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on 3 April 2014
Other authors have published more fact based (referenced) accounts of The Beatles recording career, notable Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles Recording Sessions and The Complete Beatles Chronicle. But, even though these are based on the literature, notes and interviews of the time, it is always helpful to get the view of someone who was actually there at the controls.
That view is encapsulated in 'Here, There and Everywhere'. Geoff Emerick was there as a young engineer at the early Beatles sessions and also there at the end, ensconced in Apple Studios (which he helped put together) as well as engineering McCartney's 'Band On The Run' in Nigeria of all places. So you might expect that he's best equipped to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the golden years of The Beatles recorded repertoire and what went on behind the doors of Abbey Road studios.
In one way he does just that, giving a good account of what it was like to interface with, at first, what George Martin wanted as producer and, later, with what The Beatles themselves required as they began to experiment with sound. His description of the primitive equipment at his disposal, for example how he came up with Lennon's requirement that he needed to sound like the chanting of monks on a distant mountain by putting the vocal through a Leslie loudspeaker, is a fascinating adjunct to listening to classic Beatles tracks anew.
And these accounts from the control room are interspersed with his view of the relationship between the members of the Fab Four including the turmoil of their split and how it affected him emotionally. All of this is clearly from the heart and his hurt and dismay shines through during these later chapters.
Another reviewer has pointed out that, factually, this book is not as accurate as one might expect. Two aspects are apparent. One is when cross referencing to other, more fact based accounts, such as Lewisohn where there are slight discrepancies in small details. The other is in the 'who came up with which idea' accounts. The way Emerick describes them in this book you could be forgiven for thinking that he was solely the ideas man for coming up with new sounds for albums such as Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's, whereas it is more likely (referencing accounts from others such as engineer Ken Scott) that it was an accumulation of tossing ideas around the engineering talent available at Abbey Road at the time that led to the final technique used.
But, really, that's just being finicky with the facts and you could pull any book about The Beatles to pieces on this sort of basis. Not even the members of The Beatles themselves could always agree on who was responsible for this, that or the other, as became clear during the Anthology project. So to expect Emerick to be 100% accurate in what really happened is to stretch the limits of human memory recall let alone human nature.
In addition Emerick's accounts of the particular talents, musical and managerial, of the individual members of The Beatles has been called into question by some reviewers. Similarly Emerick's views of the efforts of other studios and other engineers, for example he recounts that the feeling at Abbey Road was that 'Rubber Soul', engineered by Norman Smith, was a lightweight effort doesn't weigh up in the balance of either the music or the recordings. Indeed not even George Martin is given full acknowledgement for his part in arranging and conducting much of the character of what became The Beatles 'sound'. Again, don't approach this book as a 'facts and figures' anthology. It is more than that. It is one man's personal view of what he saw happening and his involvement with it. In fact it's that very involvement that makes this story so interesting and readable.
If I have a criticism it is mainly of the ghost writing character of the early chapters. Howard Massey is a notable studio musicologist, journalist and author and is eminently suited to putting Geoff's words down on paper but, unfortunately, his NY speak is at odds with what one might expect from a London engineer. Thankfully, by later chapters, Geoff's contributions begin to shine through and the tone is more flowing and anecdotal.
Basically if you're at all interested in what made The Beatles the pop phenomenon of the '60s you ought to read this book in conjunction with others such as Lewisohn's The Complete Beatles Chronicle. 'Here, There and Everywhere' is a highly personal account of what went on behind the closed doors of Abbey Road and is a fascinating insight into the progression of recording techniques and how early studio equipment and techniques were pushed to their limits to give sounds that other groups struggled to emulate.