The Hohner B2 bass – You Never Forget Your First!

It was 1996.

 

The Goo Goo Dolls were telling us all about some girl named “Iris“.The Hohner B2 badging

 

Alanis Morissette was incorrectly schooling us on what “Ironic” means.

 

And Oasis? They were making me sing right out loud and proud whenever their “Champagne Supernova” came on the station. All in all, it was a good year for music.

 

And a good year to MAKE music. Which is why that year… I bought a Hohner B2 bass!

 

It’s now (amazingly!!) 22 years later, and my little headless friend and I are still at it, bringing song ideas to life… with some solid low end.

 

I Like Big BOTTOM and I Cannot Lie…

I was working in the 90s at Sweetwater Sound, the best pro audio store in the country (IMHO!). Not only was their selection vast, but their knowledge base and professional staff were just what I wanted to take my sound understandings to the next level.

 

I got my Hohner at sweetwater (They’re still the best, by the way. I honestly don’t think any other music store comes close.)

 

After work hours, I continued my lifelong pursuit of songwriting -and the accompanying privilege of recording those songs I wrote to capture them for all time in whatever format was available at the time. That year… it was digital DAT.

 

Before this time, I had always asked other bass players to help me with what some former girlfriends carried proudly: the “big bottom”. I’d learned to never underestimate its power. lol

 

Regardless, I ended up typically not satisfied with how the bass parts of others meshed with my material.

 

Rather than complain, it was time to step up and put my fingers where my dissatisfaction was – it was time to get my own bass!

 

Low, and Behold… !

A fellow audio sales engineer just happened to hear that I was looking for a bass. Before I could slap my cash down for a new one (at our discount, of course) he proffered, “Hey! Buy my Steinberg clone. I’ll give it to ya cheapie-like!”

 

He brought it in the next day for me to test drive. He said he’d used it for years, that it was bought sometime around ’91, although it was made around 1988. It still looked in great shape, so five years and my friend’s hands had treated it kindly.the B2 leg rest

 

We plugged it through one of the amps there at the store and I played through some changes. I liked it! I was impressed by its unique look, lightweight feel and stable, consistent sound.

 

I think I recall him asking me for $200. Well, that was just my kind of “affordable”, so the deal was done. I took that puppy home and started immediately scoring out a bass line for my latest tune at the time, which was called “Long Way Down”.

 

I soon discovered that I really liked writing bass lines. It was so different from playing guitar, yet, at the same time, just as gratifying.

 

Within a couple weeks I was in a local studio putting down the guitars, bass and vocals. A drummer for hire did the rest.

 

I still have the recording. In prep for this article I pulled it up and listened. It sounded even better than I remember: full-bodied, rich… with just enough transient sheen to keep the notes sounding well-defined but not ostentatious. Another solid bass track for posterity – CHECK!

 

Steinberg Starts the Fever!

The Hohner B2 is basically a visual clone of the famous Steinberger L Series basses that came to be so acclaimed in the 80s. The first bass Steinberger made, the L2, was introduced at a N.A.M.M. show in 1979, where he sold three prototypes, including one which was bought by one of my favorite bass players, the greatly inimitable Mr. Tony Levin.

The B2 bridge & tuners
The B2 bridge & tuners

These basses stood out immediately for numerous reasons:

 

  • They were shaped like an oar
  • They were made completely out of a graphite & carbon fiber blend
  • They used strings that had balls at both ends
  • They used EMG pickups, which at the time were not that well-known, & sounded very different
  • The tuners were at the bottom of the guitar
  • Most surprising, the guitar headstock was… missing!! They didn’t need one!
Ned and his bass creation!
Ned and his bass creation!

Not so surprising then that, two years later, Time Magazine was giving the Steinberger Bass the honor of being in its “Top 5 Best Designs Of 1981”. Quite the BIG splash for the young upstart!

 

People kind of either loved or hated the Steinbergers. Because of design and graphite materials used, the basses sounded ultra clean, precise and tonally even. This was either a blessing, or a curse, depending on your tonal and technical preference.

 

Steinberger made the most of the love/hate relationship though, proudly using as one of the company’s slogans: “We don’t make ’em like they used to!”

 

The Hohner Low DownThe Hohner B2

As we all know in the world of merchandise, if it’s popular… there will be knock-offs. Both here and in other countries. In line with that truism, there are plenty of other companies that have copied these esteemed basses throughout the years. Hohner, however, was the only company at the time to actually LICENSE their product designs through Steinberger, essentially getting their permission to copy their look, if not their unique sound.

 

For that reason, many of the parts on the B2 bass come straight from the Steinberger company, the most important being the rock-steady bridge and tuner assembly. The leg rest that folds out from the body also came from Steinberger.

 

The biggest difference between the B2 and a real Steinberger is the body: the Hohner sports an all-MAPLE body – specifically, it’s a full-scale one-piece maple neck and body that is complemented with two maple “wings” that are attached on either side of the strings to give it that “oar shape” look.

 

The Steinberger, on the other hand, saved a lot of trees – it consisted, as mentioned above, of a one-piece, completely man-made graphite epoxy body. This big change gave the instrument a much different EQ spectrum and sound, and is what separated it from all other basses (and later guitars too) from that time period.

 

Because the Hohner is made of wood, it sounds, by comparison to the Steinberger, much more like a normal bass. Listening back to the first bass track I did with the Hohner, for example, gave me no impression that the bass used was at all unusual. It sounded much like what some of my other “normal” basses sound like.

 

the B2 pickups
The B2 uses Hohner pickups instead of EMGs

The Steinberger L2 also had real EMG pickups and active circuitry. The B2 is rather a completely passive instrument, with no active circuitry. It has two humbucking pickup but they are not EMG; instead they are some of Hohner’s own pickups. They work well, though your range of tones is limited.

 

One other difference between the Steiny and the B2 is the answer to the age-old question: “How’s it hangin’, bro?!” See, the two companies used different strap placements. This actually ends up putting the B2 at a disadvantage – when playing with a strap the neck feels longer than a normal bass, just because of how it sits against your body.

 

In other words, if you closed your eyes and went for what you would normally know as the first fret, you’ll end up on the third fret. The first fret feels farther away than any other bass I’ve ever played. The Steinberger, with its different strap tab placement, didn’t have this problem.

 

There are numerous hacks, like Augusto’s HERE. Or you can buy the Steinberger strap extension, but, it’s, uh… $150 last time I checked. I think Augusto’s hack is a muuuuch better option.

 

Or just get used to it like me. Seriously, I just laid tracks with it this week. At first, yea, it felt a little weird, but in a few minutes I hardly noticed it. So you reach a little further? Big deal. It’s about the sound, man… !

 

Sub Those Sonics

So what’s the difference really?? Well, if you like the LOOK of the Steinberger axes, but prefer a more “traditional” sound, then the Hohner clones are a great choice for you. If the Steinberger SOUND is what you’re after, then the Hohner won’t take you there. You’re simply going to have to spend the extra money (and I mean a LOT more extra money!!) and get a real Steinberger.

 

It doesn’t give you a lot of options. Instead, if you want a good, usable bass tone right out of the gate, you’ve got two pickups that give you two approaches immediately. Pick one and you’re off to the races.

 

I would say the Hohner is a little more mid-range strong than other basses. This is probably because of it being made of maple and having a smaller body. This mid-range power I find to work really well in the context of a modern pop or rock band. It stands out just enough without muddying up the floor, so to speak, with its pal the kick drum.

 

Want a bass that can sound like anything?? Then the Hohner is not for you. It’s humble in that way; no ostentatious posturing here, just two basic track-worthy tones… but with a look that’ll turn heads every time you play it!

 

The B2 sting slots
The B2 sting slots

That String Thing

Yet another way that you’ll be veering off the beaten path by buying either a Steinberger or any of its licensed (or even UNlicensed!) clones, is that you will not be buying regular bass strings anymore. Instead, you’ll need to buy “double ball end” strings.

 

This string difference is one of the ways Steinberger was able to revolutionize the industry. Of course, it also was in his best financial interest to create this new kind of string, since his company could sell it at a premium price, before the patent wore out and all the other string companies could make their own versions.

 

These days you’ll have to shell out anywhere from $30 to $70 for a set of strings, which isn’t bad at all considering how long they last. When the Steinys first came out the strings were WAAAAY pricier, so thank heaven for the free market economy and time!

 

How Deep Is Your… Wallet?!

If you wanted to get a Steinberger bass back in the day, you would spend HUNDREDS more than the Hohner licensed model. Perhaps even a THOUSAND dollars more! This is why I never seriously considered getting a real Steiny… they were (and still are) too @#$!% expensive.

 

Even today, if you want to pick up one of the original L Series models (not the cheaper and lower-in-quality “Spirit” or “Synapse” models), you’re talking over $1,000, easy. Is the Steinberger a superior instrument in many respects? I’d definitely say “yes”… but you pay BIG TIME for those superlatives!

 

If money is no issue to you though, and you want the bass that started all the fuss… the REAL DEAL, then I suggest you contact Don at HEADLESSUSA.COM. If what you want is available anywhere, Don will know, and he’s got an excellent reputation for going above and beyond during the sales process.

 

I must warn you though – the price tags are not for the faint of heart. If you want an authentic L Series Steinberger you’re talking upwards of five to nine THOUSAND dollars.

 

See. Not for the faint of heart indeed!

 

On the other hand, you can get a Hohner like mine, or even one of the higher models that feature active pickups, or sweepable EQ, for LESS than a thousand. Check EBay or Reverb.com for your best options.

 

In fact, I see quite a few going for less than $500 RIGHT NOW. Yes, the sound will be more what you expect, a wooden body tonality. But unless you are absolutely sold on the Graphite Epoxy sound, the Hohner did, and continues to do, an excellent job, both in the studio or out live.

 

Layin’ Down the Boom

Since listening to the B2 bass on the recording I did in ’96, I was so pleased with its sound I decided to get it vibratin’ once again and use it to lay down a bass track on an upbeat, happy Sheryl Crow-type song I wrote last week. See if it still has that maverick mojo, ya know?

 

Once again, I am pleased to say the results are everything I hoped for! It performed consistently and magnificently. I used mostly the neck pickup, although with about 25% of the bridge pickup also in the blend, and the tone knob was all the way up into treble land. Sitting in my mix right now, it has the perfect tone for this easy summer pop tune.

 

A nice reminder of just how easy and pleasant it is to use this bass. 🙂

 

And just so you know, I don’t ONLY play basses that are light as a feather. If you read THIS POST about my Bass Mods bass, you’ll see what I mean!!

 

Hope you enjoyed this look at a rare beast in the audio world, still alive and kickin’ it in the studio, with that 80s, flashy styling – the Hohner B2 Bass!

 

Do you own a Steinberger or a Hohner? Perhaps even one of their 6-string guitars?? Or perhaps a model with more bells and whistles to fiddle with and direct your tone?? Tell us about it in the comments. We’d love to hear YOUR story!

 

Until then, you know what to do: slip on your favorite axe and go… make… sounds!!

 

Teaj

 

All You Need Is Ears – The Autobiography of Beatles Producer George Martin!!

Everyone remembers their first time.

 

For me, it was a summer’s day in L.A. Reseda, specifically, in the San Fernando Valley.

 

It was at my apartment, after work. My two roommates were gone, and wouldn’t be home for a few hours. It was the perfect time to lay back and… get a little action in.

 

She and I were there for a reason. And we were close. I could feel her ever-so-slightly touching my arm. It may have looked casual, but I was oh-soooo attentive!

 

So I laid on the couch, right next to where the air conditioner was blowing in the coolest air within a hundred feet… and just listened. For a long time. I knew that all you need is ears to make a big difference in what, and how, she gives.

 

When it was obvious that all the words had ended, we sat mesmerized for a few seconds, just taking it all in.

 

Then… with respectful reverie, and slow motion impulse… I picked her up… and played a couple chords.

 

Yes, my friends, that was the day I listened to my first Beatles album. Just me and my guitar. Both of us would never be the same again.

 

What? Whaddya mean?? Of course, I was talking about my guitar… whadja think I was talking about?? ‘-p

 

Yes It Is… the 5th Beatle!

George Martin - backstage_at_LOVE
George Martin, backstage at LOVE (Adamsharp)

The late Sir George Henry Martin was not only the Beatle’s record producer – he was a producer extraordinaire for hundreds of acts. His list of number one hits blows most of us away: THIRTY number-one hit singles in the U.K. and TWENTY-THREE number-one hits in the U.S. of A. Wow!!

 

The Queen of England appreciated his legendary expertise so much that in 1996 she bestowed upon him the honor of a “Knight Bachelor”, in thanks for years of outstanding work, and for making England a consistent magical garden for world-renowned musical exports.

 

There are veeeeery few producers who have accomplished number 1 records in three or more consecutive decades. Martin is one of them (1960s, 1970s, 1980s, & 1990s).

 

He also has a loooong list of accolades and music business wins. Here are just a few:

 

  • The 1967 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Album (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
  • The 1967 Grammy Award for Album of the Year (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”)
  • The 1973 Grammy Award for Best Arrangement, Accompanying Vocalist(s) (“Live and Let Die“)
  • The 1977 BRIT Award for Best British Producer (of the past 25 years!!).
  • The 1984 BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution To Music
  • The 1993 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album (The Who’s Tommy)
  • The 2007 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media, producer together with his son Giles Martin (Loveby the Beatles)

 

The list goes on and on. But, of course, he shall forever be most fondly remembered by most of us for helping create albums by the Beatles, that to this day transcend the moments of their making and reach us deeply decades and decades later.

 

His family shall always remember him that way too, because his Coat of Arms still hangs in their homes as a reminder – the honorary shield features three beetles, a house martin bird which is holding a recorder, and one simple phrase in Latin:

All You Need Is Ears book
MY 1st edition copy!

 

Amore Solum Opus Est.”

 

All you need is love. 🙂

 

Paperback Writer

Sir George penned his auto-biography in 1979. The music business and the recording industry were SOOOO different then, as you shall hear in the upcoming snippets.

 

It is one of my favorite books concerning music and recording that I’ve ever read, and it’s also a book that I re-read often. He passes on so many helpful insights, as well as dozens of entertaining reminiscences… you just don’t want to put the book down once you pick it up!

 

It’s not a technical manual for engineers by any means. He keeps it light so the layman reader won’t get lost in pro audio gobbledygook. But neither is it devoid of recording methodology. He talks at length about how they recorded many things in the studios of his career, especially what worked… and what didn’t!

 

My hope is that, if you’ve never read this literary mine of pure audio gold, you’ll change that today. This book is too good to miss if you’re serious about the music business, recording methods or the timeless qualities of an effective music producer, either for your own music or the music of others.

 

Let’s hear what a master has to say, shall we?!

 

The Inner Light

Whenever we try to understand the choices a genius makes, or why an artistic, genre-veering decision was made over another more mundane, expected one, it’s important to get a sense for how the person thinks – how they approach their art from the inside outward.

 

Sir George gave us many glimpses of this throughout his book. My favorite among them is this one:

 

My own copy of their masterpiece
My own copy of their masterpiece

“For me, making a record is like painting a picture. Not only are we painting sound pictures, but our pallet is infinite. We can, if we wish, use any sound in the universe, from the sound of a whale mating to that of a Tibetan wood instrument, from the legitimate Orchestra to synthesized sounds.

 

That may be why, of all painters, my favorites are the Impressionists: Renoir; Degas; Monet; Van Gogh; Sisley. It’s surely no coincidence that they seem to match so well almost as visual counterparts to the music of my favorite composers Debussy and Ravel.

 

With John Lennon at Abbey Road
With John Lennon at Abbey Road

The fascination of recording is that you really do have an unlimited range of musical colors to use. That’s one of the main reasons why I enjoyed working with the Beatles so much, because our success won me artistic freedom.”

 

I found that Martin is also not a precision nut, in that he’s more about the performance having life, excitement, depth and/or energy than being technically perfect. I’m the same way. I have often left a vocal in on certain songs that wasn’t totally dead-on in regard to pitch, but was close enough, and was couched in a tremendous performance that we really the best take.

 

Why mess that up, right?! Martin agrees, and puts it this way:

 

“I’m not a stickler for accuracy. If that was the be-all and end-all, we might as well give up and let computers do all the work. I happen to like a little bit of inaccuracy, a little bit of humanity. Perfect beauty, whether in a woman or anything else… tends to be a bore, and I think that holds true for music.”

 

Come Together

The late Sir George Martin shares many anecdotes about his history with some of the most well-known artists on the planet. And he never comes across as anything but gracious, thankful and devoted to be the very best producer he can be.

 

But part of making music, at least in most cases, is working with other people. Other aaaaaartists. And that’s not always easy when you’re the Producer. It wasn’t at first for him, at least.

 

Listening to him tell of the first time he told a jazz musician that the bassist sounded ‘muddy’ and imprecise is so funny, but it hits home, right? We want the best sounds, but we also have to learn how to best communicate with artistic temperaments to commit the best music to posterity.

 

Sir George Martin lecturing
Sir George Martin lecturing

Here’s how Sir George handles the coming together of the technical team and the artists:

 

“Tact is the “sin qua non” of being record producer. One has to tread a fine line between, on the one hand, submitting to an artist’s every whim, and on the other, throwing one’s weight around.

 

I had to learn how to get my own way without letting the performer realize what was happening. One had to lead rather than drive. I think that now, as then, that’s probably the most important quality needed in a record producer.”

 

I also first gleaned from Sir George some specific tasks that a “producer” of music might shoot toward, whether mine or someone else’s. Being “a producer” sounds important, but do we really have defined parameters about what it means??

 

Here is what it meant to him:

 

(In regard to the Beatles):“There were four musicians: three guitarists and a drummer, and my role was to make sure that they

 

  1. made a concise commercial statement;
  2. that it ran for approximately 2 and 1/2 minutes,
  3. that it was in the right key for their voices,
  4. that it was tidy,
  5. with the right proportion and form.”

 

Hearing the act of producing described this way, I started to think about each of those whenever I got behind the console. To this day, I question each of those elements whenever I think an arrangement or a mix is “finished”. Guess you could say my final act is to “George it”, and that usually means… I find something that needs fixed!

 

He also was one not to dabble too much in the engineering side of things. He started as an engineer, so he knew how to do it quite well, but to Sir George is was more a matter of focus… :

 

George Martin checking the mix in the cans
Always check the mix in the cans!

“There’s a race of men who are producer-engineers; they combine both functions. In theory, I could do that, but I do not think it is a very good idea. I would not be able to see the wood for the trees. The essence of a producer’s job is to be impartial. He must be able to see the whole picture, and make a value judgment as quickly as possible.

 

But when you are playing about with Equalization knobs, trimming limiters and compressors, varying the amounts of echo or reverberation time, and involving yourself in a million other technical activities, you tend not to listen to the music. And I am rather single-minded about that.

 

“The Producer’s function is to listen to the sound and to the music as an overall unit together, and from that he must judge the recording. An engineer’s function is to ensure that, technically, it is the very best recording obtainable. If they are worrying about each other’s area of responsibility, they are not doing their jobs properly.”

 

For most of my career, I’ve had to do most things myself. Even today I still wear the hat of engineer, producer, writer, performer, marketer, publisher… geez, I’m gettin’ tired just sayin’ ’em all!

 

But my dream?? To just be a Paul, or John, or George or Ringo… and let someone like Sir George Martin do all that other, so I can just write, and play, and sing…

 

and write, and play, and sing…

 

and write, and play, and sing…

 

and write…

 

Who’s wi’ me?!! 😉

 

Abbey Road Studios 2007
Abbey Road Studios 2007

Norwegian Wood (Studio!)

Recording music always has to take place somewhere, and maybe you, like me, have been dreaming most of your life about creating lasting songs from such a personal, perfected space.

 

It was from Sir George that I first began envisioning my own personal studio. From his years of experience I learned many things that I hadn’t yet heard up to that point. His stories of Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded, and then his own AIR Studios, were inspirational. And still are.

 

One of them had to do with non-parallel walls. That’s something that’s hard to find in most buildings, but extremely helpful in being able to capture with mics an accurate sound picture without artificially amplifying certain frequencies. I still remember the first time reading how he put it:

 

“The ideal way of building reflective services for acoustic purposes in recording is to make them refract the sound. You make the sound waves bounce off a new direction rather than return the way they came.

 

The ideal studio, therefore, is one in which the walls are never parallel. It’s also preferable for them never to be straight. So the studio has to be a compromise.”

 

But he also confided that a studio is not one thing with one sound. It should have several options:

 

“At AIR (Martin’s studio) we generally have a hard floor in a fairly reflective ceiling at the string end of the studios (where he records orchestras). We keep one end of the studio live, and the other, where I normally put the Rhythm Section, dead.”

 

Inside Abbey_Road_Studios for orchestral_recording, Studio 2
Inside Abbey Road Studios for orchestral recording, Studio 2

He went on to describe many other important attributes of ‘what makes a good studio’, and I learned much from what he imparted. Basically, I credit him for making me believe I could have a studio of my own one day.

 

I do not, however, typically record drums the way he did in the early days. Check this out:

 

“I tend to be quite extravagant in my use of tracks for rhythm. I usually have the bass drum on its own track, then two tracks for the stereo overhead sound of the drums in order to get an ambient ‘feel’, and a fourth track for the snare drum. That’s four tracks for drums alone!”

 

Okay, so… it’s clear that extravagance changes from decade to decade. I understand why he says this, because when the Beatles first started they only had TWO TRACKS to record onto. That’s what you hear on their first two albums. So using 4 mics just for the drums was probably considered “pushing it” back then.

 

Anyone wanna guess how many mics I bring into Pro Tools from my red Pearl studio drum kit? Try THIRTEEN!!

 

Sorry, Sir George. I’m just an audio glutton! lol

 

You Never Give Me Your Money

That’s what songwriters say to today’s streaming websites. LOL

 

Seriously though, these days, if you’re a songwriter, you’re in hard times. Harder than I’ve seen in my lifetime. I know, ‘cuz I’m one.

 

You know what’s astounding?? To think that, not that long ago, a songwriter could make an amazing living doing what they’re best at. Those were the days before streaming… before ITunes… before Napster kicked the ball right outta the stadium.

 

Martin, with his engineer Geoff Emerick & America
Martin, with his engineer Geoff Emerick & America

But when Martin was producing, it was much different…

 

“If an album in America goes gold – that is if it sells half a million copies – it will earn the producer a small fortune. The retail price of an album is about $8. A 3% royalty works out at something over 20 cents an album. So a “gold” album means $100,000 for the producer.

 

With the successes that I have had in producing the group “America” – records like “History”, “Hideaway” “holiday” and “hearts” – I was bringing in something like half a million dollars a year.”

 

Sir George - among the top brass!
Sir George – among the top brass!

Eight Days A Week!

As grandiose as having all that cash sounds, it did not come without serious commitment, and extended periods of hard, focused work. No record exec was just handing out money. They expected results, something that Martin deftly provided. He says that in the early days…

 

“For the Beatles we agreed that, if possible, we would release a single every 3 months, and a long playing record every year.

 

It seemed to work: out of the 52 weeks of 1963 we topped the charts no less than 37 times.

 

Sleep was something of a luxury that year.”

 

Lest we think that Sir George had to live at the studio and never see friends or family for decades, it’s very eye-opening to hear the typical recording schedule that it took during his early days. It suuuuuure isn’t this way now…

 

“We have come a long way from that first Beatles album, “Please Please Me”, which I started at 10 o’clock one February morning in 1963, and which was all mixed and ready for issue by eleven o’clock that night!”

 

Um, uh… yea. Okay, I’m not even going to mention how long ONE SONG on my latest album took.

 

It wasn’t one day, that’s for sure!!!

 

With A Little Help From My Friends

Beatles_and_George_Martin_in_studio_1966
George & the boys, 1966

It’s quite fascinating to hear how Sir George views the Beatles, obviously. He was there, all the time, with them, for almost every song, every recording, every vocal where the lyrics were finally nailed down and committed to. Amazing. True to what I always suspected, based on what I heard on every Beatles album, Martin describes the hierarchy in the studio with the band this way:

 

“I must emphasize that (in the Beatles) it was a team effort. Without my arrangements and scoring, very many of the records would not have sounded as they do. Whether they would have been any better, I cannot say. They might have been. That is not modesty on my part; it is an attempt to give a factual picture of the relationship.

 

But equally, there’s no doubt in my mind that the main talent of that whole era came from Paul and John. George, Ringo and myself were subsidiary talents. We were not five equal people artistically: two were very strong and the other three were also-rans.”

 

The Beatles, just hanging out in my studio
The Beatles, just hangin’ out in my studio

Martin’s respect for Paul and John is obvious throughout his book. I guess if we’d seen two people bring in hit after hit, year after year, not relying on the same ol’, same ol’, but constantly breaking new audio and songwriting barriers, we’d be pretty awe-struck too!

 

Of John, Sir George opines:

 

“John’s imagery is one of the great things about his work: “Tangerine trees”; “marmalade Skies”; “cellophane flowers”. I hope it doesn’t sound pretentious but I always saw him as an aural Salvador Dali, rather than some drug-ridden record artist.”

 

Of Paul, Martin stated what I’ve always thought of McCartney too, saying…

 

Beatles statues“Of the four, Paul was the one most likely to be a professional musician, in the sense of learning the trade, learning about notation, and harmony and counterpoint. He’s an excellent musical all-rounder: probably the best bass-guitar player there is, a first-class drummer, brilliant guitarist, and competent piano player.”

 

Martin goes on in the book to talk about how the Beatles had a perfect balance, both within and without (nod to George Harrison here). They knew enough about music to be dangerous, but were not so “schooled” that they couldn’t try things that to Martin were far afield from his classical music tradition.

 

Showing his smarts for the business, he never tried to force his style upon them. Rather, he did everything he could to complement their style with his musicianship.

 

In My Life

Martin with Paul & JohnSir George Martin is gone now. He passed in his sleep in 2006. But he is not forgotten. Nor shall he ever be. His legacy, and that of the Beatles, are too ingrained into our collective conscience.

 

For me, he shall continue to be a very present part of my life whenever I go into the studio to work on my art. I have dozens of my favorite albums hanging on my studio walls. His name is on many of them.

 

Thankfully, he not only wrote his wonderfully astute observations and informed preferences in his auto-biography, but also shared with us his smile and proper English lilting voice in numerous videos. If you have not yet seen these documentaries, GO BINGE ’em now! They are:

 

  • Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, 2016 PBS film
  • Produced by George Martin, 2011 BBC film
  • The Rhythm of Life, 1997 BBC film

 

Finally, in writing this article, I was floored to find that the hardcover first-edition copy of “All You Need Is Ears”, just like mine, is selling online for upwards of $400! Wow!! I could sell it and get that new Nuemann mic I’ve been wanting… !

 

Alas for Neumann, I will never get rid of this book. It’s too precious, too insightful, too inspirational… and one of the best reads a musician, producer, engineer or songwriter could get.

 

GET IT HERE for yourself. You’ll see exactly what I mean.

 

 

In the meanwhile though, make like you’re a member of Sgt. Pepper’s band and go… make… sounds!!

 

Teaj