George Martin - In My Life
July 25, 2014 11:08 PM   Subscribe

In 1998, after over 40 years in the music studio, orchestral arranger and music producer Sir George Martin (the 5th Beatle, or maybe the 6th, or possibly the 7th, depending on how you count or where your priorities lie) decided he was going to retire with a selfish project: recording an album (mostly) entirely of Beatles songs. This ~50 minute BBC documentary recorded many moments from the creation of this swan song, In My Life. The film features interviews with and studio footage of Phil Collins, Robin Williams, Bobby McFerrin, JohnWilliams (classical guitarist, not Star Wars composer), Goldie Hawn, Jim Carrey, and Céline Dion.

Pretty much the complete album is available on YouTube:

Come Together (Bobby McFerrin and Robin Williams)
A Hard Day's Night (Goldie Hawn)
A Day In The Life (Jeff Beck)
Here, There, And Everywhere (Céline Dion)
Because (Vanessa-Mae)
I Am The Walrus (Jim Carrey)
Here Comes The Sun (John Williams, quality not perfect)
For The Benefit Of Mister Kite (Billy Connolly)
The Pepperland Suite (George Martin, new recording unavailable, original remastered version here)
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End (Phil Collins)
Friends And Lovers (George Martin, the only new composition on this album)
In My Life (Sean Connery)
Ticket To Ride (Meninas Cantoras de Petropolis, from the South American release, sadly unavailable)
Blackbird (Bonnie Pink, from the Japanese release, sadly unavailable)

The entire album is also on Grooveshark (with the new arrangement and recording of The Pepperland Suite, but without the two regional songs).
posted by hippybear (18 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know wether these creaky ole links will work, but there was a great pdf here about the making of Revolver. Thanks for the excellent post!
posted by biddeford at 12:42 AM on July 26, 2014

Martin should've let the incredibly talented Bobby McFerrin do Come Together without Robin Williams (I mean, really… that was lame) and also let him do it without a band. I mean, you hear McFerrin's wonderful voice-only intro and all you can think is: why the hell didn't he have the sense (and the daring) to let him do the whole thing like that? Overdubs, you know. Woulda been killing. That would've been something worth listening to.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:54 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

So many 5th Beatles they could have started another band.

Well if Stuart Sutcliffe hadn't been dead and all.
posted by Bonzai at 5:03 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Peronally, I'd rank him 4th. His production talents were an integral part of the Beatles' sound.
posted by rocket88 at 7:19 AM on July 26, 2014

That's kind of a sick burn on the pretty bassist, rocket88.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:24 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, I mean, he couldn't even hold the damn instrument correctly! :P
posted by hippybear at 7:27 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, it may just be me, but was anyone else waiting for Sean Connery to insult Trebeck's mother during "In My Life"?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:39 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Weird group of people to enlist for this project. As to where Martin stands in the nth Beatle stakes, I suspect he gets a little overrated, personally. Look at his work with other groups; there's no one there who is even in the same conversation as the Beatles; and it's not as if lots of people didn't want to get in on the "magic." His work on the first four or five albums is solid, but hardly cutting edge. It's certainly true that starting with Rubber Soul The Beatles became associated with remarkably innovative use of the recording studio, but Martin's role really seems more helpmeet than leader there. The Beatles were the ones who had the ideas, Martin simply helped find ways for them to realize them.

As for "the pretty bassist"--there's much in McCartney's oeuvre to be cynical about, but he was/is a fantastic bassist.
posted by yoink at 11:17 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Weird group of people to enlist for this project.

Yeah, it's sort of a vanity project in some ways. I find the Jim Carrey track off-putting (even though I truly love that song), and Robin Williams is an odd choice to have as a singer. But Goldie Hawn is surprisingly outstanding, and the John Williams instrumental for Here Comes The Sun is breathtaking, like actually watching a sunrise.

Because is pretty excellent, and Phil Collins does justice to the Abbey Road medley end section. But Céline Dion is entirely generic with her far-too-perfect soulless performance.

This album does make me wish Sean Connery would come to my house and read me bedtime stories, even though I'm in my mid-40s. Because falling asleep to that soft bear growl of a voice would be awesome.
posted by hippybear at 11:36 AM on July 26, 2014

Wow, does Jim Carrey ham it up on "I Am The Walrus." Not that I'm surprised. I clicked on that one out of morbid curiosity. I don't know if I have the heart to listen to any of the others.
posted by kozad at 11:37 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know if I have the heart to listen to any of the others.

See my above comment, there are gems in there.
posted by hippybear at 11:39 AM on July 26, 2014

John Williams' "Here's Comes the Sun" just made me tear up. So yeah that one's a keeper.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:16 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I bought it when it came out because it was, at the time, the only source for Jeff Beck's
incredible tour de force. Goldie Hawn was a pleasant surprise. I've never really managed to make my peace with Carrey or (Robin) Williams.
posted by Chitownfats at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2014

His work on the first four or five albums is solid, but hardly cutting edge.

Just before Rubber Soul, the Beatles had totally run out of patience with Abbey Road's hopelessly out of date equipment and wanted to record in America. Which would have been interesting - 'Drive my car' is their attempt at a Stax type of sound and attitude.

But whenever I begin to doubt George Martin's subtle patrician skills as a particular type of producer, I just have to listen to Phil Spector's appalling work on 'Let it be' and with Lennon in the 70s.
posted by colie at 2:10 PM on July 26, 2014

Actually, Martin had plenty of 'cutting edge' moments on the first five albums, trying to think of them:

- He tried to record them as a live act as he'd heard them in The Cavern, when nobody set out to do that at all in an English recording studio - hence the count-in at the start of 'I saw her standing there' on the first album, which is basically avante garde.

- Got technicians with soldering irons to fix up Paul's custom-made 'coffin' amp that was literally falling to bits rather than simply replace it with a nice new one, since Paul's gigantic overdriven bass sound was a big part of their Cavern presence.

- The mixing/engineering/disc cutting that he oversaw (before the Beatles knew how to get involved in these things) of singles like 'I want to hold your hand' was apparently much, much louder/bassier than most UK studios thought was possible without making the needle jump on the tiny crappy record players than everyone had at the time (no record buyers in the UK had stereo equipment at the time.)

- The Hard Day's Night opening chord was an idea he ran with.

- String arrangement on 'Yesterday' is totally different to the saccharin style stuff usually applied to pop songs, see also flutes on 'You've got to hide your love away'.

I'm sure there's more, but the dude did get his act together long before the experimental period of the later Beatles.
posted by colie at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Colie, those things strike me as the very definition of "solid, but hardly cutting edge." He had enough sense to get out of The Beatles way and to try hard to capture the sound they'd perfected. I mean, that's great, but it's not "Oh my God, he's the visionary guru without whom The Beatles would have been just another Gerry and the Pacemakers."
posted by yoink at 3:20 PM on July 26, 2014

I don't know - sometimes knowing when to get the hell out of the way is the sign of true production genius (c.f. Johnny Cash's American Recordings).
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:10 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Goldie Hawn's version of Hard Day's Night is great! I wouldn't have been surprised if you'd told me that was released in 60s.

The John Williams one is nice too. The orchestration reminds me a lot of Vaughan Williams, which I'm sure George Martin and John Williams were pretty well aware of.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:00 PM on July 26, 2014

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