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'He Didn't Rule With an Iron Hand': Producer George Martin Remembered by America Singer Dewey Bunnell

America  Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, Gerry Beckley
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

America photographed in the 1970s. 

After the The Beatles called it quits in 1970, producer George Martin found himself associated with another band -- America, whose members met as Air Force personnel stationed in London and scored a hit with their first single and debut album, both called A Horse With No Name, in 1971. Martin came on board for 1974's Holiday and stuck around for three more albums -- 1975's Hearts, the following year`s Hideaway and Harbor in 1977. The first two hit top 5 peaks on the Billboard 200, while the latter two went top 20. Martin`s hits with the band included "Tin Man," "Lonely People," "Sister Golden Hair" and "Daisy Jane." During an interview last year the group's Dewey Bunnell, the singer recalled the experience of working with the iconic producer, who recently died at the age of 90:

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Holiday was our first time working with George. We'd only met him a few months before. We'd made the decision to approach George to produce us and then had a meeting and he was receptive. But he made it clear that he wanted us to come to London and work at AIR Studios, his studio there, and that he could only block out a month or something. We had spent almost three months on the album before (1973's Hat Trick) and he didn't want to do that.

 

So we got ourselves really well-rehearsed and we knocked out those songs and arrangements and were definitely prepared when we showed up in London. I think we recorded the whole album in 16 days and everything, and it was a great experience. It was really what cemented our relationship for the rest of the projects over the next few years that we worked on with George, and our friendship is still strong.

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Y'know, things in those days were happening so quickly and stuff was falling at our feet so amazingly, and we took everything in our stride because we were just young. I didn't let the awe part of working with (Martin) hit me so much, but it was great. We got along so well. We had the British humor down, too. We started in England and we had lived in England and Gerry (Beckley) and I had British mothers, so we sort of connected real easily with him. 

He didn't rule with an iron hand, really. He did expect us to keep a schedule, 'cause we'd been loosey goosey on (Hat Trick), which we produced ourselves, and we had late sessions into the wee hours. He put some structure into the thing, but it was fun. He'd say, "Let's go into the storage room and find an instrument for this," and I distinctly remember, 'We'll use this bell here. We used this bell on [The Beatles'] 'Yellow Submarine.' So almost as awesome as George Martin was producing us was, 'Wow, we're using the bell from 'Yellow Submarine!' It was kind of funny.

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George was a great judge of songs, too. If I'd bring back a song or say, "Let's revisit that song we didn't use on Hearts," he would say, "Well, if it wasn't good for that project, Dewey, it really wouldn't be good for any project, would it?" That really stuck with me -- I haven't always followed it, but it's something I do think about if I go back to look at a song we'd put aside before.


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