The band was the Beatles. The album was Revolver. The song was "Mark 1." And John Lennon had an idea: To achieve an ethereal vocal that would sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a Himalayan mountaintop, Lennon thought of hanging upside-down from the recording studio's ceiling and turning while a fixed microphone picked up his voice. That's according to Philip Norman in his new biography John Lennon: The Life. But as Norman also describes it, the vocal track devised by the album's producer and engineer at Abbey Road Studio in London was something else entirely: Lennon's voice recorded on an Automatic Double-Tracking System then sent through a Hammond organ's Leslie speaker, which produced a wah-wah effect.
Revolver's producer was George Martin, but the engineer was Geoff Emerick, a multi-Grammy winner — including an award for lifetime technical achievement — and he'll be the guest of the Recording Academy's Memphis chapter on Monday, October 13th, at the Brooks Museum of Art.
The event will include a moderated discussion, an audience Q&A, and Emerick (along with music journalist and co-author Howard Massey) signing the memoir Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. It's been a life recording more than Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's, The White Album, and Abbey Road, however. Figure in Emerick's work on albums by Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, and Nellie McKay, among many others. And count on a good-size crowd at the Brooks on the 13th. Reservations must be made by Friday, October 10th. Just don't go in calling the song that closes Revolver "Mark 1." You know the finished tune as "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Monday, October 13th, 6-9 p.m. $25 for the public; free to Recording Academy members. Reservations required. For more information, call 525-1340 or go to Memphis@grammy.com or grammy.com/memphis.