Kenneth Womack – Maximum Volume: The Life Of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1962-1966
Chicago Review Press – September 1, 2017
ISBN – 978-1-613-7318-95
Book Review By Aaron Badgley
George Martin is one of the most important and most influential producers in rock history. His work has produced some of the greatest innovations in rock history, made all more amazing by the equipment with which he was working with. And yet, there are is precious little written about him. He has written three autobiographies, but he remained very guarded in his books. I searched but could not find any other biographies about him, Kenneth Womack has corrected that situation.
Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1962- 1966 is not only an excellent book and brilliant read, but it needs to exist. Womack has researched Martin thoroughly and has come up with a biography of a talented, yet complicated man. And what Womack does is connect the personal to the professional. One sees how Martin’s upbringing impacts his professional career.
Like the Beatles, Martin grows up in a working class family, but unlike The Beatles he strives to conceal this fact, but what is interesting is the how and why. It makes for riveting reading.
The book is centred around his work with The Beatles, but Womack spends considerable time leading up to the meeting and the convincing Martin needed to signing and work with The Beatles. He also covers the work Martin does with other artists. What the reader quickly discovers is that not only is Martin ambitious but also extremely competitive. These two aspects drive Martin and in the end are part of the reason for the incredible and consistent output from The Beatles. Of course the fact that he had their incredible music to work with helps, but still, it is the combination of Martin and The Beatles that made the music what it is.
There a number of revelations in the book and a great deal to be learned. It is refreshing that after all these years and numerous books something new can be revealed. But this is due to Womack’s meticulous research and creative use of available information. He researches areas that others have not, and as a result this reveals not only new information but a whole new perspective.
Womack is an excellent writer, and this is certainly not his first book nor his first book about The Beatles (The Cambridge Companion to The Beatles and Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of The Beatles are two books well worth reading). He has a beautiful style of writing that makes reading the book an extreme pleasure while the reader is learning. It was, for me, near impossible to put down. It reads like a novel, yet every source is noted and documented.
This is the first volume about Martin and ends with The Rubber Soul album (that chapter is brilliant and I learned quite a bit about that album, The Beatles’ and Martin’s own insecurities and competitiveness). However, it is a pity to have to wait for a second volume dealing with Revolver and on. My one concern is that this should be more than a two volume series, perhaps three volumes is needed. Womack never rushes through the material and there is a wealth of material that cannot be rushed through in the story of George Martin.
Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1962- 1966 is a triumph, an excellent work tackling a subject that has not been covered in the past, but a story that needs to be told to fully understand The Beatles’ story. An excellent achievement!
Kenneth Womack’s books include Long and Winding Roads, The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles, The Beatles Encyclopedia, and New Critical Perspectives on the Beatles. He delivers some fifty invited Beatles talks a year to audiences across the nation, while sharing his insights with media of all stripes, including National Public Radio, ABC, CBS, NBC and Voice of America.