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The White Album Anniversary - Recording Debate - Geoff Emerick? Ken Scott?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by BassHappy, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. So this thread will really be for the "Beatle-Philes" out there, as many of the debates about the "White Album" seem to rage on - and what better time might there be for some healthy debate - than upon the release of the 50th Anniversary of "White"?

    OK, so I admit upfront - I am biased. I did two records with Ken Scott and he is my friend. Not everyone knows the controversy surrounding so many of the stories behind the "White Album" - and maybe it would be fun to post some thoughts about it here.

    i would like to preface this by saying, i was very sad to hear of Geoff's passing in early October. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the things he had recorded and engineered throughout his career.


    But the whole Beatles thing around the White Album is certainly not without controversy. Here is an excerpt from Google Groups, mostly from Ken Scott challenging or denying many of the "facts" that were reported in Geoff's book:


    In defense of Geoff, here is a response to Ken's comments:

    Comment if anyone sees fit....
    nixdad and Indiedog like this.
  2. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    A very timely Thread, BassHappy! I am a big fan and I just finished the Emerick book yesterday so I am fascinated by all this. I might have something to add in a bit but for now i am happily subscribed to the Thread.


    EDIT: I just ordered the Ken Scott book and the George Martin book to further my education.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
    rtav, nixdad, BassHappy and 1 other person like this.
  3. Hey Indie

    Yes, this thread could turn out to be a total dud - but that is the chance you take. I find the subject fascinating, and hope others might too. There is a ton of material out there, I just wanted to copy in some stuff and see if there was interest. We will see!
    nixdad and Indiedog like this.
  4. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    This all is particularly interesting to me because while I had encountered many of the Emerick descriptions in this on-line, song-by-song resource: Beatles Music History. The in-depth story behind the songs of the Beatles. Recording History. Songwriting History. Song Structure and Style., I didn't know in advance of buying the book recently that when the tome came out there was a rather immediate and strong set of reactions from some fans about his rather negative views of George Harrison and Ringo (and John Lennon to a degree) as well as some questioning by folks like Ken Scott about the accuracy of many of his recollections. I also didn't know that he told his cohorts about his memory issues when soliciting material from them. So I find this all quite intriguing because I had no reason to doubt the book in any way when I opened to page one. (But I did find it interesting that instead of paraphrasing the band, George Martin, the roadies, and others, he instead had numerous quotes from them all. That did catch my attention. I assumed he was like me and had a really strong memory.)

    And of course, because I know your history with Ken Scott, as I read the sections of the book that mention Ken, I wondered what you thought about the book. Several areas seemed to contradict what I remembered you saying Ken had stated.

    By the way, I commend you for posting the response to Ken's comments in order to showcase both sides of the debate. It is quite an intense retort and I cannot help but wonder what you think about it. So please let me know some of your thoughts.

    One of the fascinating things about The Beatles phenomena is that at the time and then at regular intervals since, there has never been a shortage of rather negative views on all of the players...the band members, the roadies, George Martin, the engineering staff, Brian Epstein, Alan Klein, Yoko, etc. Often they are portrayed as geniuses and at others, buffoons and people with no talent whatsoever. Frankly, it would be difficult for almost anyone not to be swayed by some (all?) of these characterizations. Take Ringo. Depending on the source, he is either the worst drummer of all time or the very best. As a drummer who has tried to cover his patterns, I feel he is quite a remarkable drummer that came up with quirky, effective and cool lines. Sure, many of them were suggested by Paul or others but he played them and frankly, nailed most of them. His talent was playing for the song. Sure, he is not Marco M or Neil P but the band didn't need them. They needed what Ringo brought to the picture.

    Anyway, I'd be intrigued with your thoughts Rick. And of course, anyone else's. So chime in, kids!
  5. Hey Indie

    Thanks for the post! I have not as yet read the Emerick book, but I plan to. When I read Ken's comments - and all of the general talk about the other folks that felt inaccuracies were running rampant in the Emerick book - it kind of put me off. I would like to read it, and I am sure I will get to it. It's funny, Ken always talked to us about Geoff and the White Album sessions in reverent - kind of hushed tones. He had so much respect for Geoff and of course - the Beatles. The stories he told us were on both sides of the coin - but some were always the opposite of what you read about or heard about.

    Ken really felt that all of the creative tension was business as usual with creative types. After all, they were cooped up with each other for such an epic project and all of those songs. There were bound to be tense moments - especially when there was a lot of "vision" being developed with the three main writers taking their creativity back. It wasn't really Beatles songs at one point, everyone was developing their own definitive songwriting, arranging and production style and prowess. His main frustration is that from time to time a couple of studio days might go by and no one would show up. They were all working up their own ideas and they didn't have much respect for sticking to a pre-arranged "schedule". So for Ken - it was feast or famine - twiddling your thumbs waiting, or being so busy you barely had time to breathe. When things were busy, Ken was so delirious, moving constantly between several control rooms - as they always had several songs going at once. He always defended the band and never thought much about the volley of harsh words and occasional temper flare ups. He felt is was all part of their amazing creative process, which it was. Even when Ringo left the band for a while, he knew it was simply a misunderstanding that could easily be talked out. Yes, Ringo was a brilliant drummer, and yes he was pushed all over the place by the other three, to his credit - it made him even better. After they talked it out - and Ringo was back in the band, they kind of became the Beatles again for a while. Best to hear it in Ken's own words:

    As far as what I had stated previously, you will have to be more specific. I am happy to clarify anything that I can remember - and I am sorry if I gave the wrong impression at times. Ken told us an awful lot of stories, I think since we were a band that he was producing - he stressed to us the disagreements and the importance of being civil to one another. I am guessing that perhaps the intensity of those disagreements with the Beatles have softened some in his mind over time. So I sensed quite a dichotomy and that perspective is probably closest to the truth.

    Here is another great read:

    Abbey Road Engineer Ken Scott: Beatles' White Album Sessions Were a Blast
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
    nixdad likes this.
  6. seilerbird


    Apr 12, 2012
    I read Geoff's book and when I got to the part where he was dissing George for taking way too many takes to nail a part I stopped believing anything he had to say.
    nixdad and BassHappy like this.
  7. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    I’ve read both of their books and both are great reads, but the Emerick book seemed to be from Paul’s point of view on things. Both their names are on some of my favorite recordings, Emerick for Band On The Run etc. and Scott for early Stanley Clarke etc. recordings.
    nixdad, Indiedog and BassHappy like this.
  8. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    Hey Rick! My copy of Ken Scott's book just arrived and I read the paragraph on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He says that he cannot remember the actual recording but does remember the mixing well. He said that Clapton wanted to avoid sounding like his normal, identifiable self so he used a Beatles-owned guitar and amp. Ken mentions the ADT varispeed effect on the track with the organ and his guitar and says that Eric wanted a lot of it so he sounded "different." (Personally, I think is was applied just a bit too freely.)

    My co-worker always hollers if the track comes on the radio because that "wobble" is soooo pronounced. LOL!

    I look forward to reading the book and comparing to the Emerick book.
    nixdad and BassHappy like this.
  9. Hey Indie

    I decided to order the book! In my recent email exchanges Ken and I covered some misunderstandings and I am cool and much more comfortable with the situation and the book now. There are a few inaccuracies which still bug me in the book - but in the grand scheme of things they are very minor and I realize that. Interesting about Clapton. I remember Ken mentioning that Clapton was a little over the top and pretty adamant about certain things but it's all a bit vague. Thanks for weighing in on this!
    nixdad and Indiedog like this.
  10. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    Even though it is straying somewhat from your topic, Jerry mentioned the bands both worked with after their main gig, and I too find it interesting to compare and contrast Scott and Emerick in a more general sense. If I look at the artists they both handled after they moved on from the Beatles, I think I give the edge to Ken Scott.

    Geoff did work with Robin Trower (Bridge of Sighs), Elvis Costello, Trevor Rabin, Gentle Giant, and Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as the underwhelming Stealer's Wheel.

    Ken bagged Elton, Bowie, Rick Wakeman, The Tubes, Supertramp, Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke, Kansas, Devo, Level 42, and several of my favorites: The Dixie Dregs, and a fascinating band called Happy the Man (I am looking at you, Kennell! LOL!)

    So personally, I give the edge to Ken Scott. YMMV.
    BassHappy likes this.
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  12. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    A good article and yes, he does contradict several things Emerick stated, most importantly, that the boys were getting on better than Emerick indicated in his book.

    I still haven't decided which package to get...
    BassHappy likes this.
  13. OldDog52

    OldDog52 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2011
    I thought Emerick’s book was a worthwhile read. Nobody’s recall of events 50 years ago is perfect, but it adds to the completeness of the overall picture, even if it’s not 100% accurate. If that make sense.

    My takeaways from the book:
    • McCartney was a perfectionist, always looking for ways to make a song better.
    • Lennon was impatient. When he felt a track was finished, he wanted to move on.
    • Harrison had a sour disposition. His guitar solos were often flubbed, requiring do-overs.
    • Ringo was the drummer.
    • After the first few albums, as Lennon & McCartney branched out, George and Ringo played what they were told to play, if they could.
    • George Martin was a hapless buffoon. I believe this is probably the most inaccurate portrayal in the book.
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  14. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    More and more I feel convinced that everyone's account is biased in different ways and that if i have any hope in getting a true sense of what happened with the band it is necessary to read as many accounts of the times as possible.
    BassHappy likes this.
  15. Skokiaan


    Jun 19, 2004
    New Jersey
    With the new White Album release, I doubt that this Clapton tone story is 100% accurate. There is an outtake in the new set where George plays the lead. His tone is very similar to the final version with Clapton. (It also shows that several of Clapton's licks were copies of George licks).
    Indiedog likes this.
  16. georgiagoodie

    georgiagoodie The winged monkeys showed up Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2008
    I don't know about all that, BUT:
    I just got the 2-album (vinyl) 50th reissue, and
    This is best sounding vinyl I have ever had on my turntable.
    I have been listening to the record pretty much since it was first released so I am very familiar with the music.
    BUT this re-mix is AMAZING!!!
    I WOULD like to hear the new 5.1 version, but I guess I'll just have to wait until it is available by itself.
    nixdad, BassHappy and OldDog52 like this.
  17. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    I did some listening to some of the tracks on the Beatles YT channel and I'd have to say the same: WOW.
    The various takes on "Good Night" were fascinating.

    Time to decide which version to get.
    BassHappy likes this.
  18. We all felt like we grew up with the Beatles - and to a point they were predictably ours: we always felt like we knew what was coming. We loved to be amazed, tap our toes, shake our heads and sing along. Then it was Sgt. Pepper's and the predictability vanished. We no longer knew this band. They became unpredictable and well - odd. We no longer understood the depth and the intensity of the whiskey we were drinking. Yet there they were - high and grinning - kind of begging us to understand that times were changing.

    OK - so I admit it. We were HUGE Sgt. Pepper fans. And VERY BIG Magical Mystery Tour fans too. We loved all the Beatle stuff - but those were the Beatle albums that drew us in and influenced some of the things we were trying to do. Those albums were the ones we related to - maybe the most "progressive" and adventurous ones - at least in our view. I remember when we were talking to Ken about it. He was trying to explain to us how - as much as they seemed to love those records - they wanted to move along. They wanted to get back to their basic rock roots and at the same time cover some new ground based on what they had learned. It all made sense, but we were resistant.

    In my view, they were at the fork in the road but chose the wrong fork when I first heard the White Album. I felt violated in some crazy way - because they abandoned my sensibilities. How dare they move along and push forward with silly rock songs! But push forward they did - in spite of my biases - what an album they made! A veritable hail storm of creativity - dynamic and inviting - even though I was unsure and nervous. While I get it now, I certainly didn't get it then. That is why the White album was such a conundrum. I didn't get why they stripped it down and went back to basics. I couldn't understand how they could abandon the thrills, the orchestration, the inventiveness, the craziness, the psychedelia, of Pepper and Magic - but they did.

    I was shocked to stumble on to this article in the L.A. Times about how Sgt. Pepper was the worst Beatles album ever:

    The Beatles’ best album is really its worst. ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ we need to talk

    It made me realize - our relationship with the Beatles was so highly personal. There is no reason I can think of - why we would all agree on this and this article really made me think.

    Did I have it wrong all along?
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2018
    Indiedog likes this.
  19. Indiedog


    Aug 23, 2012
    Tucson, AZ
    What a great post, Rick. It is fascinating because while I have heard that yours was a common reaction at the time (Ken Scott talks about it for instance), I didn’t have the opportunity to be in that position. Sure, I was 10 when the White Album came out and I did follow some music but I wasn’t following the Beatles then. I was aware of them and liked many songs but I wasn’t the Uber fan I would become 2 years later. So when I collected all of the albums it was without the time and place elements that slightly older folks had. To me, the albums effectively had “absolute brackets” around them (to use a mathematics reference).

    This concept of time and place is a very important element in truly understanding popular music and the effect it had. I see it from the opposite side when speaking to younger people. For instance, when I chat with younger people about ELP, Yes, Happy the Man, Gentle Giant, and Genesis, their understanding of the sequencing and impact of each album is very different from my awareness because I bought each album as it came out. The tremendous sense of doubt and expectation that accompanied Peter Gabriel leaving Genesis between the two albums was intense but someone getting to know the albums years later wouldn’t have that sense of things.

    The huge gulf of differences between “Pepper” and the White album or between “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” and “Wind and Wuthering” were tremendous when one was there. But much less so when the albums are listened to 10 or 20 years later. The differences seem less intense when seen through the lens of modern music.

    That is why reading the original reviews of old albums is such a kick. They can be very eye-opening or downright funny or outrageous (as in “I hate Sgt Pepper”).

    So to me, the change to the White album seemed more organic and natural than it probably did to others at the time.
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  20. OldDog52

    OldDog52 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2011
    I admit that I view the White Album in a much different light now than I did when it was new. Fifty years ago I thought it was kind of a random haphazardly-made indulgence. A few gems interspersed between a lot of filler. Today I see it quite differently. Everything on it has meaning to me.

    As for Sgt. Peppers being their “worst” album, well, that’s just wrong now isn’t it. Or maybe we were all bamboozled by the colorful artwork. ;)
    Indiedog likes this.

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