Reverb.com has acquired some unpublished interviews with the people who worked with the Beatles in the making of the Sgt. Pepper album. This is part one.
Fifty years ago, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was still riding high at number one on both the British and American charts. The Beatles recorded the album at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in north-west London from late November 1966 to early April ’67, releasing it in June ’67. Sgt. Pepper’s was not only a great commercial success, but it also popularized the idea of the concept album. Some even thought that it raised the pop music LP to the level of an art form.
Abbey Road had operated as a recording studio since it was purpose-built by EMI and opened in 1931. By 1967, there were three studios, with Studio Two as the prime Beatle recording location. Leading up from the live room (about 60′ by 35′ with a 30′ ceiling) was a long wooden staircase to the control room perched behind a window, from where the producers and engineers could observe the musicians below. Sometimes The Beatles would use Studio One, Abbey Road’s biggest room (about 95′ by 55′ with a 40′ ceiling) designed for classical and operatic recordings, and, rarely, the smaller Studio Three (about 40′ by 30′ with a 15′ ceiling).
On the occasion of Sgt. Pepper’s first release on CD in 1987—a year that also marked the album’s 20th anniversary—I interviewed producer George Martin, engineer Geoff Emerick, and technical engineer Ken Townsend about the making of this most celebrated of Beatles records.
Geoff, can you tell me about the recording equipment you used at Abbey Road for Sgt. Pepper’s?
Geoff Emerick: There was no modified equipment: It was basically the standard EMI REDD desk, eight in and four out—and a couple of faders on those would accept an auxiliary input. We used Studer 4-track tape machines. Prior to that it was EMI’s own machines. [The Beatles did not have access to an 8-track recorder at Abbey Road until part way through recording the White Album the following year, 1968.]