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Music Engineer Geoff Emerick Recalls Early Work With the Beatles

Saturday, July 22, 2017

If you looked at the music sales charts this year and saw the Beatles’ masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” perched in the top spot, you weren’t having a flashback to 1967 and the Summer of Love, when the album was first released. Yes, the Beatles got back this year, and you’ll get no argument from Geoff Emerick, the Grammy-winning engineer of that landmark album, that it’s absolutely where they once belonged. Emerick began his career as a teenager in 1962 for EMI in London, where he assisted the production of the Beatles’ recordings, including their first hit, “Love Me Do.” Over the years Emerick has twirled the knobs for a dazzling array of music greats, including Kate Bush, the solo Paul McCartney, Supertramp, Elvis Costello and another Brit sonic masterpiece, the Zombies’ “Time of the Season.” But his first time in Variety was tied to his Grammy win for “Sgt. Pepper” in 1968.

By the time “Sgt. Pepper” arrived, you’d already logged many hours with the Beatles at Abbey Road.

I was dropped into the deep end of the pond. I was mastering American records for the U.K. market one day, and the next day, when I was around 19, I was working on “Revolver.”

As great a record in its own way as “Sgt. Pepper,” if not better?

The Beatles knew from listening to American records that sounds could be better than what we were hearing in the U.K. So we worked on microphone positioning, miking the drums, working to get something more than the wishy-washy Cliff Richard sounds.

What were they aiming for?

I remember John telling me he wanted his voice to sound like “the Dalai Lama singing on a mountain” for “Tomorrow Never Knows.” So we hit on the idea of taking a spinning Leslie speaker from the Hammond and putting John’s voice through it.

There’s been a lot of publicity around the rerelease of “Sgt. Pepper” and the fact that it’s been remixed.

And an awful lot of it has been misinformation that I frankly find both defamatory and disrespectful. I’ve read that we put no time into the stereo mix, which is just inaccurate. We put just as much into the stereo mix as we did the mono mix. And to hear that [producer] George Martin would have loved to have all the tracks we have today to work from, I would say, “No, he wouldn’t.” But of course he’s not here to ask.

 Source: benjamin wachenje for Variety

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