George Martin - Air Studios 1985
There are certain people in the Music Business who are genuine legends, those who help build the records we all love, people who know how to extract the very best performances out of the artists, they labour for months to make the very finest recordings, these people are the Record Producers.
When George Martin phoned up I was truly honored, this was a man I had heard many stories about, my friend Chris Thomas had been his Engineer on the White Album, without George the Beatles may never have reached the heights that they did, he wanted his portrait taken, the prospect filled me with excitement and enthusiasm, especially as he is also an extremely handsome man.
We arranged to take the photo at Air Studios where he said he would be working, it was a place we had been to many times, we often set mini studios up in the bathroom, or the relaxation area, or if available in the recording studios themselves. We showed up a little early so we could set up the mobile studio but he saw us thru the glass, he came out of the Control Room and told us that he was busy for the next 45 minutes, but, would we like to join him. There were two EMI Security Guards by the door and on the Mixing Desk was a two inch Master Tape, written in pencil on the box were these simple words.
The Beatles - Sgt Pepper
It turned out that he had to approve the first CD release of Sgt Pepper as it was twenty years since its release on LP and he wanted to listen to the master all the way thru just to be sure that it sounded OK, he played the tape, we sat mesmerized behind him. When it was over he rewound the tape a little to hear Day in the Life a second time. This time he pulled off everything except John's vocals, it was an eerie but incredible thing to hear, and brought a tear to our eyes listening to it. Once it was over we listened to all the backwards music at the end of the second side, in Studio Sound and with George sitting there it was like magic, one of the best and most privileged moments of my life.
I'm not sure people realize that George produced a lot of Comedy and Novelty records before he worked with the Beatles, these are just a few...
Rolf Harris - Sun Arise
Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren - Goodness Gracious Me
The Archers Theme
Shirley Bassey - Goldfinger with Jimmy Page on Guitar
Bernard Cribbins - Right Said Fred
All the Goons recordings
Millicent Martin - That Was the Week that Was
Flanders and Swann - The London Omnibus
And as if that was not enough he also produced Jeff Beck's groundbreaking album Blow by Blow..
Actually, there is one other story that is worth telling...
In 1978 I got my first commission from Paul McCartney, it was to shoot his Xmas card at Abbey Road, a friend had just given me the Beatles Demos for Decca that were rejected, it was on the aptly named "Deccagone" Label. I figured it might be a laugh to play it during the shoot, I was fearless back then and after two Songs Paul look at me with a quizzical eye, "is this what I think it is?" He asked, I told him it was, " George" he shouted from the Studio Floor, George Martin appeared at the top of the stairs and Paul asked me to give him the Cassette, "Do me a favour and copy this will you" he instructed "and make sure Chalkie gets back his tape, it might be quite valuable"