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Jeff Beck says Beatles “as good as George Martin allowed them to be”

By Dean Goodman
April 23, 2010

The Beatles probably would have gone down in history as a pretty good bar band had it not been for their producer George Martin, according to Jeff Beck. The guitar virtuoso, who worked with the studio wizard on a pair of acclaimed albums in the 1970s, said on Thursday the Beatles were “as good as George Martin allowed them to be.”

jeff1 ” To my ears I wasn’t hearing much,” Beck said during a Q&A at the Grammy Museum. “George put (in) all these chords and these fantastic sounds, and all the experimentation was afforded by George. He enabled it. Up to that point they were singing the Star Club (in) Hamburg and doing Gene Vincent songs.

“When we got later the psychedelic stuff, George put all that together. So without George, I don’t know. But of course the songwriting’s there, the melodies are there, marvelous. But they would be much more crude and raw, I think.”

Beck said Martin even had a great deal to do with embellishing John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s songwriting, as evidenced by the sixth chord on the “Yeah Yeah” part of “She Loves You.” “I don’t think they were doing that then,” Beck said. “George said, ‘You put that note there, boy, and that’ll be a hit.’ That’s the way I see it.”

Beck is on the promotional trail for his new album “Emotion & Commotion,” which debuted on the U.S. pop chart this week at No. 11.  Only the Martin-produced “Blow By Blow” opened higher, at No. 4 in 1975.

As part of his visit to the Grammy Museum, he performed an eclectic eight-song set of instrumentals, including his Grammy-winning take on Lennon’s “A Day in the Life,”  “Nessun Dorma,”  “Over the Rainbow” and Les Paul’s “How High the Moon.” At Q&A host Jim Ladd’s prompting, he surprised fans with a version of Curtis Mayfield’s  “People Get Ready,” which was a hit for Beck and Rod Stewart in 1985.


Much as I am loathe to contradict the utterly brilliant Beck…actually, Lennon and McCartney came up with the closing sixth (vocal) chord for She Loves You on their own. In fact, George Martin tried to talk them out of including it, feeling it was too Glenn Miller-era for their modern sound. (I believe this is mentioned in Sir George’s autobiography.) But the boys prevailed, and Martin stood (and stands) happily corrected, with his Beatle-era sonic innovations ahead of him.

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