Music producers have had an impressive influence on popular music from the very beginning. They decided who recorded which songs and when, formed bands and their trademark sound in the studio. Yet, not only the producers had a massive influence on the sound, but also the sound engineers. One of them made history. Geoff Emerick became known through his work with The Beatles. He was in the right place at the right time and was the critical factor in the band’s transition from teen idols to serious musicians.
It all started by accident. The music industry was urgently looking for new talent at the beginning of the 1960s. They went to schools and offered jobs as apprentices for sound engineers. Geoff Emerick, who was only 15 at the time, was interested and received the job. On his second day, the EMI record company sent him to Abbey Road Studios in London. There, he was supposed to assist the sound engineer with the recording of a new band called The Beatles, who recorded their first songs in London. Emerick then worked as Norman Smith’s assistant. He worked for a few years as a sound engineer under producer George Martin and recorded the band’s first five records in the Abbey Road Studios. But Smith wanted more and rose to be a producer. In his new role, he worked with another legendary band from the 1960s. He produced the first Pink Floyd songs.
Sound Engineer of The Beatles
The record company wanted to hire a new sound engineer, but The Beatles chose Geoff Emerick, who was only 19. He took over the primary responsibility for the album Revolver for the first time. With that, he was introduced to the band’s experimental phase that revolutionized the music history. Critics still consider Revolver as one of the best records of pop music to this day. Emerick’s job was mainly to turn the band’s unusual ideas into reality.
At that time, the musicians only had access to microphones, a mixer and a tape recorder with four tracks. Effects had to be implemented by hand. On the other hand, there were strict regulations of the record companies for the recordings. But neither the band nor Emerick paid attention to the rules and created entirely new sounds using extraordinary measures. So, the sound engineer was the first to put microphones directly in front of the drums, then cut open the bass drum and stuffed a sweater into it to generate more force. Countless experiments created a sound that the world had never heard before. Emerick promptly got into trouble with the record company, but the band had his back.
A year later, they worked together on the groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Another legendary album Let it Be took place without Emerick, but he returned to the studio for the last ever recorded Beatles album, Abbey Road. After the band broke up, Emerick worked with the Wings, Art Garfunkel, Jeff Beck, Supertramp, Elvis Costello as well as Paul McCartney and found his place in the music history again.