Book review of Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles

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Buy your copy from Here, There and Everywhere:
My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles
starstarstarstarhalf star Author: Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey
Publisher: Gotham Books (2006)
Genre: Biography

While the name George Martin has become synonymous with the Beatles as the man behind the scenes and, by most reports, is generally considered to be the only true “fifth Beatle,” a name which – outside of music geeks and Beatlemaniacs – rarely raises an eyebrow is Geoff Emerick. As it happens, however, from Revolver onward, Emerick arguably had as much to do with the Fab Four’s success in the studio as Martin did; he engineered almost all of the band’s later recordings and was directly responsible for a great many of the sonic experiments that put the band on the map. With the assistance of Howard Massey, Emerick has put his story down for all to see, and the end result is arguably one of the strongest books ever to emerge from anyone in the Beatles camp.

“Here, There and Everywhere” begins with Emerick’s reminiscences of the dread of how the Beatles would react when they were informed that EMI has assigned him to be their new engineer. He needn’t have worried. After George Martin made the announcement, John shrugged his shoulders, Ringo returned to playing the piano, George had little to say one way or the other, and Paul, ever cheerful, simply said, “Oh, well, then. We’ll be all right with Geoff; he’s a good lad.” (Indeed, Paul continued to feel that way; Emerick continued to work with McCartney in the post-Beatles era, including a less-than-relaxing experience on Band on the Run, which he details in the book.) From that point, he jumps back in time to give a bit of his own history and how he came to enter the world of music; he actually grew up with a love of music, absorbing his grandmother’s classical and opera records, then expanded into the world of pop as he grew older. It was through happenstance that he ended up as an intern at EMI – he assured his career counselor that a career in music was the only life for him, and it therefore caught the counselor’s ear when he heard of an internship opening at the record label – but it was dedication to his craft that kept him there.

Emerick earned his stripes with the Beatles during the recording of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” when he was able to grant Lennon’s bizarre request to “make me sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop.” The effect was achieved when it occurred to Emerick to try and use a system called a Leslie, which was generally only used for the studio’s Hammond organ; Lennon, whose mind boggled whenever he was presented with any technical information, asked, “Couldn’t we get the same effect by dangling me from a rope and swinging me around the microphone instead?” (As it happens, Lennon posed the same request during the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, going so far as to ask roadie Mal Evans to go out and buy a strong enough rope; wisely, Evans returned empty handed.)

The craziest thing about Emerick is the realization that, when he first picked up the engineering gig with the Beatles, he was only 19 years old. Sure, that didn’t put him a great deal younger than McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr, but, still, they were the talent; he was a behind-the-scenes guy. He was also, as it turns out, one of the youngest people on EMI’s engineering staff, which was predominantly made up of middle-aged men who’d been with the firm for years and really had no knowledge of or interest in rock music.

There are revelations galore about the members of the band, though none are really what you’d call gossip-worthy; it’s more that Emerick successfully fleshes out the personalities of the band, expanding on already-documented events in the group’s later years with his own personal experiences. The explanation as to why Paul became the band’s de facto leader following the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, is laid out in simple, precise terms by Emerick: “Someone had to. Surely Ringo and George Harrison couldn’t, and between his drug use and unfocused mind, John simply wasn’t capable of it at that point in his life. As I see it, Paul saved the band.”

“Here, There and Everywhere” is decidedly heavy on technical details and recording minutiae, as one would expect from someone whose life has been spent twiddling the knobs behind a console, but the book provides such an insider’s view of the band that it still remains an indispensable read.

~Will Harris