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Hello, Goodbye: The Passing of King George

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 10/03/2016 David S. Simon

This is the first time I have woken up in over fifty years and George Martin is not here. And yet like George Harrison and John Lennon before him, it is impossible for him to ever leave the upstairs booth at Abbey Road. That is his post in the army of musical history and that is where he will stay as forever as a Strawberry Field.
He will always be sitting at the ready, as dignified and composed as an amiable University professor of music in his crisp, starch white shirt and tie Abbey Road uniform, ever the lanky, tall, grown-up dad in the room, ready to lovingly translate without an ounce of judgement or prejudice whatever musical whim request comes up, no matter how challenging or preposterous it might be.
Every single label turned down The Beatles, most famously Decca who declared that guitar groups were on their way out. That is the kind of vision one has when all you see is the ever-changing and transient now.
The Beatles from their very first strum were a band that was steeped in American rock history from Elvis to the geniuses of the Brill Building to irresistible, hard-driving rhythms of Motown (they almost single-handedly introduced England to it). In some ways The Beatles were a black, Jewish band (which included their manager, their music publisher, and eventually three Beatle wives).
George Martin was musical history in a more classical sense. He represented form, structure and polite civility (which he spit-polished until he was as London as you could get).
But he also had a wild side. Chastised for having an affair with his then secretary, which was a huge Scarlett Letter no-no in the day, he was arm-twisted into recording The Beatles by the head of the label as "punishment." A couple of in-house producers had hungered to get the publishing rights to an early Beatles song but their request had been continually ignored.
George had produced some of England's wildest and funniest comedy albums by that point, working with the likes of Peter Sellars, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and the rest of the Goon Show regulars.
Those albums were revered by The Beatles -- especially witty John. It provided them with a planet to live on that had its own native, cheekily irreverent, rock and roll outcast language. The sheer silliness of it's giddy nonsense made it as impossible to ignore as Alice in Wonderland (which John adored).
Probably feeling slightly chastised and having to deal with a bunch of scruffy lower-class Northerners whose talent he doubted, at the end of the first session, now slightly more impressed than before, after letting the boys listen to a playback for what they had just recorded, he asked them if there was anything that they didn't like. Young, pimply George Harrison, looked up with a wry smirk and famously said in his thick Liverpool drenched accent, "Yeah. I don't like your tie"
Everyone's mouth hit the floor, sure that he may have just thrown this career in front of a double decker bus.
George Martin, looked at them... and then burst into laughter.
The ice was broken and history was about to flow in like a biblical flood.
Clearly they all spoke the same language... much of which had been recorded in that very room.
The one word that George Martin never used was "no." Understanding the need, especially in a comedy performer, to feel safe and unjudged, he created a musical playpen for the four Beatles whose creative walls expanded by the minute.
As a result, everyone -- including George -- got to toy with their own self-perceived limitations, and as a result they blasted into the sonic universe with total abandon.
This was no longer Abbey Road. It was DuPont where experimentation thrived. Tapes were spliced into sonic confetti. Symphonic players wore party hats and masks. Sounds were born that had never been heard before. Musical forms from the twenties, forties and fifties were mixed into the formula.
Sure at times it was a drug-fueled pressure cooker in there, but what family doesn't experience that kind of familial tension on a daily basis?
This was literally a band of brothers and their dad (I would argue that Brian was more of a "mum" with his soft, nurturing nature) who was more mentor than parent who literally and figuratively played with them.
The Beatles first lifted Europe out of the deep dark depression that lay in the scorched, bombed-out wake of London and Europe.
Then it was our turn, when, following the assassination of our shiny as a new penny president, we were seduced out of it with the hand clapping offer to hold their hands.
Yet beneath many Beatles songs was a profound sense of loss from "Yesterday" to "Eleanor Rigby".
The more that the Beatle brains expanded, the more they were willing to show us their open psychic wounds. Two of them had lost their mommies at tender ages and that ache is what blinded them as boys, men and musicians.
It was all incredibly human.
So here we are in 2016. Gone are David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Dan Hicks, Maurice White, Dale Griffin and Lemmy Kilmister.
And now George is gone at age 90.
But he did more than produce The Beatles. He produced the soundtrack for my generation's entire existence.
Men like George Martin are not like the 45s that they made. They do not fade out after four minutes.
Their albums become more like cherished family photo albums that have been scored with the most perfect, poignant, inescapable melodies that have the power through both sight and sound, to first nuture and then transport us to the outermost reaches of our collective hearts.
No great song knows loneliness because it has to be shared, often by millions.
Once we are lured in, we become as much of the song as it becomes us.
And that it is why it all feels so personal that we often refer to our favorite tunes as "my song."
I end with the funny.
Whenever I see anyone in real life who I revere, I don't ever approach them to chat them up. I fall on them. That way when I "right" my balance I get to temporarily touch their arm and say, "excuse me."
Years ago, as I exited the theater that was playing Speed-The-Plow out of the corner of my eye, I spotted George Martin.
Now, thanks to Madonna's stupefying performance, I may have temporarily lost consciousness, but true to this comedy writer's style, I "fell" on him.
And as a result at the very least, I was touched by greatness.

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