Beatles Recording Engineer Geoff Emerick
In your new book with Howard Massey, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (Gotham), you write that "true Beatles fans" should get the mono versions of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band "because far more time and effort went into those mixes than into the stereo mixes." We mixed Sgt. Pepper in three weeks - of that, only three days were spent on the stereo version.
That might explain something that has always bothered me. In the transition from "Good Morning Good Morning" to the reprise of the title track, the famous segue from chicken to guitar is missing a note on the stereo version. I never noticed that!
Here, let's listen. [KR does an A/B comparison of the mono and stereo versions.] That one extra note in the mono version makes a big difference. The segue is much smoother. Yeah, exactly. That's something that [Paul] McCartney would have immediately picked up on if he'd been at the stereo mixing session. There's a reason for that note being there. And it's great that you brought this in; I'm glad you pointed that out, because it's a very good example of going from the mono to the stereo. It's such a small thing, but it's an extremely valid point: that was the way they wanted it.
The mono version of Pepper is indeed the only one - it's the mix the Beatles were present at. And we might have gone back for another day to redo the stereo version if it had been for an error like that. Because all those little touches are so important on that album. That's why it's such a perfect album - and it's why I wouldn't even allow the mastering engineer [to alter it]. I wrote on the tape box: "Please transfer flat."
We had fun mixing those mono tracks. And the thing is, if someone screwed up on the last bar of any mix, we'd go back to the beginning and redo it right from the top. We'd never do an edit piece and splice it in. I know we did for "Strawberry Fields Forever," but that was the exception... A mix was a performance by the people on the mixing console. For instance, with 4-track, on the last overdub track, you may have a guitar, a keyboard, a couple of harmony voices, and something else, and there's a question of moving the pan pot because the voices are in the middle, and there's a drop-in for the guitar over to one side to make room for the next drop-in because that relates to that, and you have to change the echo and switch it back - and I've got only one pair of hands. We did the best we could. And it was a performance. Which was great. I mean, the feeling after doing a mix was just brilliant.
I used to ride all the guitar bits and lift up all the drum breaks. Always, after the last note of any guitar solo, when George [Harrison] was taking his finger off the note, I used to boost that 20 dB so you could actually feel that presence. It's like Paul counting off the reprise of "Sgt. Pepper" - you can hear that energy. It's all little stuff like that.