I have a friend whose family has a story of when her sister fell out of the car. What’s fascinating about this story is that every member of the family has a different version of the story. In fact, some have her never falling out of the car and others have the family driving off without her.
Sometimes I feel like Beatles books are like that. I know that we all remember things differently and it’s no surprise that those involved with the Beatles story do too. For example, Paul McCartney said that U2 had to teach him how to play “Sgt Pepper” at Live 8 because he hadn’t played it since he recorded it. That’s just silly. I have recordings of him doing it. I often wonder about the memories of McCartney about such things. It seems like he reinvents history a bit. I guess I do too and I’d hate to have rabid fans checking my facts all the time – that can really wreck a good story.
So Geoff Emerick, engineer for many of the Beatles albums including my favorites, Revolver, Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road has written a book about his memories. Predictably, some Beatles fans (including others who were in Abbey Road studios at the time) claim that there are all sorts of inaccuracies in the book. Sometimes “all sorts” means, like, six. I’ve read more than a couple of books about the Beatles and I can usually tell if “new” information is in conflict with existing information or not. For example, Tony Bramwell’s excellent book (see my previous post about it) had a couple of things in it that were just flat wrong. So we can quibble all we want with certain things but overall I thought Bramwell’s book was an excellent addition to the catalog of Beatle books. By this time a Beatles book ought to either bring a new first person perspective (like Bramwell’s) or just be so good that we can’t resist it (like Bob Spitz’s book – read my review of that).
Geoff Emerick’s book, Here, There and Everywhere, indeed has that new first person perspective that I look for. It is well written (due, no doubt to his collaborator) and brings new insight into the part of the Beatles story that I’m especially interesting in – the music making. Emerick is clearly a McCartney fan because Paul is the only of the Beatles who befriended him and even made a point of getting to know him at all. Here are a few of the things I learned reading in this book:
- McCartney recorded the bass parts in Sgt. Pepper last so that he could really work on them and make them more melodic and work around the other sounds.
- Harrison had a hard time recording some of his parts but got better when he became interested in Indian music.
- Lennon was a pain to be around a lot of the time (this is hardly news).
- Even though all four Beatles had flashes of brilliance, Paul McCartney was often the one who had the patience and musicianship to actually make it come together in the studio.
- The extra beat in “Revolution 1” (and in McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It”) was the result of an editing mistake that the artist liked and kept.
- The traded guitar solos at the end of Abbey Road were recorded at the same time without overdubs or drop-ins.
- Engineers had to overdub a high-hat on “Can’t Buy Me Love” because the engineers at the studio in which it was originally recorded lost so much high end.
There is much more that I liked in this book. This, of course, is Emerick’s perhaps flawed memories but, he was there and I wasn’t and I found his account fascinating. All fans of Beatles music will find this book fascinating and enjoyable.