Conspicuous Consumers: (Sir) George Martin

It was a sticky, early-summer’s morning in 1992, in the air-con-free Our Price, Selfridges concession; as usual, there was only a mother and child browsing the racks, the place was spotless and well-ordered, and my manager was making the soporific staff rearrange the dust around the till area.  It was just then that this tall, upright, elegant and highly distinguished man strode up the steps and up to the counter.  “Good morning,” he said, ever so politely.  “Can you tell me, did ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by The Beatles ever make it on to an album?”  For a brief period, I was a bit taken aback at the sight of him.  I didn’t want to utter the corny line, “but… aren’t you George Martin, legendary Beatles producer and one of the 57 people known as ‘the 5th Beatle’?” , just in case I’d got it wrong.  So I said, with as much authority as I could muster, that I thought it was on Magical Mystery Tour, but I’d check.  “Oh, and can you see if Sgt. Pepper ever came out on CD, please?” he asked, as I stepped away.  Once behind the scenes, and flicking through the Beatles’ section of our back catalogue, my manager, who was a massive Beatles fan, and a good two feet shorter than me, shook both my shoulders as he squawked, “that’s George Martin!  Fucking George Martin!”  I know, I said, he wants to buy ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and Sgt. Pepper.  “Does he?”

When I returned with the items, the man who was to become Sir George was chatting to the mother and child who’d been browsing.  He looked the CDs over, thanked me profusely and said, “I’ll take them.”  I don’t mean to be impolite, I said, but why don’t you have these already?  Don’t they just send them to you?  “I do get things sent to me,” he smiled back, “but I also give things away all the time.”  He paid with his credit card and off he went, the proud owner (not to mention producer) of two Beatles CDs.  Returning to semi-reality, the previously browsing mother cheerfully handed me a Lulu Greatest Hits CD she wished to purchase.  “You know that guy you just served?” she said with wide-eyed wonder.  “He knows Lulu!”

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