song released by a rock band, but was convinced otherwise after Martin explained exactly how he planned to arrange it based on the chords of the song. This song is now legendary among the many iconic tracks in the Beatles’ catalog, thanks not only to the beauty of its melody and lyrics but also to the perfect melancholy accompaniment that the strings provide.

Another song which has an unmistakable George Martin touch is In My Life, on which he plays the sped-up piano break at the end of the song. I believe this is one of, if not the only, Beatles songs to feature a piano solo, or if not it was definitely the first to do so. It’s songs like this that truly embody the spirit of Rubber Soul, an album which challenged the definition of rock and roll and began pushing the boundaries of musical experimentation in rock music.

Eleanor Rigby is one of those Beatles songs that features an orchestra arrangement so strikingly iconic that I could listen to just the instrumentals and enjoy the song just as much. This is all thanks to George Martin, who insisted on creating a relentlessly staccato string arrangement that I regard as an absolute masterpiece. You can listen to the instrumental version of Eleanor Rigby, a track on the Beatles Anthology 2 album, here. Every time I listen to this track and try not to let my inner sing-along drown out what I’m actually hearing, I notice new little intricacies of the arrangement. It’s songs like this that absolutely astound me as to their fearless musicality and give me a true appreciation for the power of orchestral music. This song is just perfect.

Finally, what better way to close out this George Martin tribute post than with the behemoth of all classical arrangements in rock songs, the string section in A Day In The Life. This song is often ranked as the #1 best Beatles song, and while it’s not my #1 personal favorite, it is without a doubt an absolute, indisputable masterpiece. This is largely due to the enormous, chaotic, vaguely conducted orchestra part that builds and builds and always makes me feel like a car is about to hit me. Martin’s touch on this song is evident in its sonic power to completely overwhelm your senses and leave you breathless at its conclusion. What a song to close out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What. A. Song. Period.

Rest in peace, George Martin. I know this tribute is a few months late, but I tried to make a post that pays the proper respect to a man who was literally  and figuratively instrumental in crafting many of my favorite songs of all time. He was among the giants of the musical world, and he will certainly be missed.

 

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My Top 5 Scariest/Creepiest Beatles Songs

The Beatles, wearing silly costumes and looking adorable

The Beatles, wearing silly costumes and looking adorable

In honor of Halloween, which is in only 5 days, I’ve decided to make a short list of Beatles songs that, for whatever reason, creep me out or used to scare me. This won’t be as long a list as my usual lists, for the simple reason that there are not too many Beatles songs that make me scared! But, though they were originally the lovable moptops, the Beatles also had a dark side. So, without further ado, here is my list of scary Beatles songs!

5. Run For Your Life

Upon a casual listen, this song is pretty unassuming, but when you actually listen to the lyrics, it’s really creepy. Apparently the Beatles stole the first line, “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man” from an Elvis song called “Baby, Let’s Play House”, and they built the rest of the song around that. It’s basically about a man threatening to kill his girlfriend if she cheats on him. This song has never really scared me, but the lyrics are quite ominous, which makes it a good choice for this list!

4. Helter Skelter

Back before I became a devoted Beatles fan who would listen to anything they recorded, I used to not be able to listen to this song all the way through because it scared me too much. I can’t put my finger on why it scared me, but it just did. For whatever reason, I just could not get through it without pausing the song and listening to something else. Of course, I got over this fear a while ago, and rocking out to Helter Skelter at the Paul McCartney concert was one of my highlights of the night! Still, the fact that this song supposedly inspired the Manson murders makes it scary to me.

3. A Day In The Life

This is another song that I’ve grown to love and appreciate, but that for some reason used to scare the wits out of me. I think it was the orchestral links between the Lennon and McCartney sections of the song that scared me, and whenever I listened to that part of the song, I felt like a car was about to hit me.
The song is a work of art, and I thankfully can now listen to it all the way through without getting scared! But it certainly isn’t the cheeriest Beatles song out there…

2. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

For some reason, I could not find the original album version of this on Youtube, but I did find a version performed live by The Fab Faux, so hopefully you get the gist of this song through their performance.
Whenever I listen to Abbey Road, I almost dread this song coming on, because it’s so long and demonic sounding that by the end, I’m always completely freaked out and silently willing it to be over so my heart can stop racing. The last few minutes of this song are entirely instrumental, and the “whooshing” sounds near the end sound like a plane about to crash. In other words, this is a pretty creepy song. Don’t listen to it if you fear the end of the world is upon us.

1. Revolution 9

This is by far the scariest Beatles “song” (I don’t really consider it a song) in existence, but it’s more than that. It’s quite possibly the weirdest, freakiest, creepiest 8 minutes ever recorded in the history of rock. This song creeps everybody out, including me, which is why this is the only Beatles song to date that I have only listened to once all the way through. I hate skipping songs on albums, but whenever I listen to the White Album, I just can’t bring myself to listen to this song. It’s too trippy and too scary for me to handle. This is probably a common choice for “scariest Beatles song,” but rightfully so, because it’s just insane. I love the Beatles, but this takes it a bit too far into the psychedelic territory for me to enjoy and appreciate.

And that completes my list! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and a happy early Halloween!
I’m also VERY excited for the Fab Faux George Harrison tribute concert that my dad and I are seeing tonight! I will surely be posting about it tomorrow, so be on the lookout!