Imagine for a second you’re 19 years old and you’ve just received a promotion to work in the recording studio with quite literally the biggest band in the entire world. You could literally pinch yourself at your incredible luck as you walk through the doors of Abbey Road Studios in London in 1966. But then, one of the members of that band hits you with what seems like an impossible request: “I want my voice to sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop, miles away.”
That was John Lennon’s edict to The Beatles producer George Martin just before they began to record the Revolver cut “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Of course, it isn’t Martin who is responsible for bringing Lennon’s request to life. No, the straight-backed producer instead turns to you, Geoff Emerick, to figure it out. Suddenly the gravity of the task ahead comes crashing down like a piano off a ten-story building. “I looked around the room in a panic,” he recalled in his memoir Here, There, And Everywhere.
Fortunately, Emerick had time to think about how to achieve the desired effect while Lennon busied himself creating a guitar loop for the song alongside Ringo Starr on drums. Abbey Road wasn’t the most technologically advanced studio, so the options were limited, but then, finally: a solution. There in the corner was spinning amplifier called a Leslie that was hooked to the studio’s Hammond organ. It was that amplifier that gave the Leslie it’s signature swirling sound. What if they modded it out and had Lennon sing through that?