George Martin, The Beatles and “Alfie”

I did say recently that I didn’t want the blog to become an obituary column which seemed to what was happening throughout January and February but I don’t want to omit mentioning the passing this week of one of the music world’s most well-known and influential record producers – George Martin, the 5th Beatle.

Looking back now at photos of George working with The Beatles, he could be their dad, always dressed in his shirt and tie, his brylcreemed hair immaculately combed back. As it turns out he could have been an older brother in age terms but it goes to show how that small age difference in the ’60s meant that you were either part of that pre-war generation who had suffered the hardships and direct involvement, or you were the new post-war “never had it so good” generation who were bringing such innovation to music, film, fashion and ideas.

george martin

George however, although he may not have looked like his protégés, certainly had the ideas that contributed to their incredible success. In fact during their short career (considering their impact on the music world even to this day), they spent half of it in the recording studio with George, choosing that medium for their musical output rather than returning to live shows in front of screaming fans, who wouldn’t have been able to hear the songs anyway. There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of, or listened to, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which truly was a landmark album in the history of pop music. It won four Grammy Awards in 1968 and often tops polls of “The Greatest Album Ever Made”. None of this would have come about without George.

Again, I am probably going to horrify people by admitting that I was never a great fan of Sgt. Pepper and preferred The Beatles earlier pure pop output. It is simply that I was too young in 1967 to appreciate its sophistication. As a child, the films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! appealed to me much more and were shown regularly on television. As happened with David Bowie, I was just born too late to appreciate them at their creative height, but have kind of come round since.


George Martin’s relationship with The Beatles came about because of his link to Brian Epstein, the band’s manager. During the early ’60s, Brian Epstein and George Martin between them, were pretty much responsible for creating the Mersey Sound or Merseybeat as it came to be called. Brian had tried all the major labels to sign his Liverpudlian stable of artists, but it was not until an initially reluctant George Martin at Parlophone saw something there he could work with, that the magic began. As well as The Beatles, other artists such as Cilla Black, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas all made the regular trip south to visit George and the team at Parlophone. Cilla Black may have referred to the orchestra he used as “a bunch of auld fellas” but they certainly all contributed to making those artists the massive recording stars of the day.


There are just so many songs I could have picked to write about in relation to George Martin but the most obvious for me is of course Alfie, the song I used as inspiration for the title to the blog. Cilla Black was initially reluctant to take on this Bacharach and David classic but after Burt came across to London from the US to play and conduct on this oddly titled song, she could hardly refuse, despite her reservations that it was the name you would give a dog! George Martin was at the mixing desk performing his magic and after many takes of the song, they produced something truly remarkable.

Alfie by Cilla Black:

It’s now over 50 years since Cilla was asked to record Alfie in order to promote the Michael Caine film of the same name. Right at the end, our eponymous hero poses the question, “What’s it all about?” and I have come to realise that after 50 years of listening to popular music and now writing about the memories it inevitably conjures up, the answer is very much love, just as the song lyrics say. It is the love for our family as children, the love for our best friends as teenagers, for the various boyfriends/girlfriends on the way to finding that special someone, and now for me, the love I feel for my husband, daughter and special friends. Since starting this blog, I have never once reminisced about that important work deadline, that crucial exam result or the completion of that lengthy report, it is always about the people along the way. There is the old adage that you never go to your deathbed wishing you had spent more time at the office and after writing this, my 30th post, I am more convinced than ever that this is the case. As The Beatles sang – “All You Need Is Love”!

RIP George Martin.

Alfie Lyrics
(Song By Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

What’s it all about Alfie
Is it just for the moment we live
What’s it all about
When you sort it out, Alfie
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if, if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above
Alfie, I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed
You’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day Alfie, oh Alfie.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

9 thoughts on “George Martin, The Beatles and “Alfie””

  1. Reblogged this on What's It All About? and commented:

    George Martin died one year ago today so inevitably I wrote about him back then. I mention this only because I am in the process of editing “Alfie” out of my older posts and I feel that George and the song should have one last hurrah before being consigned to history. Despite the fact that poor Alfie has been dropped from my blog title I am still pleased that early on in this process I discovered that the answer to his question was indeed “love”. Considering that around 90 percent of songs are written about this very subject I think the songwriters of the world pretty much agree. Until next time…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always preferred the Dionne Warwicke version of “Alfie” (ditto with “Anyone Who Had a Heart”) and was never a big fan of Cilla Black EXCEPT for her cover of “I’ve Been Wrong Before”, which is simply stunning. Later, I was amazed to discover it’s a Randy Newman song and Cilla had been the first to record it in 1965 – a year before the Dusty Springfield version and 3 years before I heard Randy Newman’s first LP. It’s one of my favourite singles of the 1960’s, chiefly because of the staggeringly simple lyrics and the fact that Cilla absolutely nailed the raw emotion of the song.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I must admit I’m not particularly a fan of the Cilla version now either and found out last year (via another blogger) that it was the Cher version that was actually used for the film. I also now wish I hadn’t used it for my site title as tricky to change but now thoroughly sick of it. I think we all associate Cilla more with Saturday Night telly (of which she was the Queen) and not singing, although I did enjoy the Sheridan Smith drama on ITV about her early career which featured her relationship with Brian Epstein/George Martin/Burt Bacharach and of course her beloved Bobby. Will check out that IBWB song you mention – Yes, you can take the girl out of Liverpool but you can’t take Liverpool out of the girl.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “Alfie” was actually what was known as an “exploitation song,” and wasn’t intended to be used in the movie itself (though when it became a hit, the U.S. film distributor insisted on getting the Cher version in the actual film). Back in the 1960s, Bacharach and others would be approached to write a song using an upcoming film’s title which would serve as a sort of informal commercial for the movie. I’m kind of surprised we don’t see this kind of thing today, as pop music is used to sell so many products and often licensed for commercial use right away.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks for dropping by with this interesting bit of information – Always nice to have someone new leave a comment.

            As you may have guessed I started off calling this blog “What’s It All About, Alfie?” as I had always liked the song by Cilla but kind of heard it just once too often over the months, so had to have a bit of a reinvention!

            That all makes sense then in that anything by Bacharach and David would have sold well in those days and to have a new film’s name in the title would have really helped promote it. I wrote about the song Young and Beautiful recently which was from the end credits of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby – It was played a lot on the radio at the time which definitely added to my sense of wanted to go and see it (didn’t use the title though).


  2. Like you I prefer earlier Beatles material to later, but have been through various phases with many of their albums over the years. Mr SDS and I once went on a ‘Beatles Weekend’ in Liverpool – it was actually pretty awful due to a number of different factors (and one of them being stuck with the sort of people who go on ‘Beatles Weekends’ if that doesn’t sound hypocritical!) But glad we saw where it all started and had the experience, even if our ‘hotel’ room had paper-thin walls and the shared loo was about half a mile down the corridor and they couldn’t do toast because the toaster had broken… (funny how I harbour those memories the most!)

    George Martin always seemed to be one of the gentlest, most unassuming men you could wish to meet, able to bring out the best in other people and being so creative himself. He must have been great to work with.

    I wasn’t keen on later Cilla but thought she was lovely when I was a kid and she hosted her own show, I loved the part where she went out on the streets and interviewed members of the public. Seemed there were so many of those kind of shows at the time – Cliff Richard, Lulu, Cilla…. it was all very family friendly and Saturday teatime stuff, wasn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply as these reblogged posts feel like cheating but have just trawled through all 128 of my posts to edit out Alfie mentions and finding ones relevant to the current day’s news – One more to go!

      Love the description of your Beatles Weekend – I once went to Glasgow to see an Elvis theatre show and we had a similar experience with people who go on “Elvis Weekends”. Funnily enough we also have a toast story – We had a real budget holiday to Crete once and having little spending money, were determined to make the most of any food offered. The breakfast was dry bread and if we ever asked for it to be toasted the reply always was, “We don’t do that”. Has stuck.

      Shame that we’re all torn about Cilla now but you are right she was a real television star in the late ’60s/early ’70s just like Cliff and Lulu – I suppose the reality, karaoke singing shows have taken over that slot nowadays. Amazing to think that George Martin was happily making novelty/comedy records and then he got in tow with Brian Epstein and the rest is history as they say. He may have died last year also but he did have a reasonably long life and did achieve an awful lot.


  3. I remember hearing an interview with Cilla where she said that Bacharach was an extremely hard taskmaster during the recording of ‘Alfie’, though as you say the results speak for themselves. Favourite Beatles period? That’s one of those questions that doesn’t always have a definitive answer isn’t it? Today I’d say ‘Rubber Soul’/’Revolver’, though it could well be a different answer tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since George left us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have sickened myself of the song sadly as it cropped up so often after I used it for the blog’s title – I just checked out another post I wrote last year featuring an interview with Burt and the following sums up their relationship I think:
      “Of course there are many versions of the song Alfie, but when pressed, Burt very carefully sidestepped the issue of which one he preferred. He did however refer to the now infamous footage of Cilla being harangued into recording 41 versions, which suggests it wasn’t her one!”

      As a youngster I preferred early Beatles, as I got older I preferred Sgt Pepper, now I’m not particularly fussed about any of it – Isn’t it terrible how we reach that tipping point when we’ve heard something just too often and it is no longer a joy. This must sound really morbid but I’ve already picked out my funeral song and I have to rush to switch off the radio if it ever comes on as I don’t want to tire of it – Ironic really as I won’t be around to hear it. Yes I was right, this is too morbid but I’m sure we’ve all thought along the same lines?!


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