"Paul, I don't think the Beatles . . . can play this."

(Dan Macmedan/wireimage)
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

There's something in the way he produces that moves people like no other producer. As the man behind the Beatles, Sir George Martin holds the Guinness World Record for most successful producer ever. And despite some hearing loss, the 82-year-old and his son Giles snared two Grammy Awards this year for the soundtrack to the Beatles-inspired Cirque du Soleil spectacle "Love." Martin, who was knighted in 1996, is now at work on "On Record: The Soundtrack of Our Lives," a PBS series about the history of recorded music, set to air in 2010.

-- Melinda Newman

"Yesterday" is the most recorded song in pop music history. What did you think the first time Paul McCartney played it for you?

I loved the song. I said, "Paul, I don't think the Beatles, a rock band, can play this. You can't have a heavy rock beat on this lovely song. Go down in the studio with your guitar and just sing it and I'll think about it." I said, "The only think I can think of, Paul, is strings." And he said, "I don't want that Mantovani rubbish." I said, "Let me write something for it." It was a terribly simple arrangement. Paul saw the [score] and said, "You haven't got my name on it." I said, "Here's a pencil, put your name on it." So there we are.

What do you think about the Beatles catalogue eventually being available for digital download?

It's inevitable.

But most producers really hate the sound of MP3 music files because it is so compressed.

Well, I don't like it. No one in their right mind would like it. I don't listen to iPods; I don't want to have 10,000 songs.

What kind of joy do you get that the music you helped create has given so much joy to the world?

It gives me enormous satisfaction. . . . I thank God. Mind you, He does have a sense of humor, though, God. He looks at little George Martin and says, "You've made a wonderful life. I've helped you in this, with music and everything. I think you're getting a bit too cocky. I think I'm going to do something just to take you down a little peg." So he takes away my hearing.

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