Monday, June 09, 2008

All You Need Is Ears: The Inside Personal Story of the Genius Who Created the Beatles

by George Martin with Jeremy Hornsby

"George," he said, "I don't know if you'd be interested, but there's a chap who's come in with a tape of a group he runs. They haven't got a recording contract, and I wonder if you'd like to see him and listen to what he's got?"

"Certainly," I said, "I'm willing to listen to anything. Ask him to come and see me."

"O.K., I will. His name's Brian Epstein...."

All You Need Is Ears is the story of George Martin, the man who spotted the Beatles' talent, who recorded and produced them from the start, and who brought their musical ideas to life. In this witty and charming autobiography, he describes exactly what it was like to work in the studio with the Beatles--from the first audition (and his decision to scrap Pete Best on drums) to the wild experimentation of Sgt. Pepper (complete with sound effects, animal noises, and full orchestras in evening dress at the direct request of Paul McCartney). This is a singular look at the most important musical group of all time, and how they made the music that changed the world: No other book can provide George Martin's inside look at their creative process, at the play of genius and practical improvisation that gave them their sound; it is an indispensable read for Beatle lovers and anyone interested in the music world.

Excerpt: Classical Primer

I was woken by the sound of a bell ringing demandingly in my ear. It didn't seem the best way to start the day, any day. For a moment, I wondered where on earth I was, then recalled that it was a bedroom in a Paris hotel, and it wasn't morning, but the middle of the night.

The immediate problem was to stop that infernal ringing, and reaching for the phone I whispered a sleepy and dubious 'Hallo' in its general direction.

'George, I'm sorry to wake you, but I just had to tell you the news.'

Brian Epstein's voice sounded very excited, and just a little drunk. It seemed early to be in that condition. I soon knew why he was.

'I've just left the boys celebrating, and they're as thrilled as I am,' he said, pausing for a moment to build up the suspense. I said nothing. It was too early in the morning or too late at night to formulate sentences. Then he said it.

'We're number one in America on next week's charts. It's quite definite. I've just been on the phone to New York.'

So that was it. At last we had made it, through the medium of a song called 'I Want to Hold Your Hand'. After a year of really hard graft we had finally breached teh walls of the biggest record market in the world.

I forgot any idea of more sleep. That was no hardship. For the past year, sleep had been a rare enough commodity. I just lay there, thinking of what had been, and what might be to come.

But what mattered immediately were the two reasons why I had come to Paris with the Beatles. The first was that they were due to make their French debut at the Paris Olympia, and I wanted to be there. The second was to make a quick record with them at EMI's Paris studio.

By the end of 1963, we had conquered England, musically at any rate. Now, as well as America, we were trying to make it big on the Continent. The EMI people in Germany, fired -- who knows? -- by some patriotic fervour, had insisted that the Beatles would get no big sales there unless they had a record sung in German. The boys thought this was nonsense, and I didn't believe a word of it myself, but equally I did not want to give the German EMI people any excuse for not selling Beatles records.

So, after some argument, I had persuaded John and Paul to re-record 'She Loves You' and 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' in German. The lyrics were provided by a German, who turned up at the recording to make sure their accents were all right. I didn't know about the accents, but I could see that the words were almost literal translations. 'Sie liebt dich, ja, ja, ja' sounded just like the sort of send-up Peter Sellers would have done.

The recording was set for a day that the boys had free from their rehearsals at the Olympia, and when I arrived at the studio I didn't really expect them to be there on time. Even in those early days they were not renowned for their punctuality. But after an hour had gone by I decided to ring their hotel.

None of them would come to the phone. Neil Aspinall, their road manager, had been deputed to do the talking, and he informed me that they had decided that, after all, they did not want to do the record and wouldn't be coming.

To describe my reaction as angry would be like calling Everest a good-sized hill. 'You tell them,' I yelled at Neil down a blushing Paris phone line, 'you just tell them I'm coming right over to let them know exactly what I think of them.'

I slammed the phone down. This was the first time that the boys had stood me up; and I was particularly irritated that they hadn't had the guts to speak to me themselves. I raced back to the Hotel Georges Cinq, where they had an extravagant suite, and burst in on them in their drawing-room. The scene was straight out of Lewis Carroll. All that was missing was the White Rabbit. Around a long table sat John, Paul, George, Ringo, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, his assistant. In the centre, pouring tea, was Jane Asher, a beautiful Alice with long golden hair. At my appearance, the whole tableau exploded. Beatles ran in all directions, hiding behind sofas, cushions, the piano -- anything that gave them cover.

'You bastards,' I yelled. 'I don't care if you record or not, but I do care about your rudeness!'

One by one, Beatle faces appeared from Beatle hiding-places, looking like naughty schoolboys, with sheepish smiles. There was a murmured chorus of 'Sorry, George'. If they wanted to be charming, as they did then, it was impossible to maintain anger for very long, and within a few minutes I had calmed down and joined the tea party -- though in what guise it's hard for me to say: the Mad Hatter perhaps.

The following day we made the record. But of course they were right. Beatles records, in English, were to sell in their millions in every country, Germany included. Never again did they make a record in a foreign language.

And now, especially, there was no need to, because American had fallen. For me, it was a world away from the moment when I first placed a tentative forefinger upon middle C.

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