Earlier this year, I read Geoff Emerick’s autobiography Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles on the Kindle, which, as the title implies, focuses on his career engineering the Beatles’ albums from Revolver to Abbey Road (with a timeout when he quit working with the group after he was fed up being their whipping boy during the tension-filled “White Album”). While the book is obviously aimed towards recording anoraks, Emerick gives a real sense of the internal politics of the group. It’s obvious that by the end of the Beatles, Harrison and Lennon chafed at essentially being sidemen for Paul McCartney. Yet, as Emerick writes, when manager Brian Epstein unexpectedly died at age 32 in 1967, it was McCartney who held the group together for their final years, with Lennon too drug-addled and dissipated to exert leadership – instead, making Yoko a near permanent fixture in Abbey Road Studios was his passive-aggressive way of pushing back at McCartney.
And while the public’s perception after the Beatles broke up is that Ringo was the least-talented member of the band, in part thanks to his goofy hangdog persona created for A Hard Day’s Night, he was — and is — an extremely competent four to the bar drummer, and worked tirelessly in the studio for the many, many takes the Beatles took to perfect their backing tracks. In reality, as Emerick wrote, it was really George Harrison who was looked down upon as the weakest member of the group, particularly by both McCartney and producer George Martin, both in terms of his songwriting and his lead guitar playing. It was so bad for Harrison that Martin ultimately had McCartney play lead guitar on Harrison’s 1966 song “Taxman.” Granted — it’s an awesome solo (so good, that as Emerick writes, it was pasted into the fade out of the song as well), but it must have stung for Harrison to not play lead on his own song. One of the great subplots of the Beatles’ history is Harrison’s growth, by the end of the Beatles’ run as a group into a musician and songwriter on par with Lennon and McCartney — you can make a pretty strong case for his 1970 triple-album All Things Must Pass as being the best of the Beatles’ solo albums.
No wonder that when the surviving Beatles reunited for their 1995 Anthology video series, Harrison demanded Jeff Lynne to be producer on the two John Lennon demos they overdubbed new parts onto, rather than McCartney ally Martin.
And speaking of Beatles videos — will we ever see Let It Be on Blu-Ray? I’d love to finally retire my early ’80s VHS cassette copy, which I copied onto DVD-R a decade ago.