The Fifth Beatle

George-Martin-conducting-Beatles-300x181

It seems so silly now, but as a kid growing up in sunny SoCal I had a dogged loyalty to our locally grown Beach Boys that required me to “hate” The Beatles, those foreigners with goofy haircuts. I was also absurdly jealous of the adoration they got. From, you know, girls. Duh. As if any other kind of adoration mattered.

Then I heard the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” and I fell in love. I didn’t know it then, but the cupid behind my crush was an unassuming genius named George (eventually Sir George) Martin, the producer who relentlessly pushed the Beatles to try new things, including that impossibly addictive opening chord.

Like a knight, Sir George rescued the maiden Beatles from obscurity as “one-time pop idols,” dragging them off to his castle-slash-recording studio at Abbey Road, constantly insisting they push themselves beyond the easy to the unimagined, the untried. The immortal.

When Paul McCartney brought in his wrenchingly beautiful song “Yesterday,” Sir George wrote a string accompaniment that supported the melody like the shell supports The-Beatles-George-Martin-the-beatles-33432395-400-400Botticelli’s Venus. “But we’re a band,” Paul said, “we play drums and guitars.” “Just give it a try,” the impetuous knight cajoled.

Sir George played the baroque piano solo on “In My Life.” Wrote and conducted the heartbreaking double string quartet behind “Eleanor Rigby.” Added that adorable piccolo trumpet to “Penny Lane.” Layered and orchestrated the unforgettable closing of John Lennon’s “A Day in the Life.” And on and on and on…

But in a way, the Beatles also rescued George. He was a knight without a quest, a formally trained musician producing spoken language recordings, until a disheveled group of working class geniuses from Liverpool walked into his rented castle. Together they produced a body of music that transcended their individual talents–a collaborative miracle.

Paul called him the one true “grown-up” in the Beatle’s lives, their “second father,” and “the fifth Beatle.” To that, I would add that Sir George was the divine cupid who made everyone–including me–fall in love.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, Popular Culture & Entertainment and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to The Fifth Beatle

  1. Jan Scheyer says:

    Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute to the man behind the Beatles. I have always loved the Beatles (until Sgt Pepper’s… When they lost me for a while). I love him now too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this is really a very touching eulogy.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a beautiful tribute, and very educational too. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Laurie Welch says:

    This is a wonderful tribute, Mitch. I hope it is shared far and wide. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Seems so many with musical talents from our 60’s and 70’s are passing now. Thank goodness their legacy will be assured through the recordings left to us. Beautiful accolade, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Mike Cullen says:

    who rescued who will always be debated but George Martin and The Beatles were made for each other and they accomplished so much more than they ever would have without each other.Mitch if there is any solace I can offer about the Beach Boys it is that their album “Pet Sounds” always takes the number 1 spot in the top 100 albums of all time
    thanks for the post

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I always liked the Beach Boys’ music over the Beatles myself. Perhaps it was the harmonies that caught my attention. But after reading this informative piece I realize what I did like about the Beatles was actually George Martin–and I didn’t even know there was a fifth Beatle behind the scenes. I loved those haunting instrumentals in the background or as interludes. “The Fifth Beatle” offers a memorable lesson about teamwork and working together for a glorious whole. Thank you, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Not to downplay the talents of John, Paul, George, and even Ringo–they’re the greatest band in popular music history, and Sir George would have remained obscure without them. But the five together? A marriage made in music heaven. I love the Beach Boys, Nancy, but consider them a one-genius operation. The Beatles, on the other hand, were a convergence of geniuses, and their body of work is unparalleled, IMHBCO (in my humble but correct opinion ;>).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Opher says:

    Great piece. They complemented each other perfectly. All that experience was just what the Beatles needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One of my brother’s friends once quipped, “They WERE one-dimensional, weren’t they?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      I wouldn’t have called them “one-dimensional.” Paul was a gifted melodist. John was utterly unique. George was great at creating counter-melody guitar lines. And Ringo anchored their songs better than most drummers could have. But they certainly grew under Martin’s influence. Once Paul and John realized (thanks to Bob Dylan’s influence, in particular) that lyrics mattered, they proved to be truly imaginative wordsmiths. But, yes, Sir George opened the door.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The story I commented on involved a facetious quip by my brother’s friend. The Beatles obviously crossed several genres. I find their stylistic range remarkable, and listening to them reminds me of when rock and roll seemed “smarter” somehow.

        Like

  10. Your heartfelt eulogy wonderfully sums up Martin’s life and the way he had touched all our lives, too. Our consolation is all that extraordinary music he produced lives on / immortalizes him. Thanks for liking my tribute, too, and for your comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Side/Dishes says:

    Lovely sentiments, good ear – for you, the opening chord of “Hard Day’s” (actually, my favorite moment on that album – truly an album of openings – is the opening snare of “Any Time At All”…actually, the middle eighth on that song is stupendous too), for me, the opening tape drop of “Tomorrow Never Knows” …so many great moments with George!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sir George I have always greatly admired after I learned who made the Beatles have just that bit of extra-ordinarily difference. That added touch that created their over the top sound. It takes a recording producer with a fine ear and great musical knowledge. There were other studios that also had that touch but Sir George was the first that lead the way. His courage in always pushing the Beatles into trying something just with a little difference, lead to other great studios like Muscle Shoals and Sound City in the States who studied the Beatles sound and followed George’s lead and success. George Martin contributed so much to the sound track of our lives that otherwise we would have never known.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I was going to comment further… but not after you said, “Amen” (JK)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post. Love the story behind the story – or the song in this case. I feel all educated and caught up on my Beatles knowledge now. “A knight without a quest” – – – “a collaborative miracle”. I like that – well said.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Roos Ruse says:

    Great background info, especially about Sir George, the 5th Beatle. I adored them – and The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Righteous Brothers, T-Bones… Also from So. CA, ‘guess I didn’t get the memo we were supposed to hate ’em 😉 Excellent post, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. karlamaye says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for writing this. Sir George is my hero.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    It’s been a little over a year since one of my all-time musical heroes joined the eternal recording session. RIP, old friend.

    Like

  18. Jennie says:

    The Beatles are as fresh in my mind as yesterday. And, the fifth Beatle didn’t get the recognition he deserved back in the day. Brilliant man. Thank goodness he and the Beatles found each other. Terrific and important post, Mitch. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Relax... says:

    Reblogged this on Relax– and commented:
    I’d like to say, “A blast from the past!” but the Beatles are always current, somehow.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. ekurie says:

    Had no idea of the extent to which Martin influenced them. At one time I knew the lyrics to every song up to the White album. (Beach Boys were the only band I saw more than once in concert)

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Great post…especially for a Beatles fan like me! I saw the Beatles in Dallas when I was about 10 or 11! I stood on my chair and screamed the whole time. A friend’s mother took several of us and i think she highly regretted it…the whole place was wild! Just to make you feel better…I absolutely loved the Beach Boys!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. bdeckard92 says:

    Good stuff, love the Beatles and the Beach Boys, my first album was Endless Summer (ok it was my sister’s but I “borrowed” sort of… for ever), and then later I found the Beatles. Of course this was all in the 70’s and 80’s so I was way behind the times and probably just as far out of style with my musical taste.

    Liked by 1 person

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