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.

 

Paul McCartney and Jimmy Fallon: A Fab Duo

So much cuteness in one photo!!!

So much cuteness in one photo!!!

So I’ve been kind of obsessed with Jimmy Fallon recently since he made his debut on The Tonight Show a few weeks ago. I think he’s hilarious and one of the most creative and entertaining comedians out there today. One thing, among many, that I love about him, is that he is known for his spot-on musical impersonations of people like Neil Young, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and others. He is also a huge fan of the Beatles and Paul McCartney! In fact, my mom actually spotted him at the Paul McCartney concert last June, and I think he appeared on the screen next to the stage once or twice. Whenever he interviews Paul on his show, he gets really excited and giggly, which I think is both adorable and the mark of a true super fan. Anyway, today I’ve decided to post a few videos of Jimmy and Paul, because they’re two wonderful people who are just hysterical together!

This video is priceless for so many reasons! Paul head-butting Jimmy, Paul attempting an American accent and sounding more like a British tourist with an acquired Texan accent, Paul saying “Honey Boo Boo” over and over again… I’m so thankful this exists.

A classic moment on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. This version of Yesterday might be my favorite. 🙂
Also, I love when Jimmy harmonizes on the last part of the song. He actually has quite a nice voice.

This might be the most heartfelt version of Here Today I’ve come across. It brings tears to my eyes whenever I watch it because it’s so powerful and bare. Also, when Jimmy tells Paul, “I love you,” at 3:30 in the video, I think I laughed and cried at the same time. If I was hosting a talk show and Paul was a guest, I would also profess my love for him on the air.

Hearing Paul using words like “selfie” and “photobomb” that mostly people under 20 say just makes my day. He truly is the coolest person in the world. And the picture they show at 0:35 is one of my absolute favorite Beatle pictures!

All right, I think that’s all for now. I will try to do a post tomorrow about my favorite covers of Beatles songs, so be on the lookout!

My Top 10 Favorite Beatles Songs

Casual Beatles... And Then There's Paul in a Suit.

Casual Beatles… And Then There’s Paul in a Suit.

I thought it was about time that I posted my favorite Beatles songs, because I feel like you can’t be a true Beatlemaniac without at least a semi-definitive list. But, my favorites do change, sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, depending on what period of the Beatles I feel in the mood for. One day I need my Rubber Soul fix, other days I like to jam to some earlier stuff, and sometimes I enjoy a little psychadelic road trip through Magical Mystery Tour or Sgt. Pepper. Still, there are certain songs that I always feel particularly connected to. These aren’t necessarily my opinion of the 10 best Beatles songs, just my personal favorites, to avoid any major, “BUT HOW COULD YOU LEAVE OFF (insert name of influential Beatles song here)?!?!?!?!” issues. Let’s get rolling!

10. And I Love Her

I just love how calm this song makes me feel. I have it in a playlist of “relaxing Beatles songs” that I put on while I’m doing work or when I just need to relax, and it always does the trick. Also, George does some great guitar work here that only adds to the lovely aura of the song. Paul is such an extrordinarily talented songwriter that his more understated compositions such as this one tend to get overlooked, but I think that it is one of his most sincere love songs. I sometimes pretend that he’s singing this to me… 🙂

9. Getting Better

This is one of my favorite songs to play on Beatles Rock Band! The guitar part in this song is fantastic, and “Getting Better” is definitely my favorite song on the Sgt. Pepper album, if I had to choose. Also, it’s so optimistic and uplifting that you can’t help but feel like things really will get better once you hear it.

8. I Am The Walrus

I once read that John Lennon wrote this song to purposely confuse people who were studying the Beatles’ lyrics. He probably succeeded in confusing many people with it, and I love it all the more for its hilarious insanity. The line “expert texpert choking smokers, don’t you think the joker laughs at you” is definitely my favorite line in the song. Finally, for anyone who was wondering, yes, they are saying “Everybody smokes pot” at the end of the song. This was confirmed for me after I saw a Beatle tribute perform this song live, and they enunciated those words VERY clearly!

7. I’ve Got A Feeling

This is another one I enjoy belting out on Beatles Rock Band. It’s probably one of the last true Lennon/McCartney collaborations written. Not too much else to say, just a great rock song. I was pleasantly surprised and happy when Paul performed this at 12/12/12, which I watched from the comfort of my couch. I wish I’d been there. That would have been epic.

6. Ticket to Ride

First, this video is my favorite part of the movie Help! Second, everything about this song rocks; from the harmonies to the drums to the guitar riff, it’s all there. John and Paul always sound magical singing together, and this song is no exception.

5. Day Tripper

Ahhh, I love this song! Words can’t describe how happy I feel when I hear it! It contains my favorite guitar riff throughout the song, and once again, it rocks in a way that can’t be recreated by anyone else. I also love how the beginning of this video shows George doing what he does best, and smiling while he does it! My heart fluttered a bit when he came on the screen. I think that every music video by any artist, ever, should start with a 10 second close up of George Harrison. But Macca Maniacs, Lennon Lovers, and Starrfish, feel free to disagree.

4. Something

This is one of the most listened-to songs on my iPod, probably because I listened to it every single night before I went to sleep for about a month straight. I’ve listened to it so many times that I’ve probably memorized every note of every instrument throughout the whole song. This is definitely George’s most beautiful love song, and maybe one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. Either way, it’s wonderful. Also, this video features pictures of George with his lovely first wife, Pattie Boyd. And if I ever had to answer the question, “Name the person you are most jealous of,” it would probably be her. Yeah, I wonder why…

3. She Loves You

This is by far my favorite pre-Rubber Soul Beatles song, because it’s so ridiculously catchy. I dare anyone to listen to it and not start dancing or singing along. You’ll have a tough go at it, I’m sure. I love it, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!!!

2. Hey Jude

This is one of those songs that I knew most of the words to before I even knew who the Beatles were. There’s a reason why it’s so popular; everyone loves hearing it, whether they admit it or not. No matter where this song comes on, people will start singing along. If it went on forever, I’d sing along the whole time and not get tired. It’s uplifting, infectious, and a classic in every sense of the word. This was also my favorite Beatles song for a while. Until I discovered THIS one…

1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

The only way to properly listen to and experience the power of this song is to listen to it late at night on your iPod with good quality headphones, in complete darkness, while sitting on your bed, clutching a pillow, and swaying to the beat of the song. I guarantee, you have not fully heard this song until you’ve done that. I could stay in that position for hours. The effect is truly mindblowing, and the song is hauntingly beautiful and hypnotic. And THAT is why it’s my favorite Beatles song!

Other “Honorable Mention” Beatles songs that would round out my Top 20 list: Sexy Sadie, Yesterday, Your Mother Should Know, Don’t Bother Me, I Feel Fine, This Boy, The Fool On The Hill, Within You Without You, Taxman, And Your Bird Can Sing.