Geoff Emerick was without a doubt one of the most innovative and influential audio engineers of all time. Pioneering such innovative techniques as tape loops, backward recording, and new microphone techniques for bass and drums, Emerick’s work changed the course of music and studio history, ushering in the modern era of sound engineering.
Joining the renowned Abbey Road studios when he was just fifteen years old, he served as assistant engineer on many of the Beatles’ early hits, including “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” In time, he became the group’s chief recording engineer (a few months shy of his nineteenth birthday).
Blending the element of sound with the borderless imagination of The Beatles, Emerick explored news ways of microphone positioning and creative ways to elicit sound into a new musical element. At a time that The Beatles would bring bits of tape into the studio and tried to, as Emerick said in his book, “outdo one another in a de facto ‘weird sound’ contest,” Emerick used his ingenuity and studio expertise to shape those sounds into the songs. When John Lennon told him he wanted to sound like “the Dalai Lama singing on a hilltop” for “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Emerick brought him to that hilltop, transporting his voice through a spinning Leslie speaker from the Hammond. Distorted guitar and bass lines, wineglasses ringing and sounds played backward, forward, slowed down, and sped up – it was in these moments that Emerick, through clever experimentation, moved the recording process into a new sense of artistry.
Working closely with producer George Martin, Emerick manned the board for the Beatles’ most adventurous forays: Revolver (1966), Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and Abbey Road (1969), as well as much of Magical Mystery Tour (1967) and the White Album (1968). Additionally, Emerick engineered the live worldwide television broadcast of “All You Need Is Love” in June 1967 (the first time such a feat was ever attempted) and what many call the greatest double-sided single ever released: “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967). His groundbreaking approach to studio engineering earned him four Grammy Awards: “Best Engineer” for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road, and Paul McCartney’s solo Band On The Run, and, in 2003, a Technical Grammy for “pushing the boundaries of studio recording techniques to new frontiers of creativity and imagination.”
After he left EMI Studios in 1969, Emerick joined Apple Corps and rebuilt, designed, and managed The Beatles’ studio. Following the dissolution of The Beatles, he forged an active career as an independent engineer and record producer. He continued to work with Paul McCartney on many of his solo efforts, including the multiplatinum Band On The Run, and served as sound engineer for McCartney’s 2010 performance at the White House (hosted by President Obama, when McCartney was awarded the Library Of Congress Gerswhin Prize for Popular Song).
Furthermore, Emerick worked with such prominent artists as Elvis Costello (producing his acclaimed Imperial Bedroom album), Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say” and “The Girl Is Mine”, with Paul McCartney), The Zombies (Odessey & Oracle, including their smash hit “Time Of The Season”), Cheap Trick (All Shook Up), Art Garfunkel (Lefty), Stevie Wonder (“Ebony and Ivory” with Paul McCartney), Johnny Cash, Badfinger, America, Jeff Beck (Wired), Stealers Wheel (including the hit single “Stuck in the Middle With You”), Supertramp, John McLaughlin, Robin Trower, Split Enz, Manfred Mann, Little River Band, Kate Bush, Cilla Black, Tommy Keene, Gino Vannelli, Tim Hardin, Nazareth, Nellie McKay, and Ultravox.
After decades behind the boards, Geoff Emerick crystallized his legacy further with the 2006 release of his critically acclaimed memoir “Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles,” co-authored with veteran music journalist Howard Massey. Reuters stated it was “unlike other books detailing the group's recording history,” while the Chicago Sun Times exclaimed that “his engineer's-eye-view prevails”, and Grammy.com stated that the book “provides an unusual firsthand insight into what was obviously a magical time.”
Emerick remained active in the recording field until his untimely passing in October, 2018. Some of his recent projects included the six-part VR documentary series PURE McCartney, and helming a four-week Las Vegas run with Cheap Trick for their Hollywood Bowl presentation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He also shared his expertise via extensive speaking engagements at universities, recording academies, recording industry conferences, and the like, imparting his stories and knowledge to enthusiastic students and music aficionados around the globe.