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Fascinating Reading, Though Not Without Issues
on June 6, 2016
Geoff Emerick’s “Here, There and Everywhere” is a fascinating book for any Beatles fan and I would recommend it, though it is not without its problems. Emerick had the opportunity to be the proverbial fly on the wall pretty much throughout the entire Beatles recording odyssey, starting initially as an underling in the early sessions and eventually becoming the recording engineer by the time of the Revolver sessions. He quit early on in the making of the White Album, amidst the well-documented acrimony in the studio, but later returned for Abbey Road.
It’s clear that Emerick has a pro-McCartney bias. This is partly due to Paul being more friendly toward him than the others right from the beginning. But it's also because he holds the opinion that McCartney was the "pure musician" of the group. Given McCartney’s proficiency on bass, fingerstyle acoustic guitar, lead guitar, piano and even drums, it’s hard to argue with that. However, Emerick also holds a dim view of George and Ringo as musicians, and it should be noted that others, such as Beatles engineer Ken Scott, had a much higher opinion of the talents of the latter two than does Emerick and have flatly stated their disagreement in that regard. Of course, as someone who was there, Emerick is certainly entitled to his opinion.
It should be mentioned that McCartney is not always presented in a flattering light either. Emerick notes that he was driven and could sometimes be overbearing to his band mates. He was even testy and bad-tempered at times, like all of the Beatles, in the group’s latter years. Meanwhile John comes off in the book as very talented but moody, impatient, somewhat lazy, and often high as a kite in the studio. He could be incredibly sweet and charming, according to Emerick, and sometimes very angry and nasty. Based on what we now know, that’s probably fairly accurate.
Where this book shines is in the descriptions of the recording process. From about 1966 on, the Beatles were searching for unusual sounds--a guitar that didn’t sound like a guitar, for instance--and it was the job of the engineer to figure out how to make it happen. Fortunately for the Beatles, Emerick was young and experimental and willing to break the steadfast EMI rules about how recording was to be done, which often landed him in hot water with the administrative higher ups. While George Martin was a gifted producer and orchestral and vocal arranger, it’s clear that he relied heavily on the engineers to satisfy the Beatles’ demands in their quest for the ultimate sound. Fortunately for the Beatles, Emerick was there to help through most of it.
Emerick is clearly very enamored of the Revolver/Sgt. Pepper period. The White Album that later followed in 1968 was such a wide departure and so different from the 1966/1967 period, perhaps this is why (incredibly to me) Emerick finds the White Album to be virtually unlistenable. Or perhaps it’s because he worked on it very little and thought he could have done it better. Either way, I’ve always felt it was a fine and diverse album, though again he is entitled to his dismissive opinion about it.
There is lots of interesting recording minutia scattered throughout the book. For instance, we find out why the alarm clock rings on “A Day in the Life” and learn that it was pure serendipity that it ended up dovetailing nicely with the “Woke up, fell out of bed” section in the middle. Working within the limitations of four-track tape recording, Emerick helped pioneer much of what we now take for granted in the greatly expanded digital recording world and it’s interesting to see the process unfold.
As for the breakup of the greatest band ever, Emerick actually goes pretty easy on Yoko, though he notes the tension and disruption her presence clearly caused. By 1969, as Emerick saw it, the Beatles were basically going in different directions musically--and in personal life--as well as growing sick and tired of one another amidst the clash of egos.
All in all, this is a fun and interesting read. I recommend it to any Beatles fan. You may find yourself in disagreement with some of his opinions, and there are some occasional factual issues, but this book really helps illumine the recording process of some of the most iconic pop/rock music ever produced.