Wednesday, March 09, 2016

George Martin: Star Maker

If the - rather overused - term ‘the fifth Beatle’ applied to anyone, it had to be Sir George Martin who has died at the age on ninety. A talented teenage musical protege, by the middle of the 1950s George, whilst still in his twenties, was the head of A&R at the EMI subsidiary Parlophone Records and made a reputation for the label with a series of timeless comedy novelty hits by artists like Charlie Drake, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Rolf Harris, Bernard Cribbins and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. (As a side-note, it's often suggested that Parlophone was entirely devoid of pop acts before The Beatles came along but that's, actually, a fallacy; the label boasted one of Britain's biggest solo-stars of the early-sixties, Adam Faith.) But, anyway, a chance meeting with Brian Epstein in early 1962 – they were introduced by the music publisher Sid Coleman - saw George signing Epstein's then unknown Liverpool beat combo The Beatles to the label. George subsequently became the band's producer, musical arranger and the interpreter of the increasingly experimental and unconventional musical ideas that the quartet presented him with. As Peter Asher - for whom George also produced a number one hit single - once noted: 'Sometimes George's genius was knowing when to jump in and offer musical advice; sometimes it was knowing when to go down to the canteen and have a cup of tea, letting them get on with whatever they were up to.' Enough credit cannot be given to George with regard to the development of The Beatles; he spotted very early the astounding talent that he was working with. Besides his own instrumental contributions (think of any keyboards played on a Beatles record pre-1965 and, chances are, it was George playing it), his innovative and clever arrangements for many songs were simply revolutionary. George encouraged Paul McCartney's growing interest in classical music and had his own imagination fired by the complex, outré left-field production ideas that John Lennon would challenge him with (listen to 'Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite', for example, and you can, as Lennon reportedly wished, 'smell the sawdust'). An articulate, kindly and generous commentator on the extraordinary body of work he oversaw, George - who retired in 1998 - was a thorough gentleman and retained the affection of all Beatles fans. Without him, the band would probably still have made it - they were too talented not to - but their records would have sounded very different. George's calm demeanour and technical expertise allowed the band to indulge in their wildest and most elaborate ideas. That, alone, set him apart from the Norrie Paramors that dominated record production in the early 1960s.
George, whose production skills it is probably fair to say, helped to define the sound of British popular music, died at his home on Tuesday evening. His family thanked everyone 'for their thoughts, prayers and messages of support.' Ringo Starr broke the news to the wider world on Twitter and led tributes, saying that George 'will be missed.' 'I have so many wonderful memories of this great man that will be with me forever,' added Sir Paul McCartney. 'He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humour that he became a true friend to me and my family. I am proud to have known such a fine gentleman with such a keen sense of humour, who had the ability to poke fun at himself. Even when he was knighted by the Queen there was never the slightest trace of snobbery about him.'
George's career spanned seven decades; in that time he produced more than seven hundred records, wrote several film scores and worked with some of music's greatest talents. His technical knowledge and love of trying different things saw him produce incredible sounds from equipment that modern musicians would consider stone age primitive. In addition to The Beatles, he also worked with artists including Shirley Bassey and The Beatles' Mersey stablemates Gerry & The Pacemakers (three number ones with their first three singles), Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, The Foremost, Peter & Gordon and Cilla Black - the latter of whose body of work, particularly in the mid-1960s, in this blogger opinion almost matches that of George's Beatles productions. He also made a bunch of glorious - though, sadly, unsuccessful - singles with the London Mod group The Action. George produced two of the best-known James Bond themes, 'Goldfinger' by Bassey in 1964 and 'Live & Let Die' by Paul McCartney & Wings in 1973. He also composed and produced the latter film's score. Among the other classic recordings which you probably didn't realise George Martin produced were Matt Munro's 'Portrait Of My Love', 'You're Driving Me Crazy' by The Temperance Seven, Mandy Miller's perennial children's favourite 'Nellie The Elephant', The Ron Goodwin Orchestra's majestic theme from the movie 633 Squadron, Peter Sellers' Richard III-style rendition of 'A Hard Day's Night', The London Philharmonic Orchestra's version of 'The Lark Ascending', Johnny Spence & His Orchestra's 'The Doctor Kildare Theme', Ella Fitzgerald's cover of 'Can't Buy Me Love' and two recordings by Sidney Torch which became much-loved BBC radio themes 'Coronation Scot' (used on Paul Temple) and 'Barwick Green' (better known as the music from The Archers). His own favourites among a lifetime of work included The Mahavishnu Orchestra's spine-tingling 1974 recording 'Smile Of The Beyond'. He also produced dozens of records with his own orchestra - most widely heard on the second side of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine soundtrack or on the movie score The Family Way (1966) which he helped Paul McCartney to create. For many years George's 'Theme One' was the music that helped to wake-up Britain each morning on Radio 1. The extraordinary variety of genres covered in the records that George produced across his career can be best exemplified by the woderful six-CD retrospective, Produced By George Martin, released in 2001.
George's deeper musical expertise helped to fill the gaps between The Beatles' initially unrefined talent and the sound that distinguished them from other contemporary groups and eventually made them the most successful popular beat combo in the history of, you know, history. Most of The Beatles' orchestral arrangements (as well as frequent keyboard parts on their early records) were performed by George. It was, for instance, George's idea to put a string quartet on the world's most covered song, 'Yesterday', despite McCartney's initial reluctance. Martin played the song in the style of Bach to show McCartney the voicings which were available and that string music didn't have to 'sound like Mantovani.' Another example is 'Penny Lane', which featured a piccolo trumpet solo. McCartney, who suggested the instrument's use after hearing a Bach recital on BBC2, is reported to have hummed the melody line that he wanted and George notated it for David Mason, the classically trained trumpeter, to play on the record. Martin's distinctive arranging work appears on many Beatles recordings. For 'Eleanor Rigby' he scored and conducted an influential wintery string-only accompaniment inspired by Bernard Herrmann's work on the movie Fahrenheit 451. For 'Strawberry Fields Forever', George and engineer Geoff Emerick turned two very different takes of the song into a single master through careful use of vari-speed and editing despite the two being in different keys and tempos. 'You'll think of something, George' Lennon reportedly said when George has pointed this out, confident in Martin's abilities to perform miracles. On 'I Am The Walrus', George provided the quirky arrangement for brass, violins, cellos and The Mike Sammes Singers. On 'In My Life', he played the much-admired speeded-up baroque piano solo and it was his idea to use a backwards tape of Lennon's voice on the end of 'Rain'. He worked closely with McCartney to implement the orchestral 'climax' to 'A Day In The Life' and he and Paul shared conducting duties on the day that it was recorded with a forty piece orchestra in Abbey Road Studio One. Famously, George had walked out of the band's first recording session in June 1962, leaving his engineers to supervise the recording of 'Besame Mucho' whilst he went to the canteen for a cuppa. But, when the group started playing 'Love Me Do', a tape operator was dispatched to fetch him from the basement. It was the start of the most productive producer-musician relationship in modern pop - although The Beatles at first weren't ready to accept this suave, besuited, brylcreamed Londoner into their inner circle. As that initial session finished and the band listened to the playback, Martin asked if there was anything they didn't like. 'For a start,' George Harrison allegedly replied, 'I don't like your tie.' Luckily, Martin - a man who had shared a studio with Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, et al - elected to see the funny side of such scallywag teenage malarkey and, together, the quintet would rewrite the rule book of popular music. After The Beatles disbanded, Martin worked with artists as varied as America, Sting - but, Hell, we'll just have to try and forgive him for that - Jose Carreras, Celine Dion and Stan Getz among many others.
George Henry Martin was born on 3 January 1926 into a working class family in Highbury, North London. His parents, a carpenter and a cleaner, wanted 'a safe civil servant's job' for their son. George's mother, whose relations ran the distribution vans for the Evening Standard, was a Roman Catholic and as a teenager, George won a scholarship to St Ignatius's, a Jesuit-run college in Stamford Hill. When war broke out, George moved with his family to the relative safety of Bromley in Kent, where he attended the local grammar school (fifteen years ahead of Peter Frampton and David Bowie). His passion for music really began when The London Symphony Orchestra, under Sir Adrian Boult, played a concert in the school hall. 'It was absolutely magical. Hearing such glorious sounds, I found it difficult to connect them with ninety men and women blowing into brass and wooden instruments or scraping away at strings with horsehair bows. I could not believe my ears.' Despite George's continued interest in music and 'fantasies about being the next Rachmaninov', he did not initially choose music as a career. He worked briefly as a trainee quantity surveyor and then for the War Office as a clerk which, he said, 'meant filing paperwork and making tea.' In 1943, when he was seventeen, George joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and became an aerial observer and a commissioned officer. The war ended before George was involved in combat and he left the service in 1947. Encouraged by Sidney Harrison, a member of the Committee for the Promotion of New Music, George used his war veteran's grant to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1947 to 1950, where he studied piano and oboe and developed a particular interest in the music of Rachmaninov and Ravel. 'I wasn't good enough for the London Symphony, that's for sure,' he told Desert Island Discs in 1996. George's oboe teacher at Guildford was Margaret Eliot, the mother of Peter and Jane Asher. On 3 January 1948 - while still at the Academy - George married Sheena Chisholm, with whom he had two children, Alexis and Gregory (who became a successful writer, actor and theatre producer). George later remarried his secretary Judy Lockhart-Smith in June 1966 and they also had two children, Lucie and Giles (the latter of whom followed his father's career as a record producer). After graduation George spent a brief period at the BBC's classical music department before applying for a job at EMI. When he began, as an assistant at Parlophone in 1950, master discs were still being cut live in the studio on hot wax and EMI had just made the (commercially disastrous) decision not to manufacture the new-fangled long-playing records, continuing instead to offer symphony-length music to the public on multiple 78rpm singles, each of which held just five minutes of the work. The success of a recording was judged not by how fresh the interpretation was, but by how faithful it was to the original. It was practices such as these that George was determined to change, though for much of his time at EMI he struggled in vain to persuade his superiors of their necessity. The patience and tact that he learned from dealing with such temperamental maestri as Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir Thomas Beecham stood him in good stead, but even so he gained a reputation as something of a maverick. Five years later, at the age of just twenty nine, as head of the Parlophone label, he was working with artists such as Shirley Bassey, Matt Munro and the jazz bands of Johnny Dankworth and Humphrey Lyttleton.
There were perhaps no more than a dozen producers in Britain at the time, and most of the others looked at him askance when, having been promoted in 1955, George began to deviate from Parlophone’s rigid formula of classical music, Scottish dance bands - notably Jimmy Shand - and traditional jazz. Martin boldly turned to new talents, like Dankworth and Lyttleton, as well as comedians. George famously produced numerous comedy and novelty records for which, until The Beatles came along, he was probably best known. He scored his first hit for Parlophone in 1952 with the Peter Ustinov single 'Mock Mozart' – a record reluctantly released by EMI only after the label's then head, George's mentor Oscar Preuss, insisted they give his young assistant a chance. Later that decade Martin worked with Peter Sellers on several hit singles and came to know Sellers' comedy partner Spike Milligan, with whom George became a close friend (he was best man at Milligan's second marriage): 'I loved The Goon Show and issued an album of it on my label, which is how I got to know Spike,' George recalled. The LP was Bridge On The River Wye (1962), a spoof of the movie The Bridge On The River Kwai and based on a 1957 Goon Show episode An African Incident. The LP included not only Milligan and Sellers but also Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook, playing various characters. Other comedians George worked with included Sellers and Sophia Loren ('Goodness Gracious Me'), Bernard Cribbins ('The Hole In The Ground', 'Right Said Fred'), Charlie Drake ('My Boomerang Won't Come Back'), Terry Scott ('My Brother'), Michael Bentine ('The Football Results'), Rolf Harris ('Sun Arise', 'Jake The Peg'), Michael Flanders & Donald Swann ('A Transport Of Delights'), Lance Percival, Joan Sims, John Cleese, Bill Oddie, Ian Wallace ('The Hippopotamus Song'), The Alberts ('Morse Code Melody') and The Master Singers. George also worked with both Jim Dale and The Vipers Skiffle Group, with whom he had a number of hits in the late 1950s. In early 1962, under the pseudonym Ray Cathode, George released an early electronic dance single, 'Time Beat' recorded at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in much the same style as Delia Derbyshire's adaptation of the Doctor Who theme a year later.
As a producer, George recorded the two-man show featuring Flanders and Swann, At The Drop Of A Hat and, even more successfully, the live Beyond The Fringe cast LP, with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller. He would also produce the soundtrack LP for David Frost's satirical BBC TV show That Was the Week That Was in 1963 and Millicent Martin's hit version of the theme tune. George's work by the early 1960s had transformed the profile of Parlophone from 'a sad little company' to a very profitable business.
In 1962, Brian Epstein (with whom George would become a close friend until Epstein's untimely death in 1967) introduced George to The Beatles. They had been rejected by every major record label in London and George himself was, initially, far more impressed by their personalities and wit (that infamous 'don't like your tie' comment) than by their music. 'They were raucous,' George later remembered. 'Not very in tune. They weren't, frankly, very good.' Nevertheless, George took a punt and signed The Beatles on a one year contract. Having ventured to Liverpool to see the group rock the fuckin' shack at The Cavern one night, George quickly understood that it was their collective energy and cheeky-chappie Scouse humour that might make them into stars as much as their musical ability. He was also instrumental in persuading the band to replace their then-drummer, Pete Best, with one who would be steadier for recording purposes, yer actual Ringo Starr. 'Love Me Do' duly became The Beatles first hit in late 1962 and, thus began probably the most successful recording studio partnership of all time. Two other decisions of George's were to prove of crucial significance. Firstly, having realised that EMI were unlikely to give enough of a push to four unknowns from the provinces, he persuaded his friend Dick James - whose hit theme song from The Adventures Of Robin Hood George had produced a decade earlier - to set up a publishing company, Northern Songs, to promote their music; by turning down the offer of shares in the business himself (feeling that, as the employee of a rival company, it would not be right of him to accept them) George missed out on potential millions. Secondly, against his better judgement, he allowed the group to record another of their own tunes for their second single in preference to a potential hit song that he had found for them, Mitch Murray's How Do You Do It?' Until then, very few musicians wrote their own songs and George was not yet, he said, convinced of the quality of Lennon and McCartney’s material. He relented in the case of 'Please Please Me'. For the next eight years George helped to guide The Fab Four from the bright pop sound of 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' and 'She Loves You' to the ambitious experimentation of Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road. It was a steep learning curve for both producer and musicians. George had limited experience of pop music and the band had little idea how a recording studio worked. George's main talent lay in his ability to translate the adventurous ideas of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr into practical recording terms. While McCartney could usually express his requirements, Lennon was often more vague and obscure. If he was searching for what he called 'an orange sound', it would became George's task to realise it. But, by and large, it all worked out splendidly. In a 1975 interview with the BBC's The Old Grey Whistle Test, Lennon - who had, on occasions, been rather spiteful and meanspirited about Martin's contributions  after The Beatles' break-up - said that it was a true partnership. 'Some people say George Martin did all of it, some say The Beatles did everything. It was neither one. We did a lot of learning together.' All this was being achieved, of course, on what would now be considered archaic recording equipment which would be pushed to the limit for the recording of Sgt Pepper. At the time, EMI still only had four-track tape machines (until late 1968) so George, and his engineers - including Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott and Phil McDonald, all of whom would go on to become producers themselves - devised a technique whereby a number of tracks were recorded and then mixed down onto a single track giving the flexibility of a modern multi-tracked studio.
George also made much use of recording different tracks at various tape speeds to change the texture of the final sound, a technique used to extraordinary effect on songs like 'Rain', 'Yellow Submarine', 'I'm Only Sleeping', 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds', 'Baby, You're A Rich Man' and 'Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite'. The harmony between band and producer suffered one of its rare hiccups in 1967 when George was temporarily unavailable and McCartney brought in another producer - Mike Leander - to arrange the strings on 'She's Leaving Home'. By The White Album, George was working with a number of different artists and The Beatles produced many of the songs themselves or with his assistant, Chris Thomas, whilst George went off on holiday.
Post-Beatles, George worked with Paul Winter on his 1972 Icarus LP, which was recorded in a rented house by the sea in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Winter said that George taught him 'how to use the studio as a tool' and allowed him to record the LP in a relaxed atmosphere, which was different from the pressurised control in a professional studio. George also worked with John McLaughlin and The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Stackridge, America, Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick, John Williams, Jimmy Webb, Neil Sedaka, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, UFO, The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton (on the soundtrack to the disastrous Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie) and Ultravox. In 1991, he contributed the string arrangement and conducted the orchestra for the song 'Ticket To Heaven' on the last Dire Straits studio LP On Every Street. In 1992, George worked with Pete Townshend on the musical stage production of Tommy. The play opened on Broadway in 1993, with the original cast CD being released that summer and George won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album a yer later. In 1997, he produced Elton John's re-write of 'Candle In The Wind', which went on to become the biggest-selling single of all time. In the 1960s, annoyed by the lack of support he received from EMI (infamously, in 1963, the company didn't even give him a Christmas bonus as, due to a recent small raise in his salary, he 'did not qualify'. This despite the fact that he had produced records which had occupied the top slot in the UK singles charts for thirty seven of the fifty two weeks of that year) George left Parlophone and set up his own independent production company, AIR Studios. So frightened were EMI that they would lose The Beatles too that they agreed George could continue as their producer, albeit at a truly niggardly royalty rate. Unlike his principal challengers as pop's most influential producers of the era, Phil Spector - the only other person to oversee a Beatles record - and Joe Meek, George was happy being a team player rather than needing to be the star himself. This modesty (albeit one that knew its own worth) contributed in no little part to the extraordinarily harmonious partnership he had with The Beatles. Its fruit was the music which signalled that pop had come of age, and which remains the benchmark for all that has since followed.
In the late 1970s, George built a studio on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and artists, including Elton John, Dire Straits, The Police and The Rolling Stones, travelled there to record LPs under George's respected guidance. When Hurricane Hugo devastated both island and studio in 1989, George produced a benefit LP to help raise funds for the victims. He maintained a relationship with the island long-after the studio closed, owning a holiday home there and helping to fund Montserrat's cultural and community centre. He retired after producing the huge Beatles Anthology project and what he decreed would be his final LP, In My Life, a - frankly rotten - series of covers of Beatles songs, re-arranged and recorded by a motley collection of singers and actors. If you've never heard it, dear blog reader, don't bother, it's properly crap - despite the fact that the great George Martin produced it. However, he was not able to completely relax. In 2002 he was part of the team which put together the Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace and in 2006, with his son, Giles, he supervised the remixing of over one hundred Beatles' songs for use by Cirque de Soleil in the spectacular Las Vegas stage-show Love and the subsequent CD of the same name. The record's highlight was a 1968 demo of George Harrison's 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' for which George composed a fresh orchestral score, breathing majestic new life into Harrison's forty-year-old masterpiece. His enduring legacy will be his work with The Beatles whose timeless sounds, as acknowledged by the band members themselves, owes much to George's input as an arranger and producer. Despite beginning his career as an oboist, the classically-trained producer never regretted making his name in the mass market. 'Rock and roll has the same function as classical music,' he once said. 'To make sounds that are appealing to a mass of people and are of some worth.' Of his reputation as the 'toff' guiding the - allegedly - working-class Beatles to fame, Sir George said: 'I've been cast in the role of schoolmaster, the toff, the better-educated, and they've been the urchins that I've shaped. It's a load of poppycock, really, because our backgrounds were very similar. Paul and John went to quite good schools. We didn't pay to go to school, my parents were very poor. Again, I wasn't taught music and they weren't, we taught ourselves. As for the posh bit, you can't really go through the Royal Navy without getting a little bit posh. You can't be like a rock 'n' roll idiot throwing soup around in the wardroom.'
There is a wonderful - and, apparently, true - story about Cilla Black's recording of 'Alfie' which has become much told over the years and which perfectly demonstrates the unflappable nature of George Martin. The first take was pretty good, as was the second but the third was as near as dammit perfect. However, Burt Bacharach - who had come over to London specifically to play piano and conduct the orchestra on the recording of his song - asked for one more go which was performed but wasn't as good. And so, recording continued. And continued. And continued. After something like thirty takes and with Cilla now a puddle on the floor of Studio One and most of the string players' fingers bleeding, George who had sat quietly in the control room whilst all of this malarkey had been going on finally hit the talk-back button and asked 'what, exactly, are you looking for, Burt?' 'I'm looking for a bit of magic, George' Bacharach said to which George laconically replied: 'I think you'll find we had that on Take Three!' And, indeed, that's version you'll hear on record. And it does contain - more than - a bit of magic. In his lifetime, George won multiple Grammy awards and an Academy Award for the score to A Hard Day's Night in 1964. In 1979, he published a memoir, All You Need Is Ears (co-written with Jeremy Hornsby), that described his work with The Beatles and other artists, and gave an informal introduction to the art and science of sound recording. In 1993 George published Summer of Love: The Making Of Sgt Pepper (co-authored with William Pearson), which also included interview quotations from a 1992 South Bank Show episode discussing the LP. George also edited a 1983 book called Making Music: The Guide To Writing, Performing & Recording. In 2001, George released Produced By George Martin: Fifty Years In Recording, a six-CD retrospective of his entire studio career and in 2002, he launched Playback, his limited-edition illustrated autobiography, published by Genesis Publications. In 1997, George hosted a three-part BBC documentary series The Rhythm Of Life in which he discussed various aspects of musical composition with musicians and singers, including Brian Wilson, Billy Joel and Celine Dion. In April 2011 a ninety-minute documentary co-produced by the BBC's Arena team, Produced By George Martin, was broadcast to critical acclaim. It combined archive footage and new interviews with, among others, McCartney, Starr, Jeff Beck, Cilla Black and Giles Martin and told the story of George's life from a schoolboy growing up in the depression to music producer and label executive. The film, with over fifty minutes of extra footage, including interviews from Rick Rubin, T-Bone Burnett and Ken Scott, was subsequently released on DVD and Blu-ray.
    Sir George received a knighthood in 1996 for his services to music, The Princes Trust and other charitable endeavours and, in 1999, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In his later years, he suffered from hearing loss and was Vice President of the charity Deafness Research UK. 'George Martin was my hero,' noted David Bowie's producer Tony Visconti on hearing of George's death. 'He embodied everything I believed was possible with popular music; you could make rock and roll and invite Beethoven and Mozart to join in. George Martin wrote the book on modern record production. I'd be nothing without his wisdom.' George is survived by Lady Judy his second wife, and by his four children.
Sadly, we have a couple of examples of ludicrous 'non-stories' which found themselves folded, in most unwelcome way, into the media coverage of the passing of Sir George. Both of which highlight just some of the many reasons why this blogger so loathes Twitter and all it stands. Because it's full of idiots and trouble-makers, basically. Firstly, there was a completely pointless piece of 'non-news' by some glake of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail about how 'some people' on Twitter (ie. idiots) assumed that the reported death of Sir George Martin was, actually, the reported death of Game Of Thrones author George RR Martin. Who is, thankfully, very much alive a fact which will, no doubt, be welcomed by the brain-dribbling numskulls who claimed to have had a 'micro heart-attack' (whatever that constitutes) when hearing the news of his non-demise. See, also, similar pieces in the Sun, the Daily Scum Express and the Metro (not a real newspaper).
    Secondly, there was a rather spiteful, agenda-soaked article in the Daily Mirra, BBC Breakfast slammed for Rolf Harris mention during tributes to Beatles producer George Martin. In which, a bunch of what appear to be professional offence-takers seemingly objected to Louise Minchen's - entirely historically and factually accurate - reference to the fact that George Martin once produced some records (including, let it be noted, one very good one) sung by the convicted kiddie-fiddler and disgraced sex-offender Rolf Harris. It seems that, to some people, any reference to Harris - no matter what the context - is now unacceptable and he is, henceforth, to be effectively airbrushed from history. Which, some might regard as being a bit Stalinist, especially when merely making a stray comment about a record Harris made with George Martin fifty years ago. One is sure that George Martin himself would have been horrified that news of his death was being used, seemingly, by some to pursue a particular anti-BBC agenda. Then again, dear blog reader, some people are just, sadly, scum. Rolf Harris very much among them, let it be said. It's worth remembering that the very reason that Harris, Savile, Hall et al were able to get away with their sick and sordid crimes for so very long was directly because they were personalities who made massively popular TV shows (and, in Harris's case, records). To pretend that they never even existed is, quite apart from anything else, a huge disservice to their many victims. All of which still doesn't change the fact that on 'Sun Arise', George Martin and Geoff Emerick (who was, I believe, just sixteen at the time he engineered that record in 1961) created a soundscape which was breathtaking and brilliant, then and now. And, all the whinging in the world and sticking ones fingers in ones ears going 'la-a-la-la' isn't going to change that. Here endeth the rant.

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