DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Produced by George Martin, Blu-ray (2012)

A fine bio-documentary on Britain's top record producer, and accurate since he both directed and produced it.

Published on September 23, 2012

Produced by George Martin, Blu-ray (2012)

Director: George Martin
Studio: BBC & Grounded Productions/Eagle Vision EV8334209 [9/11/12] (Distr. by MVD)
Video: 4:3 & 16:9 1080p HD color & B&W
Audio: English PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Extended versions of interviews in the film (an additional 52 minutes)
Length: 138 minutes
Rating: *****

A very well-done bio-documentary on Britain’s top record producer who helped make the Beatles the rousing success they were. Even if you’re not a Beatles fan (bad show, that) you’ll probably find it most fascinating. Sir George Martin may have been the greatest record producer/artist collaborator ever.  All the music on the soundtrack comes from albums he produced, and the variety is amazing. He is interviewed by such people as the two remaining Beatles, Michael Palin, Jeff Beck, Cilla Black and a number of others more familiar to British audiences (the film was made for the BBC)—as well as by his son Giles, with whom he collaborated on the amazing Beatles Medley surround sound album ”Love,” which they did for Cirque du Soliel. There are footage and stills of Martin working with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan of the Goon Show, the Beatles (of course), and many other famous performers. In addition to extended versions of the interviews seen in the film, there are talking-head contributions in the extras from T Bone Burnett, Jimmy Webb, Rick Rubin and others, even from one of his former bosses at EMI.

This documentary is great in that the subject is alive and not only participated in it but actually produced and directed it! His personal life is explored much more than in most bios, and in conversations with his wife he reveals he still has a chip on his shoulder regarding the lack of attention and financial reward he got while he was running Parlophone Records—he didn’t even get a Christmas bonus after producing dozens of top hits for them. His early childhood and meeting his second wife at EMI are explored, providing more insight into Martin. There is also material on his serving as a sort of “producer” in a British navy plane during the war (he never saw combat), his ill-fated studio in Montserrat, and a piece on his current deafness (most likely a result of his studio work).

Martin contributed immensely to the success of not only the Beatles but many other artists—partly due to his background in classical music, being able to do arrangements, and even sit in on piano on several of the Beatles, America, and other recordings. His career started at EMI in the early ‘50s, producing MOR orchestras and comedy recordings. For the latter, he purchased one entire Goon Show from the BBC and released it as a Parlophone LP.

The section on how the Beatles and Martin created their studio masterpieces is most interesting. One of the talking heads says it all started with their Rubber Soul album; agreed. One of the shots of recording tape stretched between two machines and all over the studio reminded me of my own youthful attempts to create primitive “tape music.” (I would have liked one part of the extras to have discussed the amazing things Martin and the Beatles did with the limitation of only four-track tape machines in the studio.) When their agent Brian Epstein first brought a demo tape to Martin he said he didn’t care for the Beatles’ music but gave them an hour in the Abbey Road studio anyway. At that time he still didn’t think much of their music but felt an immediate attraction to their personalities and humor, and felt he could work with them. We all know what that resulted in. Martin asked them directly what they thought of that first meeting and the studio, and John replied “I don’t like your tie, for starters.”

—John Sunier




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