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Geoff Emerick - Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles

  by Lisa Torem

published: 27 / 11 / 2018

Geoff Emerick - Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles


At nineteen, the late Geoff Emerick became the Beatles' chief engineer and greatly influenced 'Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band', 'Revolver' and 'Abbey Road'. Lisa Torem in her 'Raging Pages' book column reviews his book, 'Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles'.

Prior to the publication of this Raging Pages review, Geoff Emerick, aged 72, died from a heart attack on October 2, 2018. In the words of his manager William Zabaleta, “We lost a legend.” The multiple Grammy-Award winner began his career as an assistant recording engineer with George Martin at EMI Studios (which would later be officially renamed as Abbey Road Studios.) Mr. Emerick worked as a first engineer on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles (the ‘White Album’). Later in his career, he acted as sound engineer for Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run (1973) as well as with Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck, Supertramp and Elvis Costello. Lisa Torem met Mr. Emerick in Chicago at The Fest for Beatles in August of 2018, where he patiently and enthusiastically greeted, posed for photos and fielded questions from hundreds of fans, not stopping until it was time for him to catch his plane. Pennyblackmusic would like to express sincere condolences to the family, friends and many fans of Mr. Geoff Emerick, as well as an appreciation for his exemplary work. Sound engineer Geoff Emerick is one of only a handful of professionals that can boast of working intensively with the Beatles in the studio throughout the making of their seminal albums. That EMI studio stands as the memoir’s setting. It may appear primitive by today’s standards, but miracles were achieved there nonetheless. In fact, despite the comparatively primitive equipment, these albums would become so technologically sophisticated over the years, that it became impossible for the band to reproduce those studio arrangements on the stage. But what did it take to achieve this level of sophistication? And who better to ask than Geoff Emerick? He had to make split-second decisions as the tape rolled. He relished the mentorship of the iconic producer George Martin, but at times perhaps also resented how he enjoyed the glory bestowed on the finished product. When the four restless, but gifted Beatles argued during late-night sessions, it was Geoff who was frequently expected to act as referee despite exhaustion and the mounting pressure of adhering to strict deadlines. But again, who better to ask than Geoff Emerick? In this memoir, he chronicles technical glitches and how they were democratically resolved. He elaborates on how harmonies were tightened and sweetened and the strategizing behind where mics were ultimately placed. He pledges allegiance to a singular phrase or stands in awe of how Paul McCartney painstakingly does take after take to get things right, despite the hour. In the chapter entitled “Innovation and Invention: The Making of Revolver,” he gives a specific example of how he saves the day. “Certainly the drum sound I contrived for Ringo by moving the mics in close and stuffing a blanket inside the bass drum has become the standard to this very day.” As he waxes rhapsodic about Paul McCartney “creating a whole series of short tape loops” for “Tomorrow Never Knows,” you can almost feel his temples pulsing with admiration. True, Mr. Emerick plays favourites at times. He seems to feel that the talent is not equally divided amongst the group members - Ringo Starr receives short shrift. But, he backs up these opinions with vivid examples and then moves on to chronicling the techniques which made history. That’s the prize. He swoons over ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ whilst remaining Luke-warm toward the 1968 ‘White Album’. Some fans may bristle over his use of technical jargon, whilst others may be in awe. But isn’t it the technician’s prerogative to use the appropriate lexicon? Personally, I feel he is sparing in his use of technical terms. Regardless, readers will most likely concur that Mr. Emerick’s career accomplishments are impressive and that putting in so many years entitles him to express himself precisely the way he chooses. This is a well-rounded read with something for everyone, including the geek and the groupie. Is every fact checked? Is every anecdote triple-sourced? After all these years, it might be difficult to validate such a claim, but there are many experts out there who can or will devote their life to such practices. For my money, I’m happy to hear how my favourite songs were slaved over so that fans, like me, can merely relish the enjoyment they wrought. In the chapter, “It’s Wonderful to Be Here, It’s Certainly a Thrill,” John Lennon watches his bandmates express wide-eyed wonder when Geoff brings out his beloved Mellotron, which would play a major part in the recording of ‘Strawberry Fields’. The “boys” survey the wooden instrument from all angles, as though it is a new species of wildlife. The book places us right in that room so that we can almost smell the veneer. Geoff’s role was not an easy one. He was often put in perplexing positions, like the time when the usually “distant” George Harrison asked him to pop over to an adjacent studio to help sitarist Ravi Shankar with a technical problem. No other engineer at EMI had ever been asked to solve an issue involving this instrument, gripes the overwrought engineer. Yet despite his anxiety, he feels “flattered” that Harrison feels comfortable enough to reach out to him. So, while many “housekeeping” topics are tackled throughout the book, the reader also gets a good sense of how this professional deepens his relationships with the Beatles. In other words, the human story never lags too far behind the technical glitches. Here, There and Everywhere is a fascinating book on many levels. I recommend that avid Beatles fans add this to the growing collection, as it answers a multitude of burning questions.

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