Updated August 27, 2021 - 7:46 am
Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are knighted. But it is Giles Martin who lords over the band’s peerless music catalogue.
Even so, the man in command of all those classic recordings shows not a hint of ego. Martin talks humbly and freely about the songs originally produced by his dad, George Martin, who is also a “Sir.”
When the younger Martin casually mentions, “I spoke with Paul this morning, actually … ,” he doesn’t bother with a surname.
This Paul is McCartney, the rock legend. In Martin’s life, Paul is a family friend, too. The two chatted earlier this month about the relaunch of “Love” at The Mirage. The show sprouts anew Thursday night, ending its 17-month “intermission,” as the company calls it.
Martin has remastered all the music for the show, and stopped through a couple weeks ago to check on the sound system, and to give a lift to the cast and crew. He also hung for a chat inside the theater, visiting Vegas for the first time since March 2020. Highlights of our time together:
Johnny Kats: Since you just talked to Paul, what does he have to say about the show?
Giles Martin: He is just so proud of the fact that his legacy, or their legacy, continues on. We built this place where people come and enjoy the music. I think at some point, all people of all generations come here.
Kats: Paul is still asking you about the quality of the show?
Martin: It’s funny, I said, “So, we had a tech run-through last night, and he goes, “How was it?” And I said, “Well, there’s a couple things I need to iron out, but I’ve got to go to L.A.” And he said, “You’re going to go to L.A. and iron out all the problems?” And I went, “No, no, I’m going to go to L.A. to do another thing.” He’s like, “Right. You’re working on something else …” I had to say to him, “I’m here looking at the show.” And he goes, “Good. Good. Make sure it’s good.” Because it’s his music, and it’s his show. It’s their show, really.”
Kats: With the “Love” show, you’ve become a caretaker for the Beatles’ legacy, at least in terms of live, ticketed performances. Huge responsibility, right?
Martin: Well, I don’t personally — there are very, very good people around us that have a lot of work in this. But yeah, looking back, 15 years, there was a huge risk in doing this show. The guys who work with me here were asking me about this last night, and I was saying, “In all honestly, there was a risk that opening a Beatles show in Vegas would be seen as something that was, I don’t know, cheesy.”
Kats: But it’s been a beautiful show.
Martin: For The Beatles legacy, “Love” has a great impurity and great intent. When it opened, it had such an amazing response from everyone. It still has such an amazing response It’s become this thing that is part of the Beatles.
Kats: You’re involved in the updated “Let It Be” documentary by Peter Jackson, “Get Back,” coming in November. Have you seen the final cut of that?
Martin: I have, yeah. It’s great. The thing about Peter Jackson is, he is very good, and so is the team around him. I’m working on the sound restoration and video restoration, and it’s like being there with the band. It’s really fascinating. It’s really compelling viewing, seeing how they react to each other.
Kats: You have seen it all, too, right?
Martin: I’ve been through 52 hours of dialogue and video, and then I see something or hear something like, when Paul opens “Love” with, “We’re doing a live show,” which is from “Let It Be.” You suddenly realize, “Of course, it is him.” I think it’s going to blow people’s minds, watching it.
Kats: You’d once told me that, if I remember it right, the “Let it Be” sessions were not entirely a sad moment in the Beatles’ career.
Martin: “Let It Be” is seen as the break-up album, but people get it wrong because it was the last album that came out, but it was actually done in January 1969. In February, they were recording “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which is in the “Love” show, and then they went on to do “Abbey Road.” So, sorry, if they were breaking up they didn’t do a very good job of it (laughs).
Kats: There was some tension, though, right?
Martin: They were breaking up when it was released (in 1970). I mean, listen, George (Harrison) did walk out halfway through, but Ringo walked out during the “White Album,” you know, because Paul and John (Lennon) were quite intense to be honest with you, and the two of them got sidelined.
Kats: The “Love” soundscape CD has been out for quite a while. Is there an idea that you might remake that, or do a part two, a sequel or something related?
Martin: I think I’ll do a sequel. The CD was hugely successful, but I was so nervous because my dad had made all the Beatles stuff for his son and got the job of chopping it up. I thought I would get lynched for it and I kind of wanted that creation to exist in this space. I was nervous about it going out of this space because I didn’t think it would make much sense. But then it came out, and it was really well received. People love it.
Kats: It couldn’t have been anybody else who could do the music for “Love,” when you think about it, you know? It had to be you.
Martin: Yeah. I suppose so. On the other side, I remember when Apple signed the deal with Cirque, saying they were going to go ahead with this show. I was in New York. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a producer and said, “Oh, my God, I’m going to do The Beatles. I’m not sure I want to do The Beatles, because if I do The Beatles, that’s what I’ll be known for doing.” And he goes, “Well, if you don’t want to do it, I’ll do it.” I was like, “OK, maybe I should do it after all.” (Laughs)
Kats: We had a chance to talk 10 years ago, with your dad, at the fifth anniversary of “Love.” It was a great moment. How do you feel now about your involvement in his original work?
Martin: Well, you know, I have a huge personal link to the show. I think my dad was 79 when I started working on the show … he was kind of an old man, and we started working on the show way before Cirque did. The way we worked is, I said maybe we can just chop the music to create a collage of sound. I planned to get The Beatles to do a concert they never played. That was the original idea. Dad was not well at the time, he was actually having an operation. I went into that hospital room and played him the opening of the show, and he liked it.
Kats: Did he have concerns about how it would be received?
Martin: He was just worried that I was going to upset The Beatles, in fact. But Paul was happy.
Kats: I remember you being together a lot because of “Love.”
Martin: Yeah, that opened the door to us then spending a long time together. I would work in the studio, and he would come in like on a Thursday or Friday and I would go through all the tapes with him. I’d go through and ask him questions, and then we would go to lunch together and we spent so much time together as a father and son. It’s almost like Benjamin Button, you know. We lived our lives in reverse, to a certain degree.
Kats: He died around the 10th anniversary, yes, during the show’s refresh period.
Martin: We spent quite a long time persuading people we wanted to refresh of the show. My dad fell ill in January, the year before we did the refresh. I remember I couldn’t come out, because my dad was dying. People were hamstrung because I wasn’t here. I realized I had to come out. My dad’s doctor said he might make another month, or three weeks. My dad said, “You should go. You have to go.” I went home, and he died about 10 days later, after we did the 10th-anniversary (refresh).
Kats: That is amazing.
Martin: It was such an important bond for the two of us. It was way more important for me than the show itself, because we spent so much time together. I got the chance to go through his work, and to do something truly creative with his work, that he loved, that people hear now. It’s like I was proving my worth to him. It was an amazing time.
Kats: When you were working with your dad, did he leave you with anything in these sessions that you take with you, like pearls of wisdom?
Martin: The thing about my dad is, he just taught me to be strong, never accept second best, and also to be humble. To be kind to people, and to respect everyone, not because of who they are but the fact that they’re all human beings. That was the most important thing, because my dad was a very kind and nice man. Musically, of course, he taught me a lot. But the most important thing is he taught me was to be compassionate and kind.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.