Remembering Geoff Emerick
Thank you Geoff Emerick. That's a bit of an unusual way to kick off a review but I had to say it. I've been a huge Beatles fan my entire life and have read practically every book associated with the group but I've been waiting for a book like this for a long time. Where as most Beatles books to date have dealt primarily with the personalities and personal stories of the fab four, sometimes respectfully and sometimes in a "tell-all" style, Emerick delivers a book that focuses on how they created the music that changed not only rock n roll but the world
True there have been plenty of books that do into great detail about the making of the Beatles music like the excellent work by Mark Lewisohn, but Emerick gives us a 1st person narrative that takes us into the studio and behind the scenes while providing his unique perspective on the music as well as the personalities of the "recording" Beatles. Those that were disappointed by George Martin's All You Need Is Ears for its lack of studio detail will be delighted by Emerick's telling of "how they got that sound" along with some rather interesting hidden jewels within some Beatles classics like Paul uttering "F**king Hell!" on "Hey Jude."
For the most part Emerick keeps the technical details to a minimum but you do walk away with a whole new appreciation for the art of sound engineering and just how much of a role these individuals play in the recording process
Emerick's story reads a bit like the American dream realized. Of course, he is British as is his story, but his is a tale of man that discovered music at an early age and translated that love into an astonishing career that involved the world biggest group from their very first recording session to their very last and details the changes that occurred in-between
Good fortune smiled on Emerick as he was completing high school. He knew he wanted to be involved with recording and told his school councilor that. As luck would have it, a councilor from another school called up one day with an entry-level opportunity at EMI studios. He was just 15 when he was involved as an assistant engineer at the very first Beatles sessions. At the age of 19, he was promoted to their full time sound engineer in time to record Revolver
He impressed Lennon right away when he was able to capture the vocal sound John wanted for "Tomorrow Never Knows." Lennon wanted to sound like the Dalai Lama shouting from a mountain top. Emerick came up with the perfect solution by having Lennon sing through a Leslie amplifier. With that simple trick, pop music changed forever
Emerick understandably brings plenty of his own prejudices to the book and his view of the individual Beatles. Paul, whom he had the best relationship over the years, comes off the best and most even mannered. Emerick sees Ringo as aloof and George Harrison as abrasive and sometimes inept. Lennon is portrayed as moody, and a fly by the seat of your pants type of recording artist that wanted to stretch the boundaries. Surprisingly and contrary to popular opinion, Emerick saw Yoko as a partially positive influence on Lennon as far as his personal life went. However, he did recount the tension the presence of Yoko brought to the studio, Lennon having a bed brought in for her and the first time she offered her opinion about a recording
While Lennon is often seen as the head of the band, Emerick relates that Paul was really the driving force behind the group, especially from Revolver on. And Paul dominance can be heard on Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and Abbey Road and the impression you gain from this book is how Paul's pop style vs. Lennon's tendency toward more avant-garde music in the later days, led to the tension and was a contributing factor in their break-up
Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles is far from perfect but it is rather good insiders look at the recording career of the Beatles. There are some holes in narrative, namely most of The White Album and Let It Be because Emerick did the unthinkable, he quit the Beatles during the early recording stages of the The White Album because of the strained environment with the group in the studio. But he did return for Abbey Road and tells an interesting story about how the album was named. He does spend of good deal of time on the recording of Sgt Pepper, especially the lead up tracks "Strawberry Fields" and "Penny Lane"
Emerick is not really one to toot his own horn, while some of the wonderment of what he was able to accomplish is conveyed in this book, he keeps his ego in check. However, his contribution to music and recording can't be ignored. He was years ahead of his time and helped the Beatles reach new musical frontiers. When you think that today's musicians have almost unlimited tracks to over-dub and experiment with, even back in the 60s John Dowd was getting amazing results with 8-tracks, but Emerick manage to help capture "Strawberry Fields" and the songs on "Sgt Pepper" on a four-track. Most musician's today wouldn't even think of recording a demo with just four tracks, so it makes it that much more amazing when you listen to Revolver or Sgt Pepper and hear what they were able to do with such primitive equipment
Engineers are often overlooked, especially by the general public. Mention the name Geoff Emerick or even Tom Dowd to your average music fan and you are likely to get a blank look in return but in reality these men were largely responsible for creating a recording environment where masterpieces like Sgt Pepper could be recorded. They stretched the boundaries of the technology to help the musicians get the sounds they wanted on tape (in Dowd's case, if he couldn't do that, he'd invent it). Geoff Emerick has rightly earned a respected spot in music history by playing a bigger role than many people will ever realize and this book is not only his story but the story of the evolution of the Beatles' sound and how they created music that in many ways is still ahead of our present time. I will end this review the way I began it; thank you Geoff Emerick. Thank you for telling your story and thank you for your contribution to not only the music of the Beatles but to the music it inspired. Order it here
Remembering Geoff Emerick
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