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Book Reviews

Sound Pictues: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin The Later Years, 1966-2016

Posted by friendsofthenewarkfreelibrary on September 19, 2019 at 2:10 PM

By Kenneth Womack

Reviewed by Roy H. Lopata

I would hate my disappointment to show, but Kenneth Womack’s long and winding road through George Martin’s years as the Beatle’s producer is not what it appears to be. Instead of Martin’s “life,” this volume feels like it’s a thousand pages, give or take a few, of the rehearsing, recording and re-recording; overdubbing; mixing; arranging and orchestrating every second of every single track of every record the Beatles made from 1966 until the band broke up in 1970. I don’t want to sound like a complainer but a reader of this helter skelter mess of a book would have to be either seriously musically inclined (especially interested in the recording rather than the playing of music), or a Beatles fan of epic proportions who wants to learn each twist and shout of the process involved in bringing original fragments of Beatles song ideas to fruition. And frankly, I’m going to let you down by noting that the previous sentence makes Womack’s volume sound more interesting than this very strange book actually is.

Womack begins where I presume he left off in a previous volume with the Beatles at the height of their chart-topping success by describing the work behind the recording of Revolver. Then, in the only section of the book I would suggest that is worth reading, Womack turns to describing the germination of the ideas for what many consider the greatest rock and roll album of all time -- Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Womack provides mind-numbing detail of all the fits and starts, tedium and the magical mystery tour involved in the Beatles writing the Sgt. Peppers music and Martin’s contribution to this groundbreaking LP. Martin’s subsequent role in the recording of the singles Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane also is notable as it underscores how the Beatles, even in the midst of interpersonal struggles and feuding could come together to make records that when one reads the songs names we hear the music playing inside our heads. But eventually a lengthy and sad sequence of hard days nights results in the end of the band in 1970. From here Womack describes Martin’s many years working with other recording stars including Jeff Beck, America, Cheap Trick, Elton John and Paul McCartney as a solo artist. I should have known better and left the text unread after the Beatles’ breakup since Womack’s description of Martin’s work in multiple recording studios after the end of the Fab Four continues the monotonous pace of most of the volume.

So if you see Womack’s George Martin bio on the Newark Free Library shelves I suggest you let it be and instead, if you are interested in his life story, just imagine it.

Categories: Nonfiction

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