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Beatles Engineer Geoff Emerick Dies

Beatles Engineer Geoff Emerick Dies

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Geoff Emerick, 72, renowned sound engineer intrinsically linked to the later recordings of The Beatles, died of an apparent heart attack in Los Angeles Oct. 2.

Emerick served as recording engineer for Paul McCartney albums such as Band on the Run, and twisted knobs for acts like Elvis Costello (Imperial Bedroom and All This Useless Beauty), Cheap Trick, Steelers Wheel (“Stuck In The Middle With You”), The Zombies (“Time Of The Season”) Split Enz, Badfinger, Jeff Beck, Kate Bush, Big Country and Nellie McKay’s debut.

In 2003 he received his fourth Grammy, a Special Merit/Technical Grammy Award and, two years later, published his memoir, “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles.”

It is, of course, The Beatles he is most associated with and one could argue it was he, not George Martin, who could take the mantle of “The Fifth Beatle.”

Emerick was 15, working as an assistant engineer at EMI, when he witnessed EMI’s first-ever recording session of The Beatles with Ringo Starr on drums in 1962, the song “Love Me Do.”

Later, sound engineer Norman Smith, who had been recording the Beatles since the beginning, through Rubber Soul, took a sudden vacation, having enough of the Fab Four and wanting to start a career as a producer. He did so, including Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn, and even had a single of his own, “Oh Babe, What Would You Say,” under the moniker Hurricane Smith.

Smith’s exit made the Beatles turn to a 19-year-old kid named Geoff Emerick who had never engineered an album. Emerick took over the role of chief engineer, cutting his teeth on Revolver, not only because he knew the EMI equipment but because the senior staff did not want to work with the Beatles, who were very demanding and worked odd hours. The Beatles could suggest ideas to young Emerick who would try and figure them out. He began with the track “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

He is credited with creating the more complex sounds of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, including “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” adding the carnival noises. Fed up with the Beatles’ infighting, Emerick skipped The White Album but returned for Abby Road for which, along with Sgt. Pepper’s, he won a Grammy for engineering.

Emerick is also credited with overseeing the construction of Apple Studio.

However, Emerick’s memoir drew criticism because of its negative portrayal of George Harrison, John Lennon and George Martin, causing former Beatles engineer Ken Scott to rebut many of the assertions in his own autobiography, “From Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust.”

Emerick was expected to be in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday for Geoff Emerick’s London Revival, where he was expected to talk about his work with the Beatles, according to Variety.

Music journalist/author Harvey Kubernick provided the following background on Emerick:

There isn’t a music fan or a person on planet Earth who hasn’t been profoundly inspired by engineer Geoff Emerick. From “Revolver” on he was the full-time recording and remix engineer under George Martin. “Tomorrow Never Knows” was his first Beatles session. Geoff was behind the console until partially into the recording of the Beatles’ “White Album.” He later returned to helm “Abbey Road.”

Emerick is, with Howard Massey, the author of “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles.”

“I hear music in colors,” he said to me in 2002 at the Capitol Records Studio B in Hollywood. “Bass and drums are always my favorite,” Emerick stated. “And just building stuff around that, from color textures in my head, based upon what’s happening in the studio.”

Geoff’s drum and bass sounds have motivated generations of musicians. His recording techniques and innovations include automatic double-tracking; backwards guitar solo and loops, and real-time varispeed manipulation that infused John Lennon’s signature vocal echo.

On “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Emerick executed the famed splice between the two versions of the recording, which were in different keys and tempos. He assembled the cinematic background to “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” by putting together dozens of inch-long recordings of fairground organs and calliopes.

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