A Day in the Life

Riding with Sir George Martin

Tom Zimberoff


©1976 Tom Zimberoff

It was a veddy, veddy English cah. Even a modern Morgan — they still make them — looks like it just burbled out of a garage in a state of perfect preservation, under wraps since 1936, with its stretched hood and engine-flanking louvers, swooping external fenders, a ragtop open cockpit for two, a real grille, and bug-eye headlights. Considering its peculiar chassis made of ash wood, you might also imagine the ride to be a bit stiff upper lip.

George Martin drove a Morgan. His passenger one dreary January day in 1967 was John Lennon. They were on their way to Abbey Road Studios to put the finishing touches on tape for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with the other three “lads,” as Martin, their producer, affectionately called John, Paul, George, and Ringo. He spoke about them with the casual pride of a father who acknowledges the accomplishments of his children without self-congratulation. And that was how he began his story, as he and I stood outside an office building just off LA’s Sunset Strip, chatting and shooting candid pictures. I was enthralled to hear firsthand accounts of the Fab Four. And I was getting paid by Rolling Stone to do it! I was also proud to tell George about the day I spent photographing Lennon for my first magazine cover not even three years earlier. I kept to myself the conceit that made me feel like we were chatting about a mutual friend. Ha!

George recalled that he and John were bumping along a backcountry byway, elbow to elbow in his roadster, heading south from Liverpool through Blackburn, Lancashire, toward the M6 trunk road to London. Over the engine noise and wind, John said he’d read a newspaper story that morning about a local satrap who’d counted every pothole on this and every stretch of tarmac in the county, a routine infrastructure inspection. He brought it up, annoyed, because the Morgan was bottoming out on every goddam little crater and, without seatbelts, he and George were nearly catapulted out of the car several times. Afraid he might fly like an arrow shot from an ash wood crossbow, John again cried out how it wouldn’t take this many holes to fill the Royal Albert Hall, a concert venue The Beatles had last played in 1963. It was merely an exasperated bon mot, but he implied that the volume of asphalt it would take to pack so many potholes would…