The legendary producer and composer George Martin had a six-decade career to be marvelled at. Though, his most notable work would see its dusk in 1970 with the breakup of The Beatles. His legacy has seen him praised for his contributions to The Beatles’ music, and he has been affectionately labelled as the “Fifth Beatle”, but also found widespread acclaim. In 2016, Paul McCartney wrote that “If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle, it was George [Martin]”. Julian Lennon, son of John, called Martin “the fifth Beatle, without question”. Although, contrary to the general understanding was John Lennon. Following the Beatles’ split in the early 1970s, Lennon mentioned that he wasn’t convinced that Martin had been as integral to their success as people gave him credit for.
In a letter sent to Paul McCartney in 1971, Lennon wrote, “When people ask me questions about ‘What did George Martin really do for you?’ I have only one answer, ‘What does he do now?’ I noticed you had no answer for that! It’s not a putdown, it’s the truth.” Lennon wrote that Martin seemed to have taken far too much credit for the Beatles’ music. Commenting specifically on the progressive track ‘Revolution 9’, Lennon said, “For Martin to state that he was ‘painting a sound picture’ is pure hallucination. Ask any of the other people involved. The final editing Yoko and I did alone.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone later that year, Lennon asserted his final word on Martin, paying him modest respect, “George Martin made us what we were in the studio. He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians.” It appears that Lennon may have had some lingering resentment following the recent breakup of the group, but it’s up for debate whether Martin really took more credit for The Beatles’ work than he deserved.
The Beatles first met George Martin in 1962, shortly after being turned down by Decca Records. At the time, Martin was one of EMI’s most celebrated producers. After a meeting with the charismatic manager Brian Epstein, he decided to sign the group off the bat and agreed to meet with The Beatles for an audition. Martin saw something in the wit of the cheeky foursome despite an underwhelming audition and decided that he would work with them on their early recordings. This, of course, turned out to be the greatest decision of his life.
Martin sadly died in March 2016, and the news was followed by a host of his friends and family paying their respects and highlighting the enduring importance of his work, especially with The Beatles. But as it turns out, despite living a life to be immensely proud of, Martin did have one regret, which he voiced nine years before his death.
In a 2007 interview with Mark Ellen for The Times, Martin explained, “My only regret with The Beatles is that I was wrongly advised and signed away my royalties to their records — about half a penny per title but, with them, that would have been an enormous amount.”
He continued, explaining that it wasn’t something he dwelled upon too much, “but I’ve got all the money I could want. People think I’m a multimillionaire and I’m not. I tend to look at people and think, ‘Are you a good human being?’ That’s what impresses me most rather than what they’ve achieved.”
“We’re a bit short on people like that at the moment – people who do good things and spread love for each other. We get an awful lot of people who are selfish. I think Margaret Thatcher started it, the greed thing, people just wanting more and more. And we’ve lost our morals to some extent. And the church has weakened. People don’t believe in anything apart from money and success. I know it’s easy for me to say as I’ve had some success, but I really believe family and love are more important than anything. Amore Solum Opus Est indeed!”
Listen to ‘Revolution 9’ the revolutionary experimental track from The Beatles’ eponymous 1968 album below.