Mark Ronson And Pink Floyd’s Alan Parsons Discuss Legacy Of Beatles Producer George Martin In New Interview
Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Press
“I highly doubt there is one song I have ever worked on that didn’t have some influence of [Beatles prodcuer] George Martin,” Mark Ronson has shared with Ameican Songwriter reporter Paul Zollo.
His statement comes from a new feature where Ronson, Peter Asher, Pink Floyd engineer Alan Parsons, and others reflect on Martin’s significant influence upon popular culture.
“He had genuine respect for [the Beatles’] songwriting,” Ronson tells Zollo, “and a real recognition for how ambitious they were creatively. They were about moving forward always.”
Martin’s involvement with the Beatles cannot be understated.
After making a name for himself in comedy and novelty albums at EMI an ambitious young Martin was instrumental in persuading the label to sign the Beatles.
Working with the Fab Four, Martin would play on several of the Beatles’ greatest hits, from ‘Love Me Do’ right up until Abbey Road.
Perhaps most notable were his piano contributions – an instrument which the Fab Four had little skill with – and his arrangements, which were helped in a small degree by Martin’s background in classical music.
“He was a true musician,” Alan Parsons notes. “He spoke the musician’s language. He had perfect pitch, and could speak to bands about what chords or notes they were playing without actually sitting down at the piano. He was always respectful of the artist, never trying to inject too much of himself into what he did. He wasn’t interested in being a dictatorial producer.”
Martin spoke in what the Beatles termed a “posh” accent, but like them, he had come from a lower-middle-class background.
“So many elements he introduced,” Mark Ronson adds, “which are part of our vocabulary: slapback echo on the vocals, the backwards tape, using a string section on a pop ballad. The big medley on Abbey Road is a production masterpiece. The tape loops on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ The heavy density of the drum sound on Abbey Road and ‘Come Together.’ They were breaking down production barriers every time they went into the studio. Their use of multitracking was unprecedented.”
Many termed Martin The Fifth Beatle.
Martin would embrace the title though it would breed resentment amongst the Beatles, particularly John Lennon.
Paul McCartney was more accepting of Martin’s talents and would work with him again while part of Wings.
“All the way through, he gently allowed [the Beatles] to evolve,” Ronson reflects, “and was there to realize their visions onto tape. Paul and John were always trying to outdo each other, outdo Brian Wilson and whoever else they were thinking about. They wanted to keep pushing further, and George encouraged and enabled that progression. There is nothing dated about what they did. They found that extra magic element that is the difference between what is good and what is extraordinary.”
Ronson himself has several chart-topping singles and albums under his belt, most famously working with Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and many more.
After a successful post-Beatles career, Martin was eventually afflicted with a deafness which forced him to retire.
George passed away in 2016, but his work is continued by son Giles Martin who has had an active hand in several Beatles boxed sets and reissues.
You can read the complete American Songwriting feature here.