The Beatles FAQ

Fun stuff about the Fab Four. Linked to The Beatles Teaching Pack



Friday, 29 March 2019

Did George Martin have a 'secret history'?

The George Martin who the Beatles first met in 1962 presented as Professor Higgins to their Eliza Doolittle. With his smart suit, upper class (southern) accent and courtly manners he appeared to be what Brian Epstein described as “a stern but fair-minded schoolmaster”. 

“We were rednecks” as Ringo later put it. George Martin was the archetypal ‘square’: solid and suburban. They automatically assumed that he was backed by family wealth and a private education.

The Beatles, with the arguable exception of Ringo, did not grow up in poverty. George Martin unquestionably did 

Early history

According to a recent biography, Maximum Volume (2017), George Martin came from a seriously impoverished background. Author Kenneth Womack was
…very surprised about the degree of George’s childhood poverty — he describes a family that had no electricity or running water and had one gas jet.
Nor was Martin the product of a privileged education. Several changes of school marked his early years, though he did manage to win a scholarship to a Catholic (state) grammar school. 

His early musical training consisted of eight piano lessons. These ended abruptly after his mother had a ‘disagreement’ with the piano teacher. 

It was the Second World War that allowed George Martin to move out of poverty. In 1941 his school was evacuated to escape the Blitz. The Martin family chose to move to Bromley in Kent, where George  was accepted by the prestigious Bromley Grammar School. From there he began moving up the social ladder. 

First jobs 

Leaving school at fifteen, Martin initially worked as an office clerk in a surveyor’s office and later for the War Office. At seventeen he joined the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, where he became a commissioned officer.

A veterans' grant then enabled him to enroll  on a three year course at the Guildhall of Music in 1947. There he studyied oboe (under Jane Asher’s mother) and piano. In addition, he taught himself  numerous instruments. Perhaps most importantly he began to make social connections with the 'right' people.

After graduation, he took post in the BBC classical music department. From there he joined EMI , where he became the manager of Parlophone in 1955. 

Unwelcome reminder?

When The Beatles arrived at Abbey Road, George Martin was initially irritated by their personal presentation as much as their musical shortcomings
he wasn’t sure about .... shaggy hair, Liverpool accents .... their beat-up gear .... {their}studio professionalism ... source
According to Womack, this may have been rooted in his own ‘hidden’ background.
“Why would George want to align himself with the sort of guys he had been trying to get away from for so long?” 
His reservations were also of their time. As a working class self-made man, he knew the high standards expected from young men from their background. 

And yet The Beatles won him over, starting with the moment when George Harrison gave his famously cheeky response to George Martin's dressing down:
“Is there anything you don’t like?”“Well, for a start,” replied George Harrison, “I don’t like your tie.”  



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