By Hans Ebert
It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry, and it too often takes a death to bring everything into perspective.
When John Lennon was fatally shot, many of us went numb. We stopped whatever we were doing, and became one in our sadness. We didn’t need social media to come together. Just his music- all those songs with the Beatles and the music he created on his own.
A few months ago, we lost David Bowie, and the world mourned the passing of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke and a musical chameleon who never ever stopped creating and changing. Even in death, he’s creating. And then there’s Sir George Martin.
George Martin wasn’t a rock star, but he was part of the greatest band in pop history. He was “the fifth Beatle”, but he was more of scientist- possibly even a mad scientist following working with The Goons- the erratic, but brilliant Peter Sellers, the odd humour of Harry Secombe and the completely mad Spike Milligan- three very different personalities a young journalist had the privilege to interview at various stages in their lives.
Producing this level of barking mad creativity would have prepared him for the metamorphosis and complete overhaul and creative evolvement of four average musicians from Liverpool with enormously untapped potential. George Martin helped realise this potential, and the world needs to be eternally grateful for this. Imagine a world with no Beatles- and their songs. It’s not easy even if you try.
George Martin’s association with the Goons- he was probably “the fourth Goon”- and the Beatles’ great respect for their anarchist humour during an otherwise extremely conservative time in the world, no doubt made this partnership click. Just listen to their recording of “You Know My Name (Look Up My Number)”.
The relationship and partnership between George Martin and the Beatles was something along the lines of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice before the Apprentices passed the audition and left the nest. But they never really left.
Some Beatles might have worked with Phil Spector, but the end results were never the same. They were Phil Spector recordings with George and John relegated to playing second fiddle.
Paul knew better. When it mattered, when there was a need for horns and string arrangements to take a good simple song and make it better, he came to his old mentor. The results always were magic.
No Beatle ever needed to play second fiddle to anyone. They hadn’t travelled all the way from Liverpool and Hamburg to Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane and got into that yellow submarine with the Blue Meanies, became Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, walked past Abbey Road and crossed all those other long and winding roads to be anyone’s puppets. They were always the masters of their own destiny. George Martin made sure of that. Apart from their musical creativity, they now knew their way around a recording studio. They were in complete control of their art.
When the Beatles first walked into Abbey Road Studios and were given eleven hours to record their first album with this classically trained arranger and producer, it was like popular music going down the rabbit hole, and finally making everything curiouser and curiouser. We never recovered from the results. We didn’t want to. We wanted to stay in that rabbit hole and say Goodbye to the world outside. Some of us still want to and probably have one foot in both worlds.
Sitting at the races last night at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong on a rain-lashed night with friends, strangers and acquaintances, my thoughts were with the passing of Sir George Martin and all the music he produced with the Beatles, and which led me elsewhere. It had me thinking about my parents, and how much I miss them. How I could not- and refused- to say goodbye to my father. I thought about my wedding day, the birth of my daughter, the death of my dog whose death saw the end of my marriage, and just how far people, who were once meant to love each other until death do us part, can drift apart and live in some very sad Never Never Land.
This soundtrack to my life was playing in my head. Everything else was blocked out. They weren’t important enough to enter. They weren’t even minor distractions. They were simply put, irrelevant.
I couldn’t wait to get back home, Loretta, and relive a part of my life that will never pass this way again- a part of my life that lives on, thanks to those four horsemen of the apocalypse and all their magical mystery tours with a very magical musician and the greatest producer of music. What a trip it’s been. Thanks for the ride, Sir George- and John, Paul, Ringo and George.