Bernard Cribbins, "Hole in the Ground" (1962)
Before the Beatles came on the scene, Martin had established his reputation as the producer of some of the most boundary-pushing British comedy records of his era. He recorded a young Peter Sellers and made his name (and Parlophone's) with the 1961 cast album of the groundbreaking satirical revue Behind the Fringe. "The Hole in the Ground" isn't quite as world historical as all that, but it's one of the finest examples of a certain kind of beloved novelty folk number that defined British culture pre-Beatlemania. Noel Coward said that if he was stranded on a desert island with just a handful of recordings, "I think the only one I would never get sick of is 'Hole in the Ground.'" A simple, funny tune about a Cockney workman trying to do his job while a posh know-it-all tells him how it should be done, there's nothing here to suggest that its producer would one day help transform popular music forever. But Martin was always judicious enough to know that sometimes a good producer just gets out of the way and lets a song tell its story. K.H.