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All You Need Is Ears: The Inside Personal Story Of The Genius Who Created The Beatles by George Martin and Jeremy Hornsby (1994)


Review There are very few memoirs published by record producers, especially producers as important as George Martin, producer and ?discoverer” of the Beatles. I do call it a memoir because that’s what it is – much more is covered than the Beatles. This is a book about George Martin, through and through.

The first 100 pages or so recount Martin’s early history in the British military up through his first job in the recording industry. There is staggering detail to this, naming even the most insignificant people he met along the way. But since we know this is all contributing to what would become Martin’s genius, it really isn’t all that tedious. Eventually we come to the chapter on the Beatles – how he discovered them, how he recorded them, and then single by singe, how they became the biggest band in the world. Whether he intends it or not, there is an epic quality to practically every word Martin writes (or rather, has ghost written for him).

Being a professional in today’s music industry and seeing literally all music being recorded on computers, it’s fascinating to see the technology they were working from. He writes of actually recording to *wax records*. It’s also nice to see someone getting so excited about the advent of stereo recording. It’s something we don’t even think about today, but to the producers of Martin’s era, recording in stereo was as profound as recording to hard drives today.

I also was amazed to learn that he made almost no money off the Beatles records. Today, a comparable producer – say Glenn Ballard, Alanis’ former producer – has probably made in the dozens of millions of dollars. Martin didn’t earn any royalties on those records, and he also refused an ownership stake in the publishing company set up exclusively for Beatles songs. This probably cost him upwards of $50,000,000 if not more. He goes on to say that he has no regrets in refusing the ownership, and whether or not you believe him, he does lay out a pretty impressive spiel about not doing it for the money. I arrived at the conclusion, however, that while a genius producer he is possibly the world’s worst businessman. Hundreds of people made millions off the Beatles and the one closest to them – Martin – managed to make almost nothing. That is truly staggering.

This is the kind of book that’s a must-have for a Beatles fan or aspiring musician, and will proselytize everyone else. A classic book from a classic producer.

Review This is a truly amazing book. I had just finished reading “Here, There and Everywhere” by Geoff Emerick (the Beatles recording engineer) and decided I wanted to know more about George Martin, their producer. It was a great decision because the introspect gained from reading both of these books together tells a big picture that I before could only guess at.

George’s personality really comes out in this book and it makes it far easier to understand what went on during the Beatles many many recording sessions. It has been said that the producer is a major contributor to the outcome of any project and this book definitely confirms and educates about that process.

It is an easy read and the edition that I purchased has fairly decent sized type and makes it easy on the eyes. It is a paperback and tucks easily into your day bag or briefcase for those times when you can read a few minutes – but if you are like I am – you may devour the whole thing in one seating!

The early life of George Martin is also detailed in this book with it’s different perspective of growing up in Britain. I had no idea that George Martin was in pop music groups as he was growing up and that came as a terrific surprise. I might have known, though.

The classical side of George Martin comes out strong also. This came into very significant play as he produced the Beatles.

Great book. Don’t hesitate to buy this!

Review There is a reason that you call this guy Sir…he’s old, and he’s earned the title. To hear from George Martin what it was like to work with the Beatles is like hearing from Jesus what it is like to co-pilot for God. Well, that’s kind of blasphemous, but it’s still true. Martin’s style is direct and matter of fact…he is not prone to flowery language or overblown description.

I’m not so sure about all that Jesus stuff that he is talking about, but Martin definitely ranks up there as at least some kind of DemiGod in the church of Beatle. It is therefore essential that you read this book. Well, let me add a caveat here: read this book if you have an interest in the Beatles and the recording industry. As a good many of Martin’s stories focus, of course, on the magic of recording, the non-interested might find these sections a bit boring.

This book has the same good points as Emerick’s (though they both seem to take credit for certain studio achievements) in that Martin’s book adds a lot of peripheral information to the Beatles saga. There are sections about Martin’s earlier life, the joys of working for good old EMI, and the the trials and tribulations of forming his own studio, AIR. Though some folks just want people like Martin to shut-up about themselves and just talk about the glorious Beatles, the lives of these cornerstone studio wizards fill out the reader’s vision of working in the recording industry during the 60’s. As I said earlier, I find this kind of “rounding out” of the Beatles legend essential to knowing the “bigger picture.” (I also find that using quotes around common words helps you to “sleuth out” their “hidden meaning.”)

Martin recounts his first hand experiences helping record all the Beatles records (with a few minor exceptions around the Let it Be period.) Because his memories were not clouded in a drug haze like so many other players of this period, Martin’s recollections tend to be more reliable (sometimes even more so than the Beatles themselves!) Sir George always comes across as knowledgeable, lucid, and authentic.

What I don’t understand is why this book isn’t encyclopaedia sized. Martin, having seen the things he has, must have a treasure trove of great stories floating around that silver skull of his. Why not share a bit more?

Incidentally, this is the better of his two books. The Making of Sgt. Pepper, also by Mr. Sir Martin, is a decent read, but seems to rehash some of the themes he discusses here. I mean, how many more times can we hear the story of the Hurdy Gurdy Swirly backing track to Mr. Kite? If you can get it at the library, or from a friend, or if you are rolling in the dough, go ahead and pick it up too. Otherwise, I would start with this one.

May 14, 2013 Posted by | Book All You Need Is Ears The Inside Personal Story Of The Genius Who Created The Beatles by George Martin and Jeremy Hornsby | , | Leave a comment