Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Geoff Emerick, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Beatles

Another book on the Beatles?  Give me a break.  What is this?  Another one of those “I hung with John when he was fucked up and hung out with assholes . . . uhh . . . wait a minute” pieces of garbage?  Not hardly.  Here, There and Everywhere is about recording the Beatles albums from Revolver on and it is written by the only person alive qualified to tell this story in this way.

Geoff Emerick interviewed and got a job on the bottom rung of the engineering ladder at EMI’s Abbey Road recording studio when he was fifteen years old.  His second day on the job he was assigned to an overtime session, without pay, recording a band scheduled to make their first appearance in the studio.  The Beatles.  Three years later he was given the job of chief recording engineer for The Beatles two weeks before the sessions for Revolver began.  He stayed in that position for most of the rest of their career and was the person responsible for most of the recoding innovations associated with the Beatles that have become standard in the industry such as close miking, automatic double tracking, backwards sound, tape looping, preamp distortion and more.  He won Grammy Awards for Sergeant Pepper’s, Abbey Road, and McCartney’s album Band on the Run as well as a fourth Grammy for Lifetime Technical Achievement.  He is the guy behind the pristinely recorded master tapes that have made the recent Beatles mashup “Love” possible.  When it comes to recording the Beatles, he is the man.

  Here, There and Everywhere is all about the music and, as such, it may not be for everyone.  If you want to read gossip or anecdotes about The Beatles personal lives, analyses of their  cultural significance or stories about where this lyric or that came from, this is not the book for you.  If you are interested in technical details about how The Beatles were recorded, how a vocal track or drum part was miked, the problems involved in recording something as layered and complex as Strawberry Fields Forever or almost all of Sgt. Pepper’s on a four-track machine, or how the Beatles interacted in the recoding studio you will probably love this book.  Emerick keeps such a tight focus on the music and how it was recorded that when he ocassionally talks about something going on in his personal life outside the studio it can come across as flippant or disinterested.  This is especially jarring when he mentions that his wife of roughly five years succombed to cancer.  Reading further it seems that the only reason he mentions his wife’s death is to show that it became the basis for a tighter bond between he and McCartney after Linda McCartney passed away from the same disease.  Unlike so many who coauthor self-absorbed autobiographies, Emerick understands that his reading audience is not as interested in him as they are in the important things he did. 

Just as the book isn’t about Emerick, it isn’t about The Beatles per se.  While he has an enormous regard for the band members as musicians, he is not awestruck when considering them as people.  Where most people would be, like, “ZOMG, it’s RINGO!!!”, for Emerick Ringo is the guy who was the drummer in the band with a pronounced aversion to flashy drumming coupled with an intense interest in how his drums were recorded and who had little else to say or do during the recording of The Beatle’s music.  Although it seems clear that Emerick had a closer relationship with McCartney than any of the others (he was considered by some to be “Paul’s engineer” during the bitter Apple years) he provides generally balanced accounts of all four Beatles as musicians and participants in the recording process.  All four are praised and openly admired for their musical prowess and yet limitations each Beatle had either as a musician or as a contributer to the recording process are frankly discussed.  Emerick doesn’t appear to delight in telling unflattering stories nor does he bask in the reflected glory of The Beatles.  He simply tells the story of what it was like to work closely and extensively with four very talented musicians.

 Here, There and Everywhere is a book about how an exceptionally innovative and creative engineer recorded extraordinary music written without hype or adulation.  I loved it.

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02/01/2007 - Posted by | book reviews, music

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