On Dining with Geoff – Author Tony Conley meets Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick

I must start this with a disclaimer: Geoff Emerick is a friend, but he is not a collaborator on this project. He’s not been interviewed or offered any official commentary for Paul McCartney In The Beatles.

That being said, I wish I would have met Geoff Emerick years ago.

A while back, I began a great dialog and friendship with recording engineer Bill Smith. Bill has worked as a recording engineer for a over three decades, and his resumé includes such notable names as; Al Schmitt, Toto, Barbara Streisand, Diana Krall, Yes, John Fogerty, and many more. He has worked on three albums which won Grammy Awards for Best Engineered Album, in addition to over fifteen albums which were nominated for Grammys. Our conversations have been vastly educational, instructive, and also tremendously entertaining. It also happens that one of his best friends is Geoff Emerick.

Emerick receives his Grammy for Sgt. Pepper

Our conversations often delved into matters concerning the Beatles. This has put me in contact with one of the very few people left on the planet who was actually in the studio and working side by side with the Fab Four. Geoff Emerick engineered Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, about half of The Beatles (White Album), and Abbey Road. He was in the studio the day the band made their first tape with George Martin, he worked on every album with the exception of Let It Be. It’s safe to say that almost no one spent more time in the studio with the Beatles than Geoff Emerick. He received Grammy Awards for the engineering of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road.

Mr. Emerick is also the author of Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles (2006, Gotham Books). Beyond the Beatles, Geoff Emerick worked with an amazing array of acts and artists (Robin Trower, Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Badfinger, Art Garfunkel, America, Elvis Costello, amongst many others).

Geoff’s book is probably my favorite book on the band. While it is not without its controversies, it is a treasure trove of Beatle information that paints an incredibly honest view of the people and events as seen through the eyes of someone who was in the room as events transpired. Then there is the fact that Geoff Emerick is one of the world’s best recording engineers, and a musical innovator of much esteem.

We were finally able to get into the same room and meet face to face a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles, and our dinner was not only an occasion for great food and conversation, it was also incredibly useful for me as a writer. I didn’t come armed with questions, and our agenda did not necessarily include the Beatles, but over the course of four and a half hours, and many plates of Italian delicacies, we did manage to find ourselves landing back at EMI Studios and the history of the Beatles.

Geoff Emerick and Paul in the control room at EMI.

We spoke mostly about recording techniques, the art of capturing the Beatles on tape, and the amazing staying power of the Beatles’ popularity and their place in our culture.

The beauty of the conversation for me was not so much in any new facts, opinions, or even in stories not already told, but rather in the fact that what we discussed served to reinforce what I have spent the last seven years writing.

Geoff Emerick speaks with great love, and a sense of proper awe of what he was a part of for so long, and he speaks without hesitation or any degree of self-editing. Emerick quite simply speaks his mind to his best recollections. He knows not just that he witnessed a huge piece of history, but also that he had a very large role within it. This recording engineer is as responsible for what you hear on Beatle records as anyone that was a part of the EMI Studios team. He continued to work with the individual Beatles after the band’s break-up, most recently with McCartney on his 2016 virtual reality tour of the Pure McCartney VR series with Jaunt.

There will most likely be more conversations with Geoff (and, hopefully, engineer Richard Lush) before the book is released, and with each chat I am sure to gain a greater understanding of the topic of Paul McCartney In The Beatles, and how and what was achieved, as well as giving me greater insight into the art and artistry of Paul McCartney which I could not have gotten otherwise. I consider myself to be unfathomably lucky to have gotten to befriend Mr. Smith and Mr. Emerick, and they have given me information, perspective, and a very close glimpse into the world I seek to understand and write about. The great thing about this is that it is all happening in a very organic manner which is not playing out to any agenda or end-game strategy, it’s just a few friends getting together for dinner, and exchanging some experiences and ideas.

The gold to be extracted here is that this exchange of experiences and ideas has resulted in my having a much greater understanding and appreciation for the work, and in knowing that the path I am following is the right path.

Great thanks and much gratitude to Bill Smith, Geoff Emerick, the incredible staff at Marino Ristorante, Hollywood, and the Good Mojo Man himself, Breck Philip.

Peace,

Tony Conley

 

 

 

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *