Nobody cares what I think, but the Beatles have been such a huge part of my life that I want to leave this comment here.
I don’t particularly like talk of 5th Beatles, whether it’s Stu Sutcliffe, Pete Best, Billy Preston or George Martin being referred to. There were four Beatles and they worked with a number of collaborators over the years, who all contributed something to the band, even if the contribution was negative. Because Stu couldn’t play and left, McCartney was forced to pick up the bass. And because he was a musical prodigy, he played the bass for the Beatles better than anybody else could have. Because George Martin was a different kind of producer, he gave the Beatles room to be creative in ways that pop producers usually don’t.
George Martin was indeed remarkable. You know this because the Beatles’ records sounded better than anybody else’s at the time. While the first album sounded a bit rough and ready, from With the Beatles through to Abbey Road, they sounded exceptional.
You also know he was special because you’ve heard of him. Sinatra’s Songs For Swingin’ Lovers sounds excellent, but who produced it?
The other thing about Martin was that he somehow nurtured the four geniuses who had been handed to him, giving them the space to invent, in a very few years, the extraordinary legacy they left to popular music. They were geniuses, but in anybody else’s hands, perhaps, The Beatles would have been blocked, frustrated, steered, manipulated, creatively killed. Record producers did not traditionally allow artists to bring songs to their sessions. And certainly didn’t encourage the kind of wild and self-indulgent experimentation that led to the Rubber Souls and beyond.
And we know, to an absolute, that The Beatles were unparalleled with or without Martin because the likes of Matt Monro, Cilla Black, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, and The Fourmost (all produced by Martin) never managed to come up with a Rubber Soul, a Revolver, a Sgt. Pepper (etc.) with Martin in the control room. It is known, as they say on Game of Thrones (threw that line in to confuse Google). And in these times of uncertainty, to be as absolutely sure of something as we are of George Martin and the Beatles is a rare and precious thing.
Well done, George. You left a dent in the universe.