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  1. ITV Report

George Martin: The man who gave the world the Beatles

George Martin, his wife Judy and John Lennon on holiday in Zurich in 1965 Credit: PA

Despite their global megastardom and enduring legacy, the Beatles were rejected from every record company they approached - until they met George Martin.

The producer heard the Liverpool quartet's demo tape in 1962 when he was head of the Parlophone label, and there began a partnership that was to change the face of popular music forever.

George Martin in 1959 Credit: PA

When Martin brought the Fab Four to their first session at Abbey Road, he asked the band to speak up if there was anything with which they were unhappy, to which George Harrison is famously replied: "For a start, I don't like your tie."

After the session he toyed with the idea of making the Beatles a more conventional single singer format, instead of both McCartney and Lennon sharing duties, but opted to leave well alone.

Not only did he give the band their record deal, he brought their visions to life and pieced together their recordings from fragments of tape amassed during long hours in the Abbey Road studios.

Background

With his genteel manners and refined accent, Martin, born in January 1926, was often regarded as a "toff" who guided the working-class Beatles to fame.

But in reality he was a carpenter's son from Holloway, north London, who attended state schools and taught himself how to play the piano by ear.

He went on to win a place at the Guildhall School of Music, but before attending the prestigious institution he spent 1943 to 1948 as an observer with the British Fleet Air Arm. He rose to the rank of lieutenant - a period that saw him shed his Cockney accent.

As well as nurturing the Beatles, Martin produced recordings by comic legends such as Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers as well as notable songs such as Right Said Fred by Bernard Cribbins and Jake The Peg by Rolf Harris.

George Martin's rise to success:

  • In 1948, on his 22nd birthday, he married first wife Sheena and they had two children, Alexis and Gregory, but they later divorced
  • His first job after graduation was in the BBC's music library
  • He moved on to an assistant position at record label Parlophone, a division of EMI
  • In 1955, at 29 he became head of Parlophone
  • In 1962 he took a phone call from music publisher Syd Coleman introducing him to The Beatles
  • In June 1966 he married Judy Lockhart-Smith, they had two children, Lucy and Giles
  • In the mid-1970s, he began building his famous Air Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat
  • He was knighted by the Queen in 1996
  • In 1997 Martin co-produced Sir Elton John's Candle In The Wind, which was released to mark the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and sold 37 million copies
  • In 1999 he was inducted into the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
  • In 2006 he produced the Love album, a re-working of the band's songs

Reacting to the death of George Harrison in 2001:

George Martin in his own words:

I've been cast in the role of schoolmaster, the toff, the better-educated, and they've been the urchins that I've shaped.

It's a load of poppycock, really, because our backgrounds were very similar. Paul and John went to quite good schools. We didn't pay to go to school, my parents were very poor.

Again, I wasn't taught music and they weren't, we taught ourselves.

As for the posh bit, you can't really go through the Royal Navy and get commissioned as an officer and fly in the Fleet Air Arm without getting a little bit posh. You can't be like a rock 'n' roll idiot throwing soup around in the wardroom.

– On being labelled 'posh'

This is the very last time I shall work on any Beatles' record. I'm 80 years old, for Christ's sake.

– On the release of the Love album in 2006

If I had to pick just one it would be in 1966, the first ever time I heard Strawberry Fields Forever.

John played it to me on his acoustic guitar. That moment I shall never forget. It was a wonderful thing to happen and it stays with me even now.

– On his favourite memory of working with the Beatles

What is the function of rock'n'roll? It's the same as the function of classical music - to make sounds that are appealing to a mass of people and are of some worth.

I'm a person who deals in music, and rock'n'roll happened to be part of it.

– On the value of rock 'n roll

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