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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Fifth Beatle: George Martin

If anyone has the rightful claim to the title "The Fifth Beatle", it’s surely the man responsible for producing most of the band’s music. Ironically, it was George Martin’s credentials as the man who produced comedy albums by Peter Sellers which initially won him the respect of John Lennon, a lifelong Goons fan.

George Martin
George Martin
©Popperfoto / Alamy
Martin’s other "novelty" hits included Charlie Drake’s "My Boomerang Won’t Come Back" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" by Rolf Harris – the Antipodean connection was a mere coincidence.

As producer for Liverpool artists Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas (all managed by Brian Epstein), Martin was also largely responsible for creating what became known as The Mersey Sound.

Sir George Martin CBE was born on January 3, 1926 in Holloway, north London. After a stint in the RAF, he studied music at the Guildhall School and joined the BBC’s classical music department. In 1950, he took up the post of assistant to Oscar Preuss, head of Parlophone Records at EMI. After taking over the label when Preuss retired, Martin’s first productions were classical and Baroque music, and regional British music.

The Beatles - and other collaborations

By the time Brian Epstein brought the Beatles to audition for Martin in 1962, they had been rejected by every major British label. Though unimpressed with the raw-sounding Liverpudlians, he signed them to Parlophone. With the exception of the ill-fated Let It Be album, George Martin not only produced every Beatles recording but also wrote the orchestral and instrumental arrangements, as well as taking up keyboard duties on many of their early records. On Sgt. Pepper, his most notable contributions were the orchestral finale for "A Day In The Life"; the piano-playing on "Lovely Rita" and the "circus" sounds for "Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite".

In 1965, Martin set up Associated Independent Recording (AIR), which enabled him to hire out his services to other artists, complete with his own state-of-the-art AIR Studios. Apart from the Beatles and their Liverpool contemporaries, the roster of artists Martin has worked with is eclectic and surprising, including comedy duo Flanders and Swann, Ultravox, Jeff Beck, Aerosmith, Celine Dion and a certain Paul Raven – who became better known in the 1970s as Gary Glitter. Other less-lauded works have produced Elton John’s maudlin 1997 reworking of "Candle In The Wind", to commemorate the death of Princess Diana, and Paul McCartney’s sugary duets with Stevie Wonder - "Ebony And Ivory" - and Michael Jackson - "Say, Say, Say".

Martin oversaw post-production on the 1994/95 The Beatles Anthology but, after suffering a hearing loss, handed over further duties to ELO supremo Jeff Lynne.

George Martin was knighted in 1996; his coat of arms is decorated with beetles and bears the motto "All you need is love" in Latin. In October 2006, he announced that Love, a Cirque du Soleil spectacular set to 90 minutes of remixed Beatles music, would be his last production work.