Books

Here, There and Everywhere by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey

Carl Schonbeck

The Beatles boy wonder sound engineer Geoff Emerick reel-to-reels in the years and makes tenderloin out of some sacred cows in the process.


Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles

Publisher: Gotham Books
Length: 387 pages
Authors: Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey
Price: $26.00
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2006-06
Amazon

Among the various source quotes on the back cover of Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles is one by David Letterman sidekick and bandleader Paul Shaffer. Lauding the book as a dream come true for Fab music scholars, he reminds readers that its author (in the recording studio at least) was that rarest of things" a true Beatles insider. "The cat was there!" Paul exclaims.

Indeed, the "cat" in question, recording engineer Geoff Emerick, was that and much more. A fixture behind the recording console for a large part of The Beatles's career, Emerick did much to shape the ground-breaking sounds of The Beatles's post-touring studio years (1966-1970). Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heats Club Band and Abbey Road all benefited from the sonic innovations of the young man known as "Mr. Golden Ears" by his EMI colleagues (though reading the book one can suspect the nickname was served up with generous helpings of English taking the you-know-what).

Even today Emerick's contributions aren't always common knowledge. The fact that this self-effacing man's story has been so seldom told makes Here, There and Everywhere a must read for any serious fan of The Beatles music.

The book, serviceably penned by Emerick and American music journalist Howard Massey, shrewdly begins with Emerick (19 years old but already with three years EMI experience) nervously taking the place of Beatles sound engineer Norman Smith and staking out his turf first day on the job. Of course, this is no ordinary day – it's the start of the Revolver sessions and The Beatles are recording "Tomorrow Never Knows". "Where's Norman?" intones Lennon ominously as the session begins. "Oh, Norman is out….Geoff will be carrying on in his place," replies Martin casually.

So much for modern job orientation techniques then, The Beatles are hungry for new sounds. Lennon's voice put through a rewired Leslie speaker and a revolutionary new drum sound for Ringo? All in a good first day's work for Geoffrey. The Fabs are smitten, Emerick is relieved and EMI's "proper" use of equipment manual is put on notice. From there, we're quickly taken through Emerick's childhood in post-war London and his early fascination with music and recording.

Persistence and a bit of luck garner him an interview with EMI during the summer of 1963 and Geoff is soon employed as a teenage assistant sound engineer. With its quaint English ways and colourful cast of characters, the atmosphere at EMI is almost Dickensonian and Emerick does a good job of conjuring up the era. Geoff is present at The Beatles first ever recording session (his second day of work no less) and a lifetime friendship with McCartney quickly develops.

This partly explains the book's recurring Macca-centred viewpoints. While The Beatles conquer the world Geoff enters what are essentially his "wilderness years" as he moves up the ladder (and around EMI) learning the various phases of record making. There are fleeting encounters with The Beatles and other luminaries such as Judy Garland (one of the book's most charming bits) but Emerick is soon frustrated at being "away from the action" of doing sessions.

That all changes in April 1966 when he learns George Martin and McCartney have had their eyes on him all along. The triumphs of Revolver and Sgt Pepper follow and are explained in detail (60 pages alone are dedicated to Pepper). With Emerick behind the console the studio becomes an instrument in itself through the use of varispeed recording, heavy compression, backward tape loops, new microphone techniques and an overall pushing of the envelope. Absurd as it seems now, Emerick's experimentation doesn't always fly with the staid EMI brass and more than once he's reprimanded for "misusing" equipment.

Geoff's love/hate relationship with EMI is a constant theme (in studio manager Alan Stagge we discover a previously unknown villain in The Beatles saga) and his griping about EMI's tie and white lab coat dress code is often amusing (as are Lennon's droll remarks about his attire). Things soon grow darker as Brian Epstein dies while overwork and burnout take their toll. By the summer of 1968 The Beatles are abusing each other, George Martin and the EMI staff while Emerick teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He quits halfway through the White Album sessions and it's hard to blame him (tellingly, Martin actually says he envies him as he's leaving).

In the following months Geoff realises he's actually dodged a bullet (he sits out the miserable Let it Be sessions but returns in time for the final triumph of Abbey Road). By now The Beatles have largely worn out their welcome at EMI (few engineers even want to work with them by 1969) and their supposed "state of the art" Apple studio is a sham (this compliments of Greek hustler and Emerick nemesis Alexis Mardas, known in Beatles lore as "Magic Alex").

Emerick goes on to describe The Beatles's final death throes and the frustration of his years at Apple (he builds The Beatles's dream studio only to see it demolished on a whim by Ringo of all people). He also dedicates a couple of chapters to his more notable projects after The Beatles (McCartney's Band on the Run and Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom). The book ends with The Beatles Anthology sessions and a few choice words about how recording and the music industry have changed (mostly for the worse) since the '60s.

While the book contains few shocking revelations about The Beatles themselves, Emerick does provide a handful of rather startling critical opinions (Elvis Costello alludes to this in his excellent introduction). While praising George Martin's musical and arranging skills and extolling the producer's calm guiding hand during The Beatles early years, he also presents him as manipulative, occasionally cruel (he enjoyed embarrassing subordinates to keep them in line apparently) and (gasp) "lacking in the proper leadership skills". In Emerick's view, Martin relinquished control to The Beatles during 1967 because he feared instilling some needed discipline would've cost him his job. All of this can be unsettling to fans that have come to see Martin as the unflappable white knight playing Q to The Beatles's Bond.

For some reason, Geoff also rarely misses a chance to carp about Harrison's guitar playing (particularly on the early records) while George's crucial contributions as a harmony singer go barely mentioned until Abbey Road. Musically, Ringo gets full kudos but even the Starr of the show gets painted as sullen, sarcastic and "unimaginative" (even on those "A Day in the Life" fills, Geoff?) Well, well, well……

Despite a few blemishes (the dialogue, particularly between The Beatles themselves, is sometimes more cartoon Yellow Submarine than fleshed out Help / Hard Days Night), Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles is a fine read and a treasure trove for anyone interested in what really went on behind the sealed doors of EMI Studio Two (it makes a particularly good companion to Mark Lewisohn's excellent The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions). Emerick, who under today's rules would've likely received co-producer credit on Sgt. Pepper, surely deserved an opportunity to tell his story. It's to the benefit of Beatles fans everywhere that he made the most of it.

And by the way….if you've ever wondered who muttered "take two" at the beginning of "Revolution" (White Album version), it was Geoff. The cat was here, there and everywhere.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image