So George Harrison shows up with his song for "Sgt. Pepper" and George Martin is disappointed.
We live in a culture where everybody gets a trophy, praise is heaped upon unworthy citizens except when they’re excoriated, when the assembled multitude says what they’ve done is shite.
It’s hard to be popular. With notoriety comes hate. People are jealous. It’s human nature. They want to drag you down into the hole they’re in. It takes all your strength to keep on keepin’ on as the arrows fly. The biggest risk is to take a chance. So many are fearful of negative feedback they don’t even take a chance. But you’re bad before you’re good. And the only compass is deep inside.
And once you’ve made it, you’re lucky if you’ve got a trusted confidante, who wants what you do to be better, who inspires you, because he wants you to be your best self, all you can be, as opposed to lining his own pockets.
Today’s artists have lost faith with the businessmen. When they tell them to cowrite or that they don’t hear a single the artists wince, because there’s no underlying trust, and too often the businessman has a better lifestyle than the musician. It’s topsy-turvy to the way it should be. Everything flows from the music. You need to make it about the music.
So George Martin is disappointed with Harrison’s song. Instead of saying nothing, because it doesn’t really matter, because "Sgt. Pepper" will sell millions no matter what, Martin motivates Harrison. He says that "Pepper" is going to be a fantastic album and that George can do better.
This is the work of a coach. This is the work of the great A&R men of the past. This is the work of Rick Rubin. How do you gain a level of trust to the point where you can inspire an artist to do his best work?
An artist knows when his work is substandard. Because the song is his baby, he needs to sell it with bravura, needs to defend it, but deep inside he knows. You’ve got to touch this space to inspire him to do better.
Conversely, an artist knows when he does his best work. When he’s achieved nirvana. Never back down in this situation, because the only direction you can go from the top is the bottom. You must stand your ground. But not everything you do is at this level, in fact, it’s quite rare.
John inspired Paul and vice versa. They wanted to top each other, they wanted acceptance and admiration. We all do. But how do you coax these from another?
First by showing faith. Without faith, you’ve got nothing. The artist knows when you’re on his side, the artist knows when you believe he’s great. And when he hears you’re disappointed and inside he knows he’s under-delivered he wants to make it right, it’s human nature.
Somehow our society has become one of no, especially in the arts. There’s too much money on the line. It’s too expensive to make a movie, a stiff single will hurt your momentum, marketing trumps creativity. Whereas great songs are written when nothing else is in mind.
In Silicon Valley it’s a badge of honor to fail. Executives are embraced because they’ve lived through the mistakes, they know what to look out for next time. We’ve got to inspire our artists to take risks. But we’ve also got to inspire them to do their best work.
The culture of mainstream music is bankrupt. The money trumps everything. The executives are all about lifestyle, they want the income of a banker, and too many of the acts do too. We’re going to have to wipe away the old to make way for the new. That’s one thing that’s great about the economic decline after Napster, it’s weeded out those in music for the wrong reasons. Now if you’re not a fan, not a believer, you’re not in it, because the rewards are just too slim. Sure, some oldsters are hanging on by a thread, but they’re dying off too.
So expand your mind and your sound. And surround yourself with people who are good sounding boards, who put your art above everything else.
We all want to do our best work. But sometimes we need context, we need parameters, that’s what a great producer does.
George Harrison came back with "Within You Without You".
George Harrison trusted George Martin. He listened to him. George Martin was a great producer.