Geoff Emerick, chief recording engineer for The Beatles and studio pioneer, has died after suffering a heart attack. He was 72 years old.
“Today at around 2’o’clock, I was making my way back from Arizona to Los Angeles to pick up Geoff so we could transport some gold records and platinum plaques to our show in Tucson,” his manager, William Zabaleta, relayed in a statement to Variety. “While on the phone, he had complications and dropped the phone. I called 911, but by the time they got there, it was too late. Geoff suffered from heart problems for a long time and had a pacemaker. … When it’s your time it’s your time. We lost a legend and a best friend to me and a mentor.”
Emerick began his career at an early age, working as an assistant engineer for Abbey Road when just 15. He first crossed paths with The Beatles in 1963, employed as a tape operator during an overdub session for the group’s Please Please Me tracks “Misery” and “Baby It’s You”.
It wasn’t long before he moved up the ladder at the London studio, eventually serving as lead engineer on sessions that would eventually produce 1966’s Revolver. On the LP track “Tomorrow Never Knows”, John Lennon specifically requested Emerick make his vocals sound like “the Dalai Lama singing on a mountain,” the engineer told Variety last year. Emerick went on to work on other seminal Beatles albums — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Abbey Road — and, alongside producer George Martin, is credited as being instrumental in the shaping of the Beatles sound.
Emerick told Variety that recording 1967’s “A Day in the Life” was one of his most memorable moments with the Beatles. “The night we put the orchestra on it, the whole world went from black and white to color,” he shared.
In addition to his work with the Fab Four, Emerick has hit the studio with Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Stevie Wonder, and Supertramp, among others. He also worked on several Wings albums and solo albums from Paul McCartney. In 2006, Emerick published his own memoir, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles.
Abbey Road Studios music director Isabel Garvey called Emerick “a true pioneer of the recording industry,” in a statement posted to Facebook. Meanwhile, Giles Martin, son of George Martin, described Emerick as “one of finest and most innovative engineers to have graced a recording studio.”