Beatles recording engineer Geoff Emerick dies age 72

Grammy-winning engineer worked on records such as Revolver, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road and various Paul McCartney solo albums

Geoff Emerick, the audio engineer best known for his work with the Beatles, has died aged 72 following a heart attack.

Emerick began working as an assistant engineer for EMI Records in the early 1960s when he was 15 years old. In 1963, he first encountered the Beatles when he was a tape operator on an overdub session for Misery and Baby It’s You. Three years later, aged 20, Emerick was promoted to engineer on the first session for the band’s album Revolver. On the song Tomorrow Never Knows, John Lennon asked Emerick to make his voice sound like “the Dalai Lama singing on a mountain”, as Emerick told Variety last year.

Of the invitation to work with the group, Emerick told The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions author Mark Lewisohn: “That took me a little bit by surprise! In fact, it terrified me … The responsibility was enormous but I said yes, thinking that I’d accept the blows as they came.”

Giles Martin, son of the late Beatles producer George Martin, described Emerick as “one of finest and most innovative engineers to have graced a recording studio … We have all been touched by the sounds he helped create on the greatest music ever recorded.”

Midge Ure, whose band Ultravox worked with Emerick on their 1982 album Quartet, called him “a lovely, quiet, unassuming man who helped change the way music was produced”.

The Beatles in 1966.
The Beatles in 1966. Photograph: AP

Emerick also worked on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles (AKA The White Album). He briefly quit working with the group during the White Album sessions due to his unhappiness with the tense studio atmosphere. “The expletives were really flying,” he told Lewisohn. However, Emerick would mix songs on the Yellow Submarine album and returned full-time – at Paul McCartney’s request – to work on Abbey Road.

Emerick later worked on various McCartney solo albums, including Band on the Run, for which he won a Grammy. Emerick also worked with Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, Art Garfunkel, Split Enz and Judy Garland.

In 2006, Emerick published a memoir titled Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. “What might have been a dry accounting for gear heads pulses with ‘Damn, I didn’t know that!’ narrative glee,” wrote Rolling Stone. However, fans criticised Emerick for dismissing George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s contributions to the band, calling Rubber Soul “not especially noteworthy” and the White album “virtually unlistenable”.

Abbey Road Studios MD Isabel Garvey described Emerick as “a true pioneer of the recording industry”. “His contribution to some of the world’s greatest musical recordings and his impact on popular music and audio technology is immeasurable.”

The British duo Field Music paid tribute to Emerick’s development of the studio as an instrument. “As much as anyone, Geoff Emerick ushered in a new era of recording, where the studio was a tool to be used and abused, as long as it led to making something new. If all he’d ever done was record Revolver, Sgt Pepper’s and Abbey Road, he’d still be one of the very greatest recording engineers there has ever been.”

Contributor

Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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