RIP Geoff Emerick

I've never been one to subscribe to the Great Man approach to history, and yet one certainly did leave us recently. Given that his greatest contribution to humanity partially involves Ringo Starr's drum sound on "Tomorrow Never Knows", and not the subjugation of the native population of a tropical island somewhere, I think I can make an exception.

For those who don't know, Geoff Emerick was the engineer responsible for recording most of the greatest work the Beatles ever committed to tape. While I find that I am a lot less obsessive about the Beatles than I used to be, I'm still amazed at the contribution Mr. Emerick made to the art of recording. Off the top of my head: close-miking of drums and amplifiers (a practice now followed in probably 99% of recordings made), new vocal effects, new means of integrating tape loops and reversed sounds into music, use of distortion, use of creative compression. I would go on, but I don't have my copy of his autobiography handy. Suffice it to say, there's more.

It would certainly be exaggeration to give Geoff Emerick sole credit for creating the sound of psychedelic music, but his contribution was outsized, and persisted well beyond the late 1960s. If you can read past his obvious bias towards McCartney at the expense of the other members of the band, the stories that fill his book, Here, There And Everywhere: My Life Recording The Music Of The Beatles, of the creative exploits of the Beatles, and the now-primitive means by which Mr. Emerick helped to realize the sounds the members of the band could sometimes only barely describe, are inspirational and charming.

I doubt he will get quite the remembrance he deserves. Many people live in blissful ignorance of what it takes to turn great songs into great records, and while there are more pressing issues at hand when it comes to the general level of education of the human population (lets all find Syria on a map first and then worry about "automatic double tracking"), if anything makes me feel alienated at times from so many members of my species, it's the lack of curiosity and wonder that so many seem to feel towards the world around them. Thankfully, Mr. Emerick, by all accounts supremely humble, seemed proud of his small but valuable contribution and must have passed confident that he helped bring pleasure to millions, whether they know it or not.