Engineer helped cut numerous classics including ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ ‘Revolver,’ ‘Abbey Road’
Geoff Emerick, the audio engineer who worked on several Beatles classics including Sgt. Pepper’s and Abbey Road, died Tuesday. Emerick’s agent, David Maida, confirmed the engineer’s death to Rolling Stone, adding that the cause of death was a heart attack. He was 72.
Emerick’s manager, William Zabaleta, posted a video, in which he said he was on the phone with Emerick when the engineer suddenly fell ill. Zabelta immediately called 911 but by the time an ambulance arrived it was too late. “Geoff suffered from heart problems for a long time,” Zabaleta said. “He had a pacemaker and, you know, when it’s your time, it’s your time. We lost a legend and a best friend to me, and a mentor.”
Dr. Kenneth Womack, who is the biographer of storied Beatles producer George Martin, shared a statement with Rolling Stone, saying, “Geoff Emerick was a groundbreaking engineer, particularly in terms of his eagerness to try anything and everything to meet his artists’ expectations. He famously captured John Lennon sounding like the Dalai Lama on a mountaintop for Revolver‘s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ later bringing the Beatles’ career to a close in fine style on Abbey Road. Like his mentor, producer George Martin, Emerick was always laser-focused on getting the best out of the track that his artists presented. Working at that granular level, he proved himself to be the greatest engineer of his generation.”
Emerick first worked with the Beatles in September 1962 when he was just 16 and had only started as an assistant at EMI Studios – later known as Abbey Road – the day before. Over the next few years, Emerick worked a variety of jobs at EMI – lacquer cutter, mastering engineer, balance engineer – and periodically helped out on early Beatles sessions that produced classics like “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Martin officially asked Emerick to serve as the Beatles’ sound engineer in 1966, and the first track he helped cut was Revolver‘s “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
Emerick also worked on Sgt. Pepper’s and Abbey Road, though he famously resigned during the White Album sessions, claiming he could not handle the tensions between the band members. After the Beatles broke up, Emerick continued to work regularly with Paul McCartney, as well as an array of other artists including Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck and Kate Bush.