Beatles Recording Engineer Geoff Emerick Page 2


0606_emerick_cap1You write that you're "not a huge fan" of the sound of the official Beatles CDs. It's been 20 years since the Parlophone albums were transferred to CD. Do you know of any plans to remaster them? No. And if there are plans, I won't be approached, because it's all politics. As far as Abbey Road [Studios] is concerned, I don't exist. They are of the assumption that they recorded the Beatles records, not me. And that's why they won't approach me - not unless someone higher up says, "We really want Geoff's name on these CDs." But they won't. [Editor's note: And they didn't. Since this interview took place, word has come that the Beatles' catalog is being remastered for future CDs and, finally, online sales.]

Then there's the American sound on the boxed sets of The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1 and the just-released Vol. 2. Yes, I haven't heard them.

Oh, well, we've had quite the controversy here at S&V with some of our readers. First, Capitol boasts that the tracks "have been carefully mastered from the original American master tapes, taken from the vaults of Capitol Records." But there's no such thing as "the original American master tapes" - they're really just copies. Yes, they're copies of the original British master tapes. They're not "masters."

Yet the main issue, for me, is Capitol's insistence on keeping heavy echo that it admits was added to certain tracks in the 1960s to "Americanize" their sound. What do you think of this, for example? [KR does an A/B comparison of the U.K. and U.S. versions of "She's a Woman."] There's no understanding of the artistic side.

I agree. But when I made that point in a review of Vol. 1, we got letters saying things like "The Capitol releases are how Americans remember the Beatles" and "These are the albums I grew up with." In a response to those letters, I said, "I have no problem with nostalgia. But I do have a problem with tapes being given more echo by a record company without permission. Doesn't it just make more sense to hear the recordings the way the artists wanted them to be heard?" And someone replied, "No, it does not. The tapes were given more echo over 40 years ago, and the listeners in the U.S.A. liked it. They like it still." How do you respond to that? The personality of the vocal is gone because it's swamped in echo. It could be anyone singing that song. It destroys the song artistically... As I said, until now, I'd never heard those American CDs. And now I'm glad I didn't.


On the subject of surround sound, you write: "I can appreciate the creative opportunities that [it] offers; I'm especially looking forward to the time when new music is composed specifically for that medium." But then you say: "I'm still a little dubious about the wisdom of remixing existing stereo recordings in surround sound, even in the hands of a skilled engineer. To me, it's like colorizing a black-and-white film." When Peter Cobbin did the mixes for the Yellow Submarine DVD, there were reports that you had initially given your thumbs-up. True or false? True to a certain extent. I was doing another project at Abbey Road when Pete was doing those mixes. So I went in there. Pete was a bit nervous, obviously. He was working on the title track of Sgt. Pepper, and the applause was in the surround channels. I said, "Well, if you're going to take that original applause, lift it up, and expose it like that, it's going to sound like chips frying. You ought to put some more applause on it - do something with it. That was my first impression. So, what do I say? I mean, I'm already brought down anyway, because I'm not involved in the project.