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The Beatles' recording engineer Geoff Emerick dead at 72


jakeem
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Geoff Emerick, the British recording engineer who helped create some of the greatest albums by The Beatles, has died at the age of 72. NPR.org reported that his death was attributed to complications with his pacemaker. He had been talking to his manager on the telephone at the time.

The Grammy Award-winner, who began his career at the EMI label in London as a teen, was present for the recording of the Fab Four's first No. 1 hit -- "Love Me Do" in 1962. Seven years later, he was heavily involved in putting together "Abbey Road" -- the last LP recorded by group members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Image result for geoff emerick and the beatles

In 1966, the 20-year-old Emerick was given a chance to be the chief recording engineer for The Beatles' seventh album, "Revolver." 

"The studio manager called me to his office and asked whether I'd like to be The Beatles' engineer," Emerick told Mark Lewisohn for the book 'The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions' (1988). "That took me a little bit by surprise! In fact it terrified me. I remember playing a game in my head, eeny meeny miney mo, shall I say yes, shall I say no? The responsibility was enormous but I said yes, thinking that I'd accept the blows as they came."

The result: "Revolver," which showcased The Beatles' evolution as singers and songwriters, became a critical and commercial success. To this day, it competes with 1967's "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" for favorite album honors among critics and Beatles fans. 

On June 25, 1967, Emerick served as the recording engineer for a live performance by The Beatles for the ambitious worldwide telecast (via satellite) of the special "Our World." The program featured segments from 20 countries on five continents. The Beatles, representing The United Kingdom, introduced the song "All You Need Is Love."

Emerick also worked on "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (which earned him a Grammy) and "The Beatles" (the LP popularly known as "The White Album"). He found the latter project to be difficult -- and walked out.

"I lost interest in 'The White Album' because they were really arguing amongst themselves and swearing at each other," Emerick told Lewisohn. "The expletives were really flying. There was one instance just before I left when they were doing 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' for the umpteenth time. Paul was re-recording the vocal again and George Martin made some remark about how he should be lilting onto the half-beat or whatever and Paul, in no refined way, said something to the effect of 'Well you come down and sing it'. I said to George 'Look, I've had enough. I want to leave. I don't want to know any more.' George said 'Well, leave at the end of the week' – I think it was a Monday or Tuesday – but I said 'No, I want to leave now, this very minute,' and that was it."

He returned for the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack album and the recording of The Beatles song "The Ballad of John and Yoko." 

He then worked on "Abbey Road" -- which earned him another Grammy. It was released on September 26, 1969. The Beatles broke up seven months later.

Emerick continued to work on projects with McCartney, including "Band on the Run" -- which earned the veteran engineer his third competitive Grammy Award. In February 2004, he was presented a technical Grammy, a special award of merit presented "to those individuals who have dramatically pushed boundaries and made groundbreaking, important, outstanding and influential contributions of technical excellence and innovation to the recording field throughout their lifetimes."

During his career, Emerick worked many other artists, including Judy Garland, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Art Garfunkel, Jeff Beck, The Zombies, America, Cheap Trick, Split Enz and Ultravox.

He wrote about his career in the 2006 book "Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles."

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Emerick was reunited with McCartney during a June visit to a Los Angeles recording studio

Paul pays tribute to Geoff Emerick: https://www.paulmccartney.com/news-blogs/news/paul-pays-tribute-to-geoff-emerick 

xBwg5q55_bigger.jpg#RingoStarrVerified a@ringostarrmusic

sorry to hear about Geoff he was a great engineer very helpful to all of us in the studio and with him and George Martin helped us to step up on revolver

peace and love to all his family

Ringo

I’m so shocked that Geoff Emerick is no longer with us. He was the best engineer. Not only was he the best engineer, he was very very kind. love, yoko

I am saddened by the passing of Geoff Emerick. Geoff was known for his work with The Beatles. I had the privilege of working with him on "Abbey Road". He was a brilliant engineer and producer. Geoff was my mentor and significantly influenced me in my own career. RIP #GeoffEmerick

 

Geoff was Sir George Martin's 'right hand man' and worked on Ultravox's Quartet with us. A lovely, quiet, unassuming man who helped change the way music was produced. RIP.....

RIP @GeoffEmerick one of finest and most innovative engineers to have graced a recording studio. I grew up with him as he worked so much with my father. We have all been touched by the sounds he helped create on the greatest music ever recorded.

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I consider myself a super-knowledgeable Beatles fan, but I must confess upon hearing the news today that Mr. Emerick's was a name with which I was only marginally familiar, though if you read any of the many Beatles biographies, you're going to encounter it. His behind the scenes contributions, from what I've read today, appear to have been massive. It's probably impossible to say after all these years who exactly did what - George Martin took credit way back in The Compleat Beatles in 1982 for splicing two different recordings of "Strawberry Fields" together and slowing one down until they sounded like they were in the same key. Now, 36 years later, I read today that it was actually Emerick did that. So, who knows? I'm not going to call the great George Martin a liar. Maybe Martin first thought of it and Emerick was the one who actually made it happen. I'm sure ideas were firing fast and furious from everyone and that it was a collaborative process. 

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18 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

I consider myself a super-knowledgeable Beatles fan, but I must confess upon hearing the news today that Mr. Emerick's was a name with which I was only marginally familiar, though if you read any of the many Beatles biographies, you're going to encounter it. His behind the scenes contributions, from what I've read today, appear to have been massive. It's probably impossible to say after all these years who exactly did what - George Martin took credit way back in The Compleat Beatles in 1982 for splicing two different recordings of "Strawberry Fields" together and slowing one down until they sounded like they were in the same key. Now, 36 years later, I read today that it was actually Emerick did that. So, who knows? I'm not going to call the great George Martin a liar. Maybe Martin first thought of it and Emerick was the one who actually made it happen. I'm sure ideas were firing fast and furious from everyone and that it was a collaborative process. 

Time takes its toll on everyone. In an in-depth interview in the October 2018 issue of GQ magazine, Sir Paul McCartney -- now 76 -- acknowledges that he doesn't always remember events clearly from 50 years ago. And that goes for playing some songs by The Beatles.

"People aren't you, and they don't experience it," he said, admitting after a recent band rehearsal that he might not have been playing "A Hard Day's Night" correctly. "People haven't written 300 songs. And that's just with John. They haven't written…too many songs. So you don't remember them." 

Image result for gq mccartney cover

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HUMPH!

Well, Paul, I'm not NEAR as old as you, and still there's times, in mid morning, that I have to stop and think REAL hard---" Did I take my medicine this morning yet?"  ;)

Sure, the recording engineer doesn't get any glory, or at least not the same amount as do the artists whose recordings they do help make as memorable as they become.

And it is too bad to hear the news about this man, as I'm guessing he also never really did anyone any harm or a bad turn. 

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I just recently listened to Pepper for the first time in a long while.  Read the liner notes and Geoff Emerick is mentioned.  I didn't know about him walking out of the White Album sessions. Thanks for the info, jakeem.  I actually think the White Album, as a straight forward rock record, may be their best work.  

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2 hours ago, cinemaspeak59 said:

I just recently listened to Pepper for the first time in a long while.  Read the liner notes and Geoff Emerick is mentioned.  I didn't know about him walking out of the White Album sessions. Thanks for the info, jakeem.  I actually think the White Album, as a straight forward rock record, may be their best work.  

I haven't read Emerick's book, but it appears he was in caught in the crossfire of tensions that was the beginning of the end of The Beatles. 

Interestingly, he was scheduled to speak next month at a symposium at Monmouth University in New Jersey. The event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the release of "The White Album." 

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I've read a lot of books about the Beatles over the years, and Geoff Emerick's Here, There, and Everywhere was definitely one of the best.  Of course, it's about his life as a recording engineer, so it's not a biography or full history of the Beatles.  But Emerick was present when they created many of their best recordings -- in fact, he assisted them in creating the sounds they only heard in their heads -- so he has some very interesting things to say.

I'm sorry to hear about his passing.

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19 hours ago, cinemaspeak59 said:

I just recently listened to Pepper for the first time in a long while.  Read the liner notes and Geoff Emerick is mentioned.  I didn't know about him walking out of the White Album sessions. Thanks for the info, jakeem.  I actually think the White Album, as a straight forward rock record, may be their best work.  

:rolleyes:

Personally, I thought they did their best work between '62 and '70.  ;) 

And this may too, be "off track", but someone walking out on the sessions of some band's near final or really ambitious project isn't surprising.  It happened to YES during the "Close To The Edge" seessions( their most ambitious work up to that point) due to bassist CHRIS SQUIRE's goofing off and excessive drug use.

Same with JIMI HENDRIX bassist NOEL REDDING during the "Electric Ladyland" sessions, and for much the same reasons, only it was JIMI's clowning and drug use.

Sepiatone 

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Well, speaking of walking out and of The White Album, Ringo famously quit the band for a week after Paul overdubbed Ringo's drum parts on "Back in the USSR" and "Dear Prudence" (and maybe more songs) with his own drumming! When he came back, Paul had strewn a garland of flowers across his drum kit, and all was apparently forgiven (although I think what you hear on those songs is still Paul's drumming).

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3 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Well, speaking of walking out and of The White Album, Ringo famously quit the band for a week after Paul overdubbed Ringo's drum parts on "Back in the USSR" and "Dear Prudence" (and maybe more songs) with his own drumming! When he came back, Paul had strewn a garland of flowers across his drum kit, and all was apparently forgiven (although I think what you hear on those songs is still Paul's drumming).

Not that uncommon.  I'm not sure whether or not this applied with them, but many bands hire staff based on good companionship and interpersonal compatibility, above musicianship or other position.  They have to be able to carry out their duties, but in many cases that is not the determining factor.  They will have to fit in and get along with the others on the tour bus, be buddies, look out for each other, etc.  Often times bands will have members or staff around which are really "not that great" at what they are advertised to do, but are considered absolutely essential for making things go smooth in other ways.  Not saying Ringo wasn't a great musician, as there are more extreme examples out there.

In any case, this was for the studio track(s) that Paul had in his mind to nail in a specific way, the one performance that would get played over and over and over again?  Sure why not.

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2 hours ago, MovieCollectorOH said:

Not that uncommon.  I'm not sure whether or not this applied with them, but many bands hire staff based on good companionship and interpersonal compatibility, above musicianship or other position.  They have to be able to carry out their duties, but in many cases that is not the determining factor.  They will have to fit in and get along with the others on the tour bus, be buddies, look out for each other, etc.  Often times bands will have members or staff around which are really "not that great" at what they are advertised to do, but are considered absolutely essential for making things go smooth in other ways.  Not saying Ringo wasn't a great musician, as there are more extreme examples out there.

In any case, this was for the studio track(s) that Paul had in his mind to nail in a specific way, the one performance that would get played over and over and over again?  Sure why not.

Paul is a very good drummer and played drums on some notable recordings: "The Ballad of John and Yoko," on which only he and John appeared, as well as his own "Maybe I'm Amazed," "Band on the Run," and probably others that I'm not remembering at the moment. 

There's an apparently apocryphal story connected to Paul's drumming.  Lennon was supposedly asked if Ringo was the best rock drummer, and John supposedly quipped in reply, "He's not even the best drummer in the Beatles."  I believe John disavowed ever saying that and, in fact, loved Ringo's drumming.  But it's kind of funny, if obviously unfair to the great Ringo.

The Beatles didn't often bring in other musicians to play with them -- Eric Clapton (guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"), Billy Preston (electric piano on "Get Back" and other sessions), Nicky Hopkins (electric piano on "Revolution"), and some horn, string, and Indian players were among the rare outsiders who played with the band.  (Beatles producer George Martin also played keyboards on at least one song -- "In My Life".)

There was an instance of Ringo being replaced by a studio musician, however -- on their first record, "Love Me Do."  After an early take, George Martin apparently didn't think Ringo was up to playing on the record and replaced him with studio musician Andy White.  (In fairness to Ringo, he'd only joined the band two weeks earlier.)  Early pressings of the single, however, used the take with Ringo, while later pressings and the "Please Please Me" album used the version with White.  I believe Martin later joked that Ringo never let him forget the slight, but the two men got along well after that first snag.

But other bands used studio musicians routinely -- the Beach Boys being a prime example, where some of their most well known records (e.g., the masterpiece "Pet Sounds" album) had almost all instruments played by studio musicians, with the Beach Boys handling the vocals. 

Brian Wilson, the BB mastermind, had his favorite musicians, based not only on how well they played but also on how easy they were to work with.  One guitarist -- whose name I can't recall at the moment -- was once called by Wilson for a Sunday session.  The guitarist tried to politely decline, saying that he was taking care of his small son that day.  Wilson replied that the guitarist's son could come along and told him to bring his electric 12-string guitar.  The guitarist said he didn't have an electric 12-string.  Wilson replied that that'd be no problem and then asked the owner of a major LA music shop to open up on that Sunday.  (The shop owner: Glenn Wallichs, co-founder with Johnny Mercer of Capitol Records.)  They went down to the shop, picked out a guitar and amplifier, and then went to the studio for the recording.  After the session, Wilson gave the guitarist several hundred dollars in cash, along with the new guitar and amp.  The guitarist, who told this story, was very happy that he'd been flexible about the weekend work with Brian.  And his playing ended up on one of the greatest albums of all time, "Pet Sounds."

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16 hours ago, BingFan said:

(Beatles producer George Martin also played keyboards on at least one song -- "In My Life".)

Martin played keyboards on a number of early Beatles tracks. I'm not going to remember all of them off the top of my head. "Misery" was one. I believe on "Rock and Roll Music", John, Paul and George Martin all sat on one piano bench and bashed out a little six-handed piano!

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1 hour ago, sewhite2000 said:

Martin played keyboards on a number of early Beatles tracks. I'm not going to remember all of them off the top of my head. "Misery" was one. I believe on "Rock and Roll Music", John, Paul and George Martin all sat on one piano bench and bashed out a little six-handed piano!

Martin was credited with playing piano on "All You Need Is Love," but he didn't do it during the "Our World" live performance. He was too busy fretting over the television segment. Reportedly, Martin and Emerick (shown below with assistant sound engineer Richard Lush) drank Scotch whisky to calm their nerves just before The Beatles went on the air.

Image result for "all you need is love" our world 

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The first time I remember seeing Emerick's name was on the back cover of Abbey Road,

though it might have appeared before then. I remember reading that Paulie had a bit

of trouble with some of the drum parts in TBOJAY, though he finally got it. Enjoying the

Yes gossip. I had read before that Bruford quit because he got tired of all the elaborate

plans for the smallest bit of music during the Yes recording process and that the Close to

the Edge sessions was the last straw. That seems to be confirmed in articles on Yes and

Bruford. Not that Squires might have been part of that, but I don't think he was the main

reason that Bruford quit. You can only imagine what Bruford would have thought of doing

Yes' next album, TFTO. Yikes. 

 

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