Thread March 12, 2016 editorial: comments
- 8 replies
- 7 participants
- 826 views
- 7 followers
The Contributions of George and Keith
It’s been a rough week in the music business. First we lost legendary producer George Martin, and then yesterday, Keith Emerson, one of the most influential rock keyboardists of all time. While Martin, who died at 90, lived what could only be called a long and successful life, Emerson’s death, a suicide at age 71, was tragic. The reasons aren’t totally clear yet, but it appears that he was depressed over a degenerative nerve condition in his right hand that was making it difficult for him to play.
As musicians, we all fear the loss of motor functions as we age, and for a keyboardist as accomplished as Emerson, it had to be very difficult to face the prospect of his skills being permanently diminished. Still, it’s sad that he wasn’t able to find a way forward despite his physical problems. I’ll remember Emerson most for his aggressive and innovative soloing, and his super-fat synth sounds, especially during his time with Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
As for Martin, my biggest takeaway from his tenure producing the Beatles is that he demonstrated that when it comes to music production, rules are made to be broken. These days we take it for granted — “If it sounds good, do it,” is an accepted production philosophy in 2016. But back in the early ‘60s, when Martin was starting to work with the Beatles, things were very different.
At EMI Studios (later to be renamed Abbey Road Studios) back then, recording was looked upon more as a science than an art. Engineers there literally wore white lab coats and all procedures and techniques for recording were codified and followed to the letter. This almost bureaucratic approach to production had worked fine for classical recordings, which had been the bread and butter at EMI to that point, but it became stifling for the Beatles and Martin, whose creativity eventually caused them to break the rules with regularity.
Martin can also be credited with recognizing the Beatles’ potential when others couldn’t, and helping them grow into the larger-than-life artists and songwriters that they became.
He also helped widen their musical horizons, most notably by convincing them to add classical instrumentation to some of their arrangements, such as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yesterday,” and “Day in the Life.” In (Beatles engineer) Geoff Emerick’s great book, Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Beatles, he describes the recording of the iconic, rising orchestral crescendo in “Day in the Life,” and the hysterical culture clash between the happy-go-lucky and slightly subversive Beatles and the stodgy London classical musicians brought into EMI for that session. If you haven’t read that book, I highly recommend it. It provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the Beatles in the studio, and offers insight into Martin’s prodigious contributions.
Thanks to their enormous talents, both George Martin and Keith Emerson have etched a permanent place for themselves in the history of music, and what musician or producer could ask for more than that?
Pekka J. Poutiainen
[ Post last edited on 03/12/2016 at 16:52:55 ]
Unlike those brash, in-yer-face, unrefined producers, George Martin was in a class of his own - a real gentleman. We could really do with more like him.
Rest in peace. We need to celebrate and learn from their contributions to fine music.
All the best,
Astra: Lead Guitarist, Singer-Songwriter.
Thank you, Mike, for your editorial. We think that this is as eloquent an obituary as we've read anywhere about two of the music scene's greats.
Thank you! Much appreciated. And thanks to everyone who has commented so far.
I get a great deal of insight and inspiration from your coverage of different topics. I remain an avid reader of your editorials.
Hi David--thanks very much for your kind words. I appreciate it a lot.
I invite ALL musicians to read and act upon a very important book about diet and our brains, "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers", by David Perlmutter.
Thanks for letting us know about that book. I am curious to check it out, although a little nervous, because if wheat, carbs and sugar are the brain's silent killers, it's a wonder I have any brain cells at all at this point . Seriously, though, it sounds like an important book, and I will look for it.
- < Thread list
- Watch by email