'Fifth Beatle' signed on band when no one wanted them

Producer George Martin (left) and former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr receive the trophy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in 2008.
Producer George Martin (right) and former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr receive the trophy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in 2008. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Producer George Martin recognised the legendary band's commercial potential back in 1962 even though they were still raw

LOS ANGELES • George Martin, the legendary music producer who shaped The Beatles into the world's most important pop music force, has died, the band's drummer Ringo Starr said on Twitter on Wednesday. He was 90.

"God bless George Martin, peace and love to Judy and his family," Starr tweeted, referring to Martin's wife. "George will be missed."

He later posted a photograph of the Fab Four with Martin, saying: "Thank you for all your love and kindness George."

"We can confirm that Sir George Martin passed away peacefully at home yesterday evening, Tuesday, March 8," Martin's management said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the producer, who was knighted in 1996, writing on Twitter: "Sir George Martin was a giant of music - working with the Fab Four to create the world's most enduring pop music."

"R.I.P. George Martin. I'm so gutted I don't have many words. Thinking of Judy and Giles and family," the late band member John Lennon's son, Sean, wrote on Instagram, referring to one of Martin's four children.

Every other British label had passed on signing the four original Beatles - Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best - when Martin signed them on a label contract while he was head of record label Parlophone. He signed them after meeting Beatles manager Brian Epstein and hearing their demo record in 1962.

Born a carpenter's son in North London, he was so essential to the band's success that he was nicknamed the "Fifth Beatle", serving as collaborator and mentor to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr, who joined later.

He also worked with Gerry And The Pacemakers, Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick, America and other acts.

The young Beatles were rough around the edges, but he saw their promise. During his six-decade career, he helped score, arrange and produce many of their hits. He suggested strings be added to Yesterday and conducted the string section for Eleanor Rigby, said Billboard magazine. His 1979 autobiography, All You Need Is Ears, chronicles his discovery of The Beatles and their creative process.

In 2006, working with his son, Giles Martin, he helped develop Love, the Beatles-inspired Cirque du Soleil show, in Las Vegas, which went on to reap his two most recent Grammys.

Guinness World Records named him the most successful producer, with more than 50 No. 1 hit records over five decades in the United States and Britain.

After serving in World War II, he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and played the oboe in bars and clubs around London. His first job was in the BBC's music library. He then joined Parlophone, a division of EMI, and rose to become its head by 1955 at age 29.

He quickly realised The Beatles' potential after first hearing them in 1962. "I liked them as people and I was convinced we had the makings of a hit group," he told Melody Maker magazine in an interview.

Martin also composed scores for The Beatles films A Hard Day's Night (1964) and 1968's Yellow Submarine. He recorded two of former Beatle Paul McCartney's solo albums, Tug Of War (1982) and Pipes Of Peace (1983).


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline ''Fifth Beatle' signed on band when no one wanted them'. Print Edition | Subscribe