George Martin ‘never took a second drink’

George Martin ‘never took a second drink’


norman lebrecht

March 09, 2016

Sir George Martin, who has passed away at 90, was either sharper than all his rivals or a very lucky man. He signed the Beatles for Parlophone, the smallest of EMI’s labels, after they were rejected by Decca and couldn’t get a hearing elsewhere.

He then tweaked them in studio into a world-changing ensemble.

Much nonsense has been, and still is, spouted about him. The BBC’s arts editor Will Gomperts has just said on the Today programme that he was a conductor to their orchestra, without him they couldn’t play together. Pure tosh.

Martin was a trained oboist and pianist who knew what worked. Once he had speeded up Please Please Me and got the Beatles into the charts, he introduced them to other possibilities. It was Martin who suggested a string quartet for Yesterday and a piccolo trumpet for Penny Lane.

London orchestra players were often hanging loose at Abbey Road and happy to help out. Here’s a list of the classical players Martin hired.

As a person – he lived locally, I interviewed him twice – he was quiet, modest, discreet, a family man. He wore a tie. He gave the impression he never took a second drink, let alone tried a drug.

Martin left EMI to become an independent studio producer. But the Beatles had overturned music perceptions and he never broke another mega-band.

george martin

His death was announced on Twitter by Ringo Starr. May he rest in peace.

UPDATE: A crucial part of Beatles chemistry.


  • Anne63 says:

    On the “list of the classical players Martin hired”, Jack Bremer should almost certainly be Jack Brymer.

  • Eddie Mars says:

    Although the texture on Eleanor Rigby may be mainly four-part, in fact there are two players per part – a scratch octet was assembled for the recording.

    Wikipedia credits the personnel on the track:

  • Delphine1962 says:

    Hello Norman, He was sharper than most, no question. He was also a super man and I very grateful to you for writiing such warm notifications about George.

  • Delphine1962 says:!

  • Nick says:

    One of the recordings Martin produced after the Beatles had split up was John Rutter’s 3-movement Beatles Concerto conceived and performed by the duo pianists Rostal and Shaefer and the RLPO. It’s interesting to hear the melodies in a more orchestral setting peppered with occasional nods to Rachmaninov and Grieg.

    • Eddie Mars says:

      Yes, well, and not forgetting Joshua Rifkin’s magnificent 1965 opus

      [Of course, it predated Yellow Submarine, so potential thematic material from that album never made it to the Court of the Elector of Hannover]

    • Eddie Mars says:

      Nor should we forget those ‘George Martin’ aspects of the Fab Four that became so distinctive as to make them targets for loving hommage :))

      The wistful “Eleanor Rigby” story of a statue to a completely forgotten individual, now remembered mainly because it needs monthly cleaning… a nice harpsichord riff from Neil Innes… and a spoof piccolo trumpet at the end 🙂

      Of course “Urban Spaceman” was produced by “Apollo C Vermouth” (Paul McCartney putting his lesson from Martin into practice..)