Sir George Martin, legendary producer for the Beatles, who passed away on March 8 at the age of 90, surprisingly almost refused to work with the group. When first approached by their manager, Brian Epstein, in 1962, Martin said he was very skeptical about this group with a "corny" name called The Beatles.
In a rare 1998 interview, Martin recalled: "He [Brian] didn't tell me that he'd been to every other record company in the country, and been turned down by every record company. If I had known that, I would have chucked him out the door."
Martin described the demo tape of The Beatles that Epstein provided as "awful." But luckily the man who would go on to play such an integral role in the music of The Beatles, with many regarding him as the "fifth" Beatle, was open-minded enough to give them a chance.
"I listened very politely to him [Epstein]," Martin explained. "He was a very nice man, very persuasive. And I said, 'If you want me to judge it on this I would have to say never, but if you like I will give these characters some time. If you bring them down from Liverpool, I will take them into the studio and I will see what we can do with them, and then I'll tell you if they're any good or not.'"
When The Beatles came to visit George Martin at Abbey Road Studios in June 1962, his attitude about them quickly changed... for the better. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison won Martin over with their charm. Their current drummer, Pete Best? Well, not so much.
"They had tremendous charisma, these four boys. At least three of them did," Martin recalled. "The guy who played drums [Pete Best] was very good-looking but he didn't say much and just kept very quiet in the background. But the other three were full of life and joking around with each other..."
Martin wasn't impressed with the songs The Beatles played for him, with the exception of "Love Me Do." He thought he would have to find other songs for The Beatles from writers at Tin Pan Alley, not anticipating that Lennon and McCartney would turn into legendary songwriters.
"They had that quality which made you feel good," Martin said. "And I thought to myself, well if they make me feel good, and I'm a pretty hard, cynical bloke, they're going to make other people feel good too. And therefore they have that charisma which is necessary for success."
The first recording session on June 6, 1962 set the tone for the close personal and professional relationship that the lads developed with George Martin over the years.
"I brought them into the control room to listen to what we'd been doing to their sound... And I said, 'Have a listen to this and if there's anything you don't like, let me know,'" Martin described. "Of course, George [Harrison], the smart-ass that he was, said, 'Well for a start, I don't like your tie.' The others thought I would be offended by this, but it broke the atmosphere. It was very funny."
On hearing of George Martin's death, Paul McCartney said: George "was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humor that he became a true friend to me and my family. If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George. From the day that he gave The Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know."