George Martin on the Beatles: "I fell in love with them"

LONDON --Most folks can easily rattle off the Beatles' names -- John, Paul, George and Ringo -- in that order. But only a real fan can tell you about the Beatles' "other" George, producer George Martin. He died Tuesday at age 90.

"I was looking for a group. Or rather, I was looking for a new rock 'n' roll act," Martin told CBS News in a 2009 interview of how he found the legendary group.

And, boy, did he find one. Martin didn't look -- or sound -- like Beatles 1-4. But without him -- the so-called "fifth Beatle" -- the first four might have never happened.

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LONDON - 1964: Rock and roll band "The Beatles" poses for a portrait with their producer George Martin. (L-R) Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, producer George Martin, John Lennon.

Michael Ochs Archives

It was Martin who took the raw energy of the Liverpool lads and made the Beatles sound like the Beatles. But he admitted to CBS News years ago that when he first met the not-yet-fab-four, that he wasn't impressed.

"They weren't hit material, I didn't think anyway. But they had tremendous charisma, those guys. I fell in love with them really," Martin said.

"They were cheeky and they had this sparkle. When you're with them, you feel enriched in their presence. And when they go away, you feel a bit diminished," he continued.

And they learned to love each other.

"George had done little, no rock 'n' roll, when we met him, and we had never been in a studio. So we did a lot of learning together," John Lennon said of working with Martin.

Martin was behind 30 Beatles number one hits. He didn't just record them -- he recorded them in ways even they hadn't thought of.

The string quartet behind Paul McCartney in 'Yesterday'? That was Martin's idea.

Paul Gambaccini, music historian and author, was a friend of Martin's. "He helped them to do the things they could not have done themselves."

Sir George -- he was knighted twenty years ago -- kept going after the Beatles had stopped. The James Bond tune 'Goldfinger'? That was his too.

And Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" never would have flickered without George Martin.

"It's been wonderful really, and it's rubbed off on me," Martin said of working with such accomplished artists. "That's really why I've been successful, having great people around me."

But it's as the unsung hero behind the songs, that Martin's praises are now being sung.

"At the end of my career, end of my life. I'm going out with a bang, not a whimper," Martin said in 2009.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.