Skip to main content


50 years ago, in 1966, the most important person in the world of pop culture was 40-year-old, thin, patrician-looking smart-suited George Martin, the Abbey Road, then AIR, music producer who was the Beatles' main ally (the '5th Beatle' of lore) from 1962 to their end; and fifty years later, he still is.

For as The Guardian reports today, in interviews with various pop, alt, indie and rock producers, no one has ever come close to bettering what he first imagined, first achieved - not even the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson (who came close).  Nor were Martin's ideas lofty stale things - but the truly best of British - a working-class London East End* mesh and mash of comedy recordings, sentimental string arrangements, melody, harmony, and virtuosic (and stoic) professionalism - he was Sterling when it was Gold standard. As Stuart Price suggests, Martin took the idea of the studio as instrument and made perfection from it.

Martin's idea of perfection, and the studio as instrument, were in the air - pianist and eccentric genius Glenn Gould, for instance, conceived the same idea for radio and for Bach recordings; Sinatra's Tin Pan Alley arrangers like Nelson Riddle came close to the same notion; and Orson Welles actually did invent the idea of turning recording and radio broadcast and film studios into events - instruments of a group creative dynamic - mirrored in the mad zaniness of The Goons - which brings us full circle to Martin, who worked with them.


Other media heroes might include Delia Derbyshire - curiously advances in radio and sound recording of the past half century have mostly been Anglo-Saxon and Commonwealth touchstones, likely because of the BBC, CBC, and NFB antecedents. We digress.  Welles, for all his greatness, did not invent the producer role to craft rock albums as works of seamless art (Wagner maybe had a hand in that Gesamtkunstwerk approach); and the others were theorists or twiddled knobs in relative obscurity.

Martin had the fortune and nous to meet, transform, guide, and completely redefine, the sound of the four greatest pop songwriter/ stars of the modern era, until the bitter end. Along the way he produced the best Bond themes ever ('Goldfinger' and 'To Live and Let Die'), and Peter Sellers albums - a triumvirate of dapper oddness which sums up the best of the British 60s - still resonant today.

It is impossible to listen to a current R & B, Pop, Rap or Rock track on the hit parade or Spotify and not notice its crafted, creatively produced nature.  Overproduced, arguably - but Martin was there first, leaner, though, as others have said before me - was there ever a quirkier, funnier, more ludic mainstream artist? Hard to think of many.

We recently lost David Bowie - whose very albums were impossible without the Martin catalogue - and we also recently lost Sir Ken Adams, who gave us the look of the filmic 60s, from Kubrick to Bond - but these titans of modern pop culture are not gone; they are pillars of what we have and do now.  Gratefully, yours.

* Martin was born into a working-class East End family, not the aristocracy, as is often assumed, because he looked like a Lord and had bearing; instead his parents were a carpenter and cleaning lady - and he always sought to build carefully and achieve a clean sound.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…