Happy birthday Sir George 90 is a great innings i hope you have a lot more to come….
John Lennon and George Martin on the train to Washington, 11 February 1964
George Harrison and George Martin, 1963 and 1993
The Dark Horse” by George Martin
Found this in one of my scrapbooks, with no source specified, unfortunately. It must be either December 2001 or sometime in early 2002, though… It’s an article written by Sir George Martin about George Harrison; for anyone who’s interested, here’s the type-up of it.
“George was a teenager when we first met, and it was he who broke the ice in Abbey Road Studios. A year or two younger than John and Paul, he was allowed into the group because he had shown himself to be a better player than the other two, with an impressive collection of guitar licks that he demonstrated to them. When Ringo replaced Pete Best the unique quartet was complete, but with Ringo being the oldest George remained the baby of the group, and suffered a little as a result. His compositions tended to be relegated to second base in the studio, mainly because John and Paul were turning out such a stunning array of songs at a time when his efforts were hardly world beaters.
I suppose I should have given him more time and encouragement, but there is no denying that John and Paul were coming up with amazing material which required my undivided attention. We always included at least one of George’s songs in each album, just as we tried to include a solo from Ringo. It was tough on him; he had no writing partner to work with, no one to bounce ideas off, and he was forced to be a loner, but his contribution to the success of The Beatles cannot be discounted.
Of course I had to make a decision on the songs he offered, and it was not easy. During the recording of Sgt. Pepper he offered me “Only A Northern Song”, which I thought was below the standardI of the rest of the record, and told him so. Not a pleasant thing to have to say to him, and understandably he was upset, but said wryly, “It’ll do for Yellow Submarine then, won’t it?” This was the animated film which none of the boys valued very much, and that is where “Only A Northern Song” ended up.
I asked him to come up with something else a little more interesting. George was nothing if not determined, and he worked on his compositions, gradually and painstakingly improving them. Eventually he presented me with “Within You Without You” which was quite different to anything else, not terribly commercial, but original and intriguing. When it came to tracks like this, heavily influenced by George’s Indian research, the dynamic changed and he was the expert in the studio. Fortunately I was fairly experienced with Indian musicians, and I enjoyed working with George on the complicated tracks with their odd rhythms and time signatures. He had enormous patience, and always knew what he wanted.
Ultimately his songwriting developed brilliantly, and he came through with some truly great songs. “Here Comes the Sun” is one of my favourite Beatles songs, and “Something” is without a doubt one of the finest love songs ever written. I was so delighted when he was accepted as a fine songwriter; at last his hard work became really worthwhile.
After The Beatles went in different directions George found himself in the film business, somewhat unintentionally. The Pythons had embarked on “The Life Of Brian” which had been backed by Lew Grade. Surprisingly the tycoon could not have read the script, because when he discovered it dealt with a parallel to Jesus he was horrified. He thought the humour ill-conceived and would have nothing to do with what he regarded as a sacrilege. He promptly pulled the plug on it, leaving the Pythons out on a limb. Fortunately for them Eric Idle was friendly with George, who, hearing of their plight, generously stepped into the breach, providing them with the necessary finance to finish the film. I cannot think of anyone who would, single-handedly, take such a risk, but George did. This was one of his most endearing qualities, always ready to give a helping hand to a friend in need. He was a true and loyal friend.
So he became a film producer, and a very successful one at that. More films followed, all of them of a high quality, and some of them very successful indeed. Eventually and I suppose inevitably the company came up with a turkey, a film with Madonna and Sean Penn called “Shanghai Surprise”. It overran its budget by a long way and ended up with unkind reviews. It lost money, lots of money, and the company faced debts of millions of pounds. It was terrible for George, who always believed in helping people, to find out that he was personally liable for those debts. Nevertheless it was just part of his professional life, an interesting episode which showed the diversity of his talents. Later he formed a group of old stars, The Traveling Wilburys, enjoying great success, and went on making his own solo music in his recording studio at home in Henley-on-Thames.
We never found the opportunity to work together after The Beatles broke up. He really did no need a producer, seeming to be so self-contained. I always compare his recording work to the life of a Persian carpet maker who handcrafts an exquisite design with a hundred stitches to the inch. George was like that: indefinitely patient, a fine craftsman always confident that he was producing the right thing. He loved gardening, and he did it on a great scale in his 30-acre estate. Our garden is on a somewhat smaller scale, but we had that love in common. George’s home is a marvellous place, a veritable fairy land of plants and trees, with a large lake that goes underground. It is possible to sail in a small boat through the grotto beneath the lawn, and I used to love seeing him there with his family that he loved - Olivia his beautiful and courageous wife, and Dhani, the son of whom he was so proud.
George was always very kind to his intimate friends. A few years ago I became rather ill and had a series of operations which left me low for a while. Hearing I was under the weather, George rang up and suggested he came over one afternoon. He brought a huge bunch of flowers and a small, beautifully carved statue of the Hindu God Ganesh. “Keep him by your bedside,” he told me, “He will look after you.” I must say, so far he has. It was typical of George to show he cared. His faith never wavered. He was a one-off, a very special person, and we all miss him dreadfully.”
Paul McCartney with George Martin in a studio to record ‘The Family Way’, composed for the film of the same name. A photoshoot for The Sunday Times.