Derek Gentile: George Martin's genius will forever resonate

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By Derek Gentile

PITTSFIELD >> The recent death of British record producer Sir George Martin struck, if you will excuse the pun, a chord with me.

The first record I ever purchased with money i earned was Rubber Soul by, of course, The Beatles. With the evolution of both pop and rock music into the 21st century, it's hard to explain to younger people how utterly different the sound of The Beatles felt to someone (like me) who was just entering that world.

So take my word for it. I think The Beatles still resonate today, but the room has gotten crowded, much more crowded, than it was then.

I didn't learn until much, later the role George Martin played in that. To be honest, I don't believe his ideas made John, Paul, George and Ringo into a band that surpassed all others at the time. I believe their collective talent had a much bigger role.

But there is no doubt that Martin's expertise in production had a big effect. It was Martin who suggested to John Lennon that he open with the harmonica bridge to "Love Me Do." And to speed it up. The result was a No. 1 hit.

I remember an interview I did with Dewey Bunnell, the superb songwriter for the group America. When the band was starting out, Martin produced their first self-titled album.

Martin, according to Bunnell, loved the group's harmonized vocals.

"He encouraged us to emphasize our harmonies,' he said. "And hearing that from George Martin was like hearing the Voice of God."

A couple quick George Martin stories. I don't know how accurate this one is, but I read it in a bio of The Beatles years ago. When producers of "A Hard Day's Night" decided to end the movie with that song, Martin told John Lennon and Paul McCartney that one chord that opens the song might be the most important chord in their careers, maybe their lives.

He was right, of course. And so was Lennon, who came up with that iconic sound.

The other story is one Martin often told on himself. He produced dozens of bands, including the Scottish novelty band, Bay City Rollers in 1975.

His young grandchildren, as Martin explained, adored the BCRs. (As did a lot of kids in England then, by the way.) When they found out Martin was working with them, the became wildly excited. The Rollers, they assured Martin, were the greatest band ever!

Do you think, they asked, The Beatles were ever this great?

Martin recalled smiling at their excitement.

"Probably not," he said.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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