Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles; co-written by Howard Massey
Once you strip all the ‘Fab‘ from the Beatles you’re left with the music. This is the element that interests me most. Emerick’s book takes you into the studio and shows you the highs and lows of working with the Beatles. Emerick is not afraid to share his opinion.
Geoff Emerick was always the hidden man in the team that created the Beatles sound. His name doesn’t appear on any album until “Abbey Road.” And yet he was well respected in the industry picking up ‘Best Engineered Album‘ Grammys for “Sgt. Pepper“, “Abbey Road“, “Band On The Run“, and a Technical Grammy in 2003 for his life’s work. The book is well written and full of inside information on the Beatles, and the recording process of mid-60’s England. In some ways the day-to-day work at EMI’s Abbey Road studios was as interesting as the Beatles stories.
Howard Massey did a great job keeping Emerick on track; covering all the best bits of his time with the Beatles. Massey was the technical editor for ‘Musician’ magazine- probably my favorite magazine of all-time. Elvis Costello wrote the book’s Foreword. Emerick has a chapter on recording Elvis’ “Imperial Bedroom“. There is also a chapter on recording “Band On The Run“. There are also a couple chapters on how Geoff became an Engineer at EMI, but the book’s primary focus is on the Beatles.
My only complaints are I wish it were longer with even more details and interesting stories about the Beatles. The book leaves you wanting more. There are also no photos- except for the back cover. I highly recommend this book. However if you only want to read one book on the Beatles you should pick up The Beatles Anthology.
From Emerick’s stories you come away with new perspective on the Beatles. At least from a recording perspective there was a definite hierarchy to the talent.
- Paul McCartney comes across as the true genius of the Beatles. Not only were his songs better, but he knew what he wanted. He was the hardest working and most driven of the Beatles. On top of that he was the best musician. He and Emerick recorded some groundbreaking bass tracks. Paul could play piano better than anyone other than George Martin. He could play lead guitar better than Harrison, and could keep better time than Ringo.
- John Lennon came up with interesting songs, but they were rarely fully formed. He was mostly interesting in experimentation but surprisingly was not technically motivated nor fussy about the quality of their sound. He hated the sound of his voice, which I’m sure all Beatles fans find amazing.
- George Martin was more than a producer, he was responsible for working out the lush vocal harmonies, orchestrations, and playing keyboards on many songs. He was also the guy who could suggest and get the instruments the guys were thinking about: such as the Piccolo Trumpet on “Penny Lane”. As a producer, he lost control of the band after “Sgt. Pepper”. Paul seemed to take over for awhile, but then the Beatles split into four corners, until even that wasn’t enough.
- George Harrison was always two years behind Paul and John. This caused problems for him in the studio. His songs weren’t as good and his guitar playing seemed underwhelming. It took George a long time to record his guitar solos. (As a frustrated guitarist- I can sympathize.)
- Geoff Emerick and the staff at EMI were able to create better sounding recordings than those of the Beatles’ peers. Geoff was very creative in the studio and came up with effects and techniques that are still used today. The most amazing fact was how little he had to work with. There weren’t a lot of tools in the early 1960’s even their 4-track recorder was primitive and yet they managed to record “Sgt. Pepper” on it.
- Ringo Starr was underutilized often sitting in the back playing checkers and chess with Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans (the Beatles roadies). Like George, Ringo had trouble coming up with this drum parts. There are plenty of examples where John, but usually Paul are standing over him telling him what to play. On long tracks Ringo couldn’t keep the beat steady. Paul would grab a tambourine and play in front of Ringo to keep the beat from wandering. This surprises me- I always thought Ringo was a great drummer. I still love the way his drums sound on their records.
For a long time I thought if someone went back in time and convinced the Beatles to take a 1-2 year vacation after “Sgt. Pepper.” Get them to each record a solo album that it would take a lot of pressure off the band and they would return refreshed and maybe the Beatles would have lasted much longer. After reading this book it seems they would probably have broken up even earlier. The band had many troubles by 1968, the death of Brian Epstein, a company that was out of control: Apple, families, and creative differences. It seems amazing they stayed together as long as they did.
Quote from the book:
Even from the earliest days, I always felt that the artist was John Lennon and Paul McCartney, not the Beatles. That seemed obvious in the recording studio, especially with the way that George Harrison would have difficulty with trying his guitar solos and Ringo would trip over drum fills. Despite that, there was an almost mystical bond between the four of them, which extended to Neil and Mal most of the time. It was a bond that created a wall impenetrable by any of us at EMI, even George Martin. In many ways, they always had a kind of “us versus them” attitude that went beyond the fact that they were Liverpudlians and we were Londoners. They were very into being anti-establishment, and they saw us as being the establishment because we worked a proper job and had to wear suits and ties. Dealing with any of Beatles one-on-one was pretty easy, and it generally wasn’t too difficult when you were in a room with two, or even three, of them. But get all four of them together, and they would close ranks and shut you out. It was like a private club that you couldn’t enter. As a result, it really was very strange working with them a lot of the time. Exciting and exhilarating, to be sure…. but a very different kid of experience, and one that took a certain amount of getting used to. page 104-105