Tribute to George Martin, the Fifth Beatle

It's hard to overstate the importance of George Martin's contribution to the Beatles.

In addition to producing all their records, he arranged all their strings, horns and other orchestrations. He played an instrument on nearly 20% of their records. And he pioneered new recording techniques to realize the many inventive sounds the Beatles imagined.


A good example is "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" from the classic Sgt. Pepper's album. John Lennon had asked for a sound like a circus, so you could "smell the sawdust on the floor." George Martin's solution was to record tapes of old calliope records, then cut them into pieces and reassemble at random. The result was a swirling collage of organ sounds, just like the circus Lennon requested. 

Another George Martin technique was recording instruments at half-speed, then speeding up the tape machine to capture a unique sound. For example the harpsichord sound on the Rubber Soul song "In My Life" is actually Mr. Martin on piano recorded at half-speed then played back at the normal rate.

And then there's the classic "Eleanor Rigby" from the Revolver album. This is probably the signature George Martin track, since it features his string arrangement as the primary musical accompaniment. Turns out he was influenced by the Bernard Herrmann score in the Hitchcock movie "Psycho" and instructed the violinists to play in a similar sharp, staccato style on this track. Who knew the Beatles and Hitchcock had something in common? 

Since his death, there have been many tributes to George Martin and the outsized role he played in the Beatles. Our favorite is this compilation by the New York Times that gives a song-by-song breakdown of Mr. Martin's contribution:

A Song-by-Song Look at What Made George Martin the Fifth Beatle

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Leave A Comment

Now it's your turn. What are your favorite Beatles records? Favorite Beatles movies? Leave a comment and let us know!

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3 comments

  • Jack Cosper

    Jack Cosper Auburn Hills, MI USA

    I've been a fan of the Beatles music largely due to George Martin's orchestrations. 'She's Leaving Home', according to Mr. Martin's book ' All You Need Is Ears' (p.207), was the only piece he didn't score which gave "...me one of the biggest hurts of my life." Apparently, Martin was too busy to score it at the time so Paul found someone else. The songs could probably all stand on their own, but without Mr. Martin's production and overall influence...I wouldn't dare to try and imagine.

    I've been a fan of the Beatles music largely due to George Martin's orchestrations. 'She's Leaving Home', according to Mr. Martin's book ' All You Need Is Ears' (p.207), was the only piece he didn't score which gave "...me one of the biggest hurts of my life." Apparently, Martin was too busy to score it at the time so Paul found someone else. The songs could probably all stand on their own, but without Mr. Martin's production and overall influence...I wouldn't dare to try and imagine.

  • Paul

    Paul Roseville, CA

    Help and its sound track is the best Beatle movie

    Help and its sound track is the best Beatle movie

  • Tim

    Tim Gainesville, GA

    Yes, George Martin was immensely important, but Geoff Emerick was responsible for coming up with your engineering examples. Read his fabulous book "Hear, There, and Everywhere".

    Yes, George Martin was immensely important, but Geoff Emerick was responsible for coming up with your engineering examples. Read his fabulous book "Hear, There, and Everywhere".

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