george martin and the beatles -- 3/02/15

Today's selection -- From Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years by Mark Lewisohn. George Martin was the EMI Records producer whose skill and penchant for innovation helped propel the Beatles to superstardom. But in 1962, when the Beatle's manager Brian Epstein was going from producer to producer unsuccessfully trying to get a record deal, Martin was one of many who turned him down:

"Precisely what propelled Brian [Epstein] ... to the office of George Martin may never be known. ... Whatever the reason, George Martin's desk diary for February 13, 1962, includes Judy Lockhart Smith's lightly penciled untimed entry for 'Bernard Epstein.'

"Brian was chancing his arm at EMI, trying to wrest a Yes where there'd been a No. The recording managers had already turned down the Beatles on the basis of their appearance on the Tony Sheridan disc; Brian must have been hoping this wouldn't be remembered, and that he might score a better result with a personal approach and different product. It could also be that he was after any appointment at EMI House and George Martin was the only man available -- two of his three A&R colleagues, Norman Newell and Norrie Paramor, were on holiday this week. ...

"George's day was filled with appointments, and when he arrived he wouldn't have been able to give his visitor much time. The two sat across a desk -- one man aged 36, the other 27, both in smart suits and ties, and with polite, cultured voices that had benefited from self-improvement. Brian was desperate but trying not to seem so, George was tolerant, pleasant and in a position of power. Brian told him about the Beatles, saying how big they were in Liverpool and affecting surprise when George said he hadn't heard of them. This somewhat riled his host: as George would reflect, 'I almost asked him in reply where Liverpool was -- the thought of anything coming out of the provinces was extraordinary.'

George Martin with Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in 1967.

"Interpreting the way Brian remembered the meeting, there was probably time to hear only one of his new-cut records -- a ten-inch 78 acetate with "Hello Little Girl" on one side and "Till There Was You" on the other. He'd written the essential details on the labels in blue fountain-pen. With limited space, and constantly keen to demonstrate the Beatles had more than one singer, he wrote that "Hullo Little Girl" (sic) was John Lennon & The Beatles -- adding too the songwriting credit Lennon, McCartney -- and that "Til There Was You" (sic) was Paul McCartney & The Beatles.

"Brian's recollection two years later was that 'George liked Hello Little Girl, Till There Was You, Liked George on guitar. Thought Paul was the one for discs' ...

"It would he a long time before anyone else got to hear the Decca recording of "Till There Was You," and express wonderment first that Brian had selected it -- this was the number where John said Paul 'sounded like a woman' and Pete's timing was all over the place -- and second that George Martin, from this, thought Paul best for recording and liked George's guitar playing. This was perhaps George's worst guitar work of the day. ("Hello Little Girl" was reasonable, though.) ...

"George Martin would remember the meeting quite differently. In his first lengthy quote on the subject -- a Melody Maker interview nine years later -- he specifically mentioned "Your Feet's Too Big" being on the tape (sic) Brian played him, and added, 'I wasn't knocked out at all -- it was a pretty lousy tape, recorded in a hack room, very badly balanced, not very good songs and a rather raw group.' This strongly suggests he wasn't listening to the Beatles' Decca test but a recording of which nothing else is known.

"So, the meeting came to an end with George not 'knocked out at all.'He kept the acetate and might have said he would get in touch if he was interested in hearing more, but he wasn't and he didn't. It was just another disappointing encounter for Brian, one of way too many for his liking. He was having a far harder job selling the Beatles than expected."


Mark Lewisohn


Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years


Crown Archetype


Copyright 2013 by Mark Lewisohn


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