Billy Rankin's fear over George Martin booze bill

Former Nazareth guitarist Billy Rankin has recalled the first time he met Sir George Martin – but couldn’t admit his true identity for fear of being hit with a massive bill.

Rankin pays tribute to the late producer known as the fifth Beatle on his TeamRock Radio show, due to be aired at 11am on Saturday (March 12).

He met Martin, who died this week at the age of 90, at the producer’s Air Studios in London. But it was Nazareth’s antics at Martin’s Montserrat studio that were playing on his mind.

Rankin says: “The main memory I’ve got of George Martin was the first time that I met him. I was in Nazareth at the time and I dropped in to Air Studios to meet with Chris Glen, who was with the Michael Schenker Group at the time.

“Of course Chris wasn’t in as he wasn’t up yet, and who wonders in to the room but Paul McCartney. He comes over to me and and he said, ‘Chris will not be in for hours, do you want to pop into the studio with us.’

“McCartney was doing his solo album at the time, produced of course by George Martin. Linda made me a cup of tea, which I famously didn’t drink because I hate tea, and George passed around the biscuits and I had a good blether with him.

“I couldn’t tell him who I was because months before that, I was recording at Air Studios Montserrat and apparently Nazareth spilled more drink than Sheena Easton’s entire entourage had drank while they were there.

“Quite rightly our record label was debating the bill, saying, ‘They didn’t drink that much.’ We all got personal letters from George. It said, ‘Dear Billy, you know you drank it. Own up and pay up.’”

To avoid admitting who he was, Rankin steered the conversation back towards Martin and was surprised to find out that his favourite ever pop record wasn’t one by the Beatles.

Rankin adds: “So when I met George I couldn’t tell him who I was because he would have said, ‘You owe me drinks money.’ So instead I asked him which pop song was his favourite.

“And to my surprise he said, ‘It wouldn’t be a Beatles song. The most perfectly produced pop song ever was the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows.‘”

Paul McCartney led the tributes to Martin this week, saying he was like a father to him.

Stef wrote close to 5,000 stories during his time as assistant online news editor and later as online news editor between 2014-2016. An accomplished reporter and journalist, Stef has written extensively for a number of UK newspapers and also played bass with UK rock favourites Logan. His favourite bands are Pixies and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Stef left the world of rock'n'roll news behind when he moved to his beloved Canada in 2016, but he started on his next 5000 stories in 2022.