‘He’s One Of Us’ – How George Martin became The Fifth Beatle

A 1964 interview with George Martin from the NME archives

“They’re intelligent chaps – easy to work with, and conscious of requiring a tremendous team effort in this complicated business of making records. Yet they still manage to be relaxed and full of fun. That’s why I always look forward to all their sessions” That’s recording manager George Martin talking about The Beatles.

“We can’t praise him too highly. He’s bubbling over with constructive ideas – he knows what he wants, and how to get it in the simplest possible way. Above all, he’s one of us. – he doesn’t act like a schoolmaster when he’s in the studio”. And that’s what The Beatles think of George Martin.

Their plaudits are undoubtedly thoroughly deserved. For George has produced every one of The Beatles’ smash hits. His keen commercial outlook has proved invaluable to the boys. After all, it was he who suggested bringing a new drummer into the group, after he heard their first studio test – hence the arrival of Ringo. And he makes no bones about discarding any Lennon – McCartney composition, if he feels it is not up to standard.

George told me how he first came to sign The Beatles. “Brian Epstein had taken a tape of the group into our main record shop in Oxford Street and had asked for a record to be cut” he explained. “The engineer was so impressed that he tipped me off! When the boys came to see me, I discovered they had already been given an audition by one of the other companies – and had been turned down!”

But George decided to take the plunge and introduce the Mersey sound to the rest of the world. Starting as assistant A&R manager to Oscar Preuss at Parlophone in 1950, George finally became the label’s official recording manager in 1956. Today, in addition to The Beatles, George’s empire also embraces the other leading stars in the Brian Epstein stable – Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, and Cilla Black. Indeed, George’s dominance of the recording industry is so powerful that discs he has produced have topped the charts for 37 of the last 55 weeks!

I asked George if The Beatles record their numbers swiftly. “In the past, when they’ve recorded old material with which they are completely familiar, the sessions have been over in less than no time”, he replied. “For instance, ‘Twist and Shout’ needed one take only.

“But with their new material, such as ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, the situation is rather more complicated. They come into the studio with merely a head arrangement, and we have to keep on trying it through – improving all the time as the ideas begin to flow, either from them or from me.“We don’t stop until we’re confident there is no possibility of further improvement – so some of their sessions are rather lengthy”.