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George Martin signed the Beatles for peanuts
by Katie Hickox, What Goes On News
"They (the Beatles) would have signed for nothing and I signed them to a recording contract for peanuts," Sir George Martin revealed during last night's Special Presentation of "The Making of Sgt. Pepper" given at the University of Southern California by the Grammy Foundation.
For nearly 2 hours, Sir George Martin kept the packed audience spellbound with his fabulous stories about how he got into the business of making music starting back in 1950 with EMI's Parlophone label at Abbey Road Studios, and then produced albums ranging from Petter Sellars comedy, to Scottish Dance music, and also childrens' records. This diverse background helped prepare him immensely to keep an open mind when it came to evaluating and finding new talent such as the Beatles. Martin admits that he has been blessed with being at the right place at the right time and that "Good timing is essential for good luck."
George Martin at Abbey Road with the Beatles in 1963
"I was lucky in that I recognized talent in them," despite Brian having originally played songs in early February 1962 from Decca's audition tapes that he told Brian he wasn't interested in, but "gave him a lifeline" because Brian had so much faith about the Beatles and offered Brian to further evaluate them, by having play some songs in the studio. It wasn't until early June of 1962 that George saw the Beatles audition and that's when he "fell for their cheeky charm." He also admits that if he had known that three other producers at EMI had already turned Brian down along with every other major recording label in London, he would have turned Brian down as well.
After going through the history of how several of the songs on the Sergeant Pepper album was made, he spent time discussing how instrumental Beatles Manager Brian Epstein was and claims that if Brian hadn't come along to manage them, they would never have had the success they had as the Beatles. "Individually they may have written and published a few songs" and be known as a very popular Liverpool local band in England, but wouldn't have gotten the worldwide fame they achieved. "His faith (in the Beatles) never wavered." It was because of Brian's faith in the Beatles that made George agree to invite the Beatles to Abbey Road Studios in early June of 1962 and play a few songs. It was their charisma and humor that won George over. Unfortunately, "Brian Epstein has been sadly forgotten" as a result of his early death on August 27, 1967.
The making of the album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heartclub Band "heralded a new way of making music and the beginning of of a new adventure" that has forever changed how music is produced. Martin would then show a pre-recorded video clip of him at Abbey Road Studios playing different songs from the Sergeant Pepper album and changing the different recording control levers to show how different tracks for the base, vocals, strings, sound effects can change the sound such as Strawberry Fields which ended up being left off the Sgt Pepper album although it was the first song that he worked on for the Pepper album. As a special treat, Martin played a clip of an early demo version of Strawberry Fields that is very different from the final single.
He also discussed his work with Cirque de Soleil's production of LOVE currently playing at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, and revealed for the first time that he was contacted back in 2000/2002 and then secretly spent three years, from 2003 to 2006, at Abbey Road Studios with his son Giles, to archive and transfer from tape to digital all of the Beatles recordings that were originally produced on tape. From the digital format, he says that it was much easier to rework, remix and remaster the Beatles music for the LOVE production.
Sir George Martin mentioned that a multi-episode documentary is in the works regarding his recording career and his work with the Beatles, but didn't mention when this will be aired. Several pre-recorded video clips filmed at Abbey Road Studios in London were shown during the 2 hour presentation in which Martin demonstrated his work with several songs from Sergeant Pepper's album.
Published July 12, 2008