There aren’t many Beatles fans who haven’t dreamed of going to Abbey Road and learning to play Beatles songs, in the studio where they were recorded and surrounded by instruments that The Beatles used. Tim Huffman of iVideosongs had that experience two years ago, when he went to London for a summit meeting with Giles Martin, who gave inside information on how 30 Beatles classics were recorded and how they’re played.
Trained by his father George Martin, who produced nearly all of The Beatles’ studio sessions, Giles Martin has gone onto work on the Beatles’ Grammy-winning Love album, and their recent series of highly-rated re-mastered CD’s—and of course, he worked sonic magic for The Beatles: Rock Band, for which he served as creative producer. So it’s safe to say that Giles is a man in high demand, but Huffman’s concept of teaching classic songs online—with the songs played by original artists or people close to them—struck a chord with him. By the time they started working together Martin was so excited about iVideosongs that he met with Huffman in Los Angeles the very next morning after he won two Grammies for his work on Love.
Huffman and partner Andy Morton initially tracked Martin down online. After explaining iVideosongs and striking up interest he got the invitation to come to London. “What struck me about him was his humility and self-deprecating sense of humor,” Huffman says. “He’s the heir and the keeper of the catalogue who worked with his father for 20-plus years in the studio; but at the same time he’s a very genuine, straightforward guy.” He also sensed that Martin takes seriously his role as guardian of the Beatles’ legacy. “I get the feeling they’re good at reading people, and he could see that we weren’t doing some hard sell. I think he liked our approach and wanted to see that it was done accurately and honored The Beatles’ legacy. He was doing interviews after the Grammies, and kept bringing it back to how important it is that people learn to play these songs.” ”
As Huffman soon learned, it’s near-impossible to walk into Abbey Road without feeling The Beatles’ presence. “The great thing is that it’s not a museum; it’s a functioning studio. I saw the parquet floor and the chairs that go up to the control room. And that’s where it hit me—This is the place! Giles had a Hofner bass, a Gibson acoustic and some other instruments from that era. He’d point to one corner and say, “That’s RIngo’s corner, that’s where we set the drums up. And he showed us the piano that ‘Lady Madonna’ was recorded on.”
The two decided to focus on The Beatles’ catalogue of Number One songs, giving preference to the ones that are centered toward guitar. And Martin proved an invaluable source for the Beatles history that punctuates the online lessons. “We know there’s a lot of Beatles trivia buffs out there who’d say, ‘No, that’s wrong’ if he missed something. That’s why the weight of his answers is really strong; he knows it has to be accurate. A lot of the trivia he gave us hadn’t been out there before.” Huffman came away with videos that not only demystify the guitar parts, but give insight to how The Beatles did it. And he came away with even more appreciation for the group: “I am still fascinated by how well it holds up after almost 50 years. The quality of the melody the way the chords wrap around it…It’s amazing what those guys did.”