Zane Lowe and others celebrate George Martin’s influence on generations of music producers
George Martin’s death was an incalculable loss to pop music. The man who shaped the Beatles’ sound and forged their advancements in the studio set precedents that are still followed today. And across Los Angeles’ best recording studios, software production rigs and the most influential radio stations in the world, Martin’s work is foundational.
“George Martin defined what it is to be a modern music producer,” said Zane Lowe, the head of Beats 1 on Apple Music. “Along with the Beatles, he pretty much invented and perfected the collaborative relationship between a band and their producer. Together they achieved so much in a such a short amount of time, with distinct personalities in each recording. His techniques inspired the technology revolution in music. He was an adventurer.”
Those adventures -- grafting seeming-incompatible styles into one song on “Strawberry Fields Forever,” deconstructing “Yesterday” into a stately string arrangement, the seesawing orchestras on “Sgt. Pepper’s” -- had an immediate practical impact on changing production techniques. But, even more importantly, they represented a way of thinking about the recording studio that resonates just as deeply today.
“‘Strawberry Fields’ always is what comes to mind when I think of George Martin. Taking a song that John Lennon wrote on an acoustic [guitar] and helping to create something that was one of the best psychedelic songs they had written always inspires me,” said Lars Stalfors, a producer who helmed recent records from Health, Cold War Kids and Alice Glass. “I learned that he would sometimes take out the one element of the song that created it [piano, acoustic guitar] and see what you were left with. Not one song goes by that I work on that I don’t try that idea out.”
“His influence on record making goes far beyond any idea of a collection of songs,” said Tom Biller, who has worked with Jon Brion, Silversun Pickups, Kate Nash and Warpaint. “Like many others, seeing ‘Recording produced by George Martin’ on the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ album when I was a lad sent me down this crazy path, and yet I’m still trying to understand what that means. From his work, I’ve learned that the concepts of bravery, rule breaking and humor should always be components of making an album.”
Even outside the rigors of traditional studios, Martin’s liberal vision for how to capture and create sounds with a band helped create the mentality for today’s electronic experiments. That’s seen across pop music, but just as acutely in dance music.
“George Martin was the first to use the studio as an instrument; he’s responsible for maybe half the magic of modern music in the last century, whether by producing, or by inspiring others to look at popular music as an art form,” said the veteran L.A.-based Israeli producer Guy Gerber.
For younger acts, Martin’s impact is just as palpable.
“I was raised on the Beatles. My dad owned their entire discography on every format, even eight-track tape. I was the crazy kid who made his friends at camp call him ‘The Walrus,’” said the New York producer and new Interscope and Downtown Records signee Sicarii. “I think George Martin’s production is an underrated aspect of what helped make the Beatles’ catalog so timeless. John and Paul [McCartney]'s songwriting could have been dressed up in many different sonic outfits, so they were lucky to have a trusted friend who could help tailor their records to keep pace with their artistic growth.”
“The first vinyl single I ever got was ‘Twist and Shout’ from my dad and it made me fall in love with music. George Martin changed pop music forever and every new artist since should be very grateful for that. I know I am,” added the rising Belgian producer Netsky.
But, as always, that magic was in the service of emotion, and Martin’s productions have an unmatched power to bring back formative musical memories.
“This past autumn, I listened to ‘A Day In The Life’ repeatedly, while recovering from a bad back in Berlin. It is pop music’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ and George Martin is its Marcel, orchestrating the same kind of epic ambition and melancholy that Proust sought in his novel,” said Benjamin Myers, of the house duo Benoit & Sergio. “For me, there is no madeleine in pop as evocative as this song. I feel like calling my mom now, and telling her I wish we could go back on a family vacation to Yosemite in the brown Subaru station wagon, listening on cassette to this and all the others that bore the imprint of George Martin’s genius.”
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