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Alan Parsons remembers Beatles producer George Martin

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Years before scoring hits with The Alan Parsons Project ('Time,' 'Eye in the Sky,' 'Don't Answer Me'), Alan Parsons was a recording engineer at Abbey Road Studios in London, overseeing sessions for Pink Floyd ('Atom Heart Mother,' 'Dark Side of The Moon'), The Hollies ('The Air That I Breathe'), Pilot ('Magic'), Al Stewart ('Year of the Cat'), Ambrosia ('Holdin' Onto Yesterday'), Jeff Beck ('Beck-Ola') and dozens of others.

In 1969, on a blustery Jan. 30, Parsons then age 19 - was one of the few permitted access to The Beatles' surprise lunchtime live performance from the group's Apple building rooftop, as cameras rolled in hopes of capturing a suitable ending for the film that became 'Let It Be.' It was a gig that Parsons says he stayed up all night preparing for. After running cables from the roof to the basement studio where engineer Glyn Johns was recording the performance, Parsons was sent to purchase pairs of pantyhose ('we called them tights,'' he laughs) to act as a windscreen for the microphones.

Later in 1969, Parsons received his first credit as assistant engineer for The Beatles' 'Abbey Road' album, working closely with the band's producer, George Martin, who passed away last week at age 90.

During a phone interview conducted last Thursday, Parsons remembered Martin as a true gentleman whom he had modeled his own career after.

Dow: How hands-on was George Martin as a producer during the Beatles sessions for 'Let It Be' and 'Abbey Road,' and how much did he leave to the recording engineers?

Parsons: George was really into sounds and was a trained musician in his own right. The Beatles used to refer to him as a 'real' musician (laughs). He was very much hands-on but always very supportive. He never tried to inject too much of himself into the work of his artists. I think he was the ideal producer for The Beatles. He was always very respectful and, in turn, The Beatles had great respect for him.

Dow: Those records really marked the end of The Beatles' recording career. Most accounts tie that period with lots of tension and arguments in the studio, but (recording engineer) Ken Scott told me that those stories have been greatly exaggerated. What was the atmosphere in the studio, and how do you remember George Martin's mood at that time?

Parsons: There were plenty of laughs in the studio, even then. I remember quite a few pranks being played. There were definite moments where the mood was lighter, and I remember George Martin was always in a good mood and always very graceful in his approach. He was just the right guy for The Beatles and so right for many of the other people he worked with in the '60s and '70s. The way he handled artists and engineers was kind of exemplary. I think I've tried to model my own career as a producer on the kind of work he did.

Dow:You've been closely associated with Abbey Road Studios since the late '60s and even became vice president of the studio for a time. Is it still your favorite place to record?

Parsons: It is. Abbey Road has always been my home. I trained there and I almost feel like I grew up there. It has a certain magic that anyone who has worked there will tell you about. The VP position at Abbey Road came in the late '90s. It was an executive position, but I still wanted to continue my career as a recording and touring musician. I was actually running the place for a time, but I realized that the executive life was not for me. I was in that position for about nine months before I ran away screaming (laughing). But it's still my favorite. You can feel it in the walls all of the great music that has been recorded there.

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor/Ellsworth).


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