Beatles producer George Martin was “frozen out” of studio sessions for the band’s White Album in 1968, an author claimed in a new book about the studio icon.

Kenneth Womack wrote that, as a result of confusion arising from the death of Beatles manager Brian Epstein the previous year, relations between the band and Martin collapsed to the point of “cold war,” and others who were working with the Fab Four reported that he had very little to do with the work. Instead, Martin sat at the back of the studio control room with “a large stack of newspapers and a giant bar of chocolate,” and spoke “only if he was called on by the Beatles.”

Womack said he’d spoken to sound engineers and tape operators for his book Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, the Later Years, 1966–2016. “I asked them what George was doing when John [Lennon] was playing a particular guitar part or when Ringo [Starr] was working on some drum part,” Womack told the Guardian. “They would say, ‘Nothing, he was in the back of the booth, reading newspapers, sharing his chocolate with us.’ He was on a kind of a chocolate-and-newspaper strike.”

The author said that, along with the Epstein tragedy, the falling-out “also had a lot to do with a Time magazine article in 1967 where George was credited with being this wunderkind and the mastermind behind Sgt Pepper. "They didn’t take very well to that and let him know," Womack added. "I do think this was the beginning of this struggle over ‘Who’s the genius behind the Beatles?’ This was payback for taking credit for the Beatles myth. … But they coaxed him back for Abbey Road [in 1969].”

The White Album sessions were already known to have been tense, with Starr quitting the band for a short time and the results released as a double-LP because they couldn’t agree on a single-length track listing. Sound Pictures will be published on Sept. 4 as the second part of Womack’s Martin study, following Maximum Volume from last year.

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