His boundary-pushing, rule-breaking philosophy to recording studio engineering didn’t stop there.
At 19 and chief engineer on Revolver, Emerick was still fielding requests for the impossible. On “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Lennon wanted to sound like the Dalai Lama and a thousand Tibetan monks chanting on a mountaintop. This sound-riddle’s answer was to dismantle the studio’s Hammond organ and use its rotating amp as a mic of sorts to give Lennon’s vocals an air of the organ’s iconic tremolo sound.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Tossing aside the industry rulebook is why we hear the power in Starr’s drums, clarity in Paul McCartney’s inventive bass lines, and why we gawk at Sgt. Pepper’s being recorded on only four tracks. Four. Emerick met and exceeded the creative expectations of The Beatles in the studio, and became influential enough that Abbey Road was almost called Everest after the brand of cigarettes Emerick smoked.
By 1968 The Beatles’ unglamorous and protracted feud had permeated the walls of Abbey Road Studios. Tensions were running high, creativity had taken a backseat to group politics, and Emerick had grown tired of it. In July he called it quits, and moved on to other projects.
After the group disbanded, Emerick began working in earnest with Paul McCartney, as he had grown to dislike Harrison, Lennon, and Starr—something mightily apparent in his 2007 autobiography Here, There and Everywhere.
With Emerick by their side, The Beatles’ fully embraced the creative potential of studio effects. Whether Emerick was transforming Lennon’s vocals into a chorus of Tibetan monks, or recording Ringo ‘wrongly,’ his sounds have shaped generations of music and recording production.