Here, There and Everywhere|
Written by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey
Reviewed by Tony Copple, Feb 08
He observed at first hand the leadership exercised by McCartney in the face of the chaotic inspiration patterns of Lennon, and the extraordinary behaviour of Ono as she insinuated herself into the tighly knit foursome and even into their music. We hear a blow-by-blow account of the recording of many songs on several albums and the way the creative processes worked. The technology Emerick had at hand in the Abbey Road studio was primitive compared with today's, but that only stimulated his invention as engineer, as he was asked to create all manner of sounds and effects which Beatle fans have since assimilated into our DNA. Lennon's instructions were particularly vague, though insistent, and Emerick was able to interpret them in masterly fashion.
When you listen today to "Love," remember that without Emerick's self-taught skills we would not have masters of sufficient quality for Love to have been realized.
In Geoff's early days as an apprentice engineer, assisting Norman Smith his predecessor, they were saddled with two track recording technology, then four track, and we can have a certain amount of sympathy for the poor stereo in the early records, and the expectation that the majority of listeners would buy the mono versions. I sense however that George and Norman had not "latched on" to stereo; hadn't caught the bug that so greatly can enhance the listening pleasure when it's done right. As a keen stereo fan at the time, I was very disappointed in the stereo on the first two albums. In the UK releases, all that was done was to place voices on one channel and instruments on another, a travesty. George and Norman must bear some responsibility for this, since other singers and musicians at the time - admittedly in America - were making stereo recordings in excellent quality - some would say better than the multiple mono recordings we have today. Examples incude Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, The Brothers Four, The Womenfolk, Ray Conniff. Classical recordings of the time also stand up really well today, preserving the true stereo phase information through being recorded with just two mikes. They could have overdubbed the three part harmonies of the Beatles using two tracks after capturing the instruments. Instead, the three or two singing Beatles were clustered around a single mike. For the US and Canada, Capitol had to do something about the British masters so they modified the sound adding echo and quite good fake stereo - but still fake which offends my phase-sensitive ears. This must have been done with George's connivance. The Americans also meanly cut down the number of tracks on the albums from 14 to 12, resulting in the missing tracks popping up on additional releases. None of these matters is touched on in the (abridged version of the) book. The very word "stereo" isn't used until the description of the Pepper sessions when the statement is made that the mono masters were given considerably more attention than the stereo masters, exhibiting differences other than stereophony. Surely a better approach is to concentrate on stereo and then merely combine the tracks for mono. The CD versions of the first two albums were only issued in mono, as a kind of atonement. It has since taken a lot of ingenuity by the engineers of the Yellow Submarine, Love, Hard Day's Night, and Help DVDs to create an acceptable vocal soundscape. Emerick does refer to problems with lack of bass on the earlier recordings and the fact that Paul was frustrated by this, and for "Paperback Writer" Geoff was asked to enhance it, which he did by using bass speakers as microphones. One must infer that the EMI Abbey Road preamplifiers were so inflexible that the idea of an electronic bass boost was not an option.
One oddity is that after describing the creation and recording of Strawberry Fields during the Pepper sessions, it is not mentioned that - or why - it wasn't included on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but instead as a single (in UK at least). This may be an abridging matter. Indeed it is possible that some or all of the issues above are covered in the unabridged book; but I have wanted to get these things off my chest for a long time, and this was an opportunity.
These are minor points in comparison with the major quality this book delivers in taking us right into the presence of the Beatles where it counted: the recording studio. But Geoff does not limit himself to audio engineering. He is an articulate observer of human nature, and this narrative would enthrall even non-fans as he takes us through those seven roller-coaster years.
As I read the book I found myself placing the various tracks he was describing onto the home stereo to listen again having digested his story of the recording process. Tonight I listened to several including Revolution 9, a track all of them except the Lennons hated. The atmosphere during the recording of the White Album was so poisoned that even now Geoff can't enjoy the music on that album. Yet many rate it as their favourite Beatles album. The extraordinary talents of these four were able to rise above all the hassles and heated disagreements, and still create work that has fascinated subsequent generations of fans. Thank heaven Geoff Emerick knew what he was about when he squeezed those magic sounds onto those two or four channels.
For me, reading the book has given a boost to the pleasure I have always had from these songs, and I am sure that will stay with me. Thank you, Geoff (or Jeff as they spelt you on the White Album credits!)
Read an excellent professional review of the book.