The Beatles would not have been able to make the transition from the stage to the studio without their producer Martin, who has died at age 90. For most of the 20th century, recording technology was used merely as a way to preserve already existing live music. The revolution that the Beatles helped initiate in the 1960s hinged on the idea that musicians could compose in the studio, using technology to create sounds never heard before. Martin, born in 1926, was a generation older than the foursome he helped make famous, and served as their mentor.
The Beatles performed their last live scheduled concert in August 1966, in Candlestick Park in San Francisco. After that, apart from an impromptu rooftop concert in 1969, their entire existence as a band was in the studio. As the Guardian notes in its obituary, “A trained musician, Martin possessed invaluable arranging skills. He helped the Beatles to find striking juxtapositions of sounds and electronic effects previously unheard outside the more freakish fringes of the avant-garde, in the process helping to justify pop music’s claims to be something more than a cellarful of noise.”
Martin’s legacy can still be heard in some of the greatest music of the last century, in albums like Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Abbey Road. But Martin’s legacy can also be felt by any musician who uses a studio as the place to experiment and to create new music.