Charting George Martin's Contributions to Popular Music Through 10 Songs Not by the Beatles

George Martin
George Martin conducts the Hollywood Bowl orchestra in 1999. His career involved more than just the Beatles. Reuters

No one would have held it against George Martin if he decided to call it a career after the Beatles broke up. The legendary producer, who died Tuesday at the age of 90, revolutionized popular music by introducing orchestration on landmark albums like Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and plenty more.

While the late "Fifth Beatle" will always be remembered for taking the Fab Four's sound to the next level, he made plenty of other contributions to popular music, from Gerry & the Pacemakers to Stan Getz to Cheap Trick to Kate Bush. He even produced two of the most beloved James Bond theme songs, Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger," and Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die."

"From the day that he gave the Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know," McCartney wrote on his blog. Here are 10 extra-Beatles examples of Martin's musical intelligence.

The Temperance Seven, "You're Driving Me Crazy" (1961)

A good indicator that a band peaked before the Beatles and the Stones turned popular music upside down is that their name contains the word temperance. This was Martin's first No. 1 hit, and despite its quirkiness, a sign of things to come—Martin was clearly not averse to using orchestration to lift a song to the top of the charts.

Shirley Bassey, "Goldfinger" (1964)

The same year he produced A Hard Day's Night, Martin arranged the robust orchestration hoisting the greatest Bond theme ever. The year after that, he would produce Help! and Rubber Soul. The year after that? Revolver. Not a bad run for Martin, and it was far from over.

Gerry & the Pacemakers, "Ferry Cross the Mersey" (1965)

Martin produced a number of hits for Gerry & the Pacemakers throughout the '60s, including "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," "You'll Never Walk Alone" and 1965's "Ferry Cross the Mersey," which may be the group's most recognizable song.

Stan Getz, "Marrakesh Express" (1969)

Around the time he was busy with either Abbey Road or Let It Be, Martin still found time to team up with bossa nova sax player Stan Getz for a 1969 album. The long-out-of-print Marrakesh Express contains covers of the title track—a Graham Nash tune—as well as Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Simon & Garfunkel's “Cecilia.”

America, "Sister Golden Hair" (1975)

Martin produced four America albums from 1974 to 1977. including 1975's Hearts, which featured this easy listening chart-topper. They weren't the Eagles, but America's chilled-out folk rock was a hallmark of the '70s—even though the band was actually formed in England.

Jeff Beck, "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" (1975)

The guitar god teamed up with Martin for both 1975's Blow by Blow and 1976's Wired. Featured on the former is "Cause We've Ended as Lovers," a sensual, 6-minute showcase of Beck's virtuosity. While horns and strings are great and all, sometimes it's best to just sit back and let the artist do their thing.

Cheap Trick, "Stop This Game" (1980)

Considered one of Cheap Trick’s strangest albums, 1980’s All Shook Up was an experimental departure from the pop-rock that put the band on the map with At Budokan and Dream Police. Cheap Trick idolized the Beatles, and tapped Martin to produce the record and Geoff Emerick, a longtime Beatles engineer, to help with the recording process (the slow-burning intro to “Stop This Game” is often seen as a nod to “A Day in the Life”). The band’s label wasn’t happy with the musical pivot and the record underperformed on shelves and the charts, though many fans still view it fondly—and it actually stands up well 36 years later.

Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder, "Ebony and Ivory" (1982)

The sentiment of “Ebony and Ivory” is sweet, even if the Paul McCartney–Stevie Wonder collaboration, in which the keys of a pyawn-oh represent racial equality, deserves all the crap it gets for being stuffed with cheese. It’s off McCartney’s first post-Wings solo album, 1982’s Tug of War, which was produced by Martin. What can we say? It was the '80s! 

Kate Bush & Larry Adler, "The Man I Love" (1994)

No, George Martin wasn’t behind the “Hounds of Love” singer’s enigmatic '80s masterpieces. But he did cross paths with Kate Bush when he produced a 1994 George Gershwin tribute album; Bush and Larry Adler contributed this tender, brassy cover of “The Man I Love.”

Elton John, "Candle in the Wind 1997" (1997)

No, not the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road track. The 1973 recording was a tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe. A poignant reimagining of the ballad two decades later, “Candle in the Wind 1997” paid tribute to Princess Diana in the weeks following in her death (and gave proceeds to her charities). George Martin produced the track, though there’s no studio trickery undergirding its earnest mourning.

 

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