Eirik Wangberg’s biography
|Eirik Wangberg with his biography. Photo: © Roger Stormo|
“My first meeting with Eirik was remarkable, and it took place during the late 60’s. One day when John Lennon and I visited with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys while they were recording, Brian and I ended up sharing the piano bench an playing our new songs, with John, Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks and Eirik as an audience.” – from Paul McCartney’s introduction in the biography of Eirik “the Norwegian” Wangberg.
Friday we attended a press lunch to launch the biography of Eirik Wangberg, written with his collaborator Stein Slettebak Wangen. Eirik who? Perhaps you know him better as Eirik the Norwegian, which is the name he goes under on the cover of “Ram”, where Eirik is listed as mixing engineer.
This book is bound not to get the attention it truly deserves, because it is published in Norwegian. But it contains some fantastic stories from Wangberg’s career, and a few are Beatles related. Eirik Wangberg was born in 1944 in England, but grew up in Oslo, Norway. He started out in the music business as the bass player for one of the earliest rock groups in Norway, “The Cool Cats”, who recorded a demo in EMI studios in Abbey Road as early as in 1960, Eirik is only sixteen and it’s two years before the Beatles arrive at the same studios.
In 1964, Wangberg moved to California to study, but is soon captured by the recording industry, where he starts to work as a recording, mastering and mixing engineer and producer until he moves back to Norway in 1980. During his time in California, Wangberg is involved in the recording and or mixing of several well known recordings and hits, like stereo mixing records like The Turtles’ “Happy Together”, Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)” and the soundtrack to “Monterey Pop”.
In 1967, Wangberg finds himself in Sound Recorders Studio in Hollywood, one of many studios Brian Wilson decided to utilise for the recording and mixing of The Beach Boys’ upcoming album, “Smile”. Having already recorded the song “Vegetables” with Wangberg first as second engineer and later on in control of the engineering, the Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks and Wangberg are there to put the songs together to make a coherent album when John Lennon and Paul McCartney stop by, together with Derek Taylor. After having congratulated John and Paul on the success of their latest single, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”, Wangberg plays back “Vegetables” for the guests from England. After having harvested compliments for the song, Wangberg, still not sure about who is who of John and Paul, witnesses an encounter where Paul and Brian are both sitting at the piano, playing each other’s new songs. “Sgt. Pepper” is still not released, so Paul starts by playing and performing “Fixing A Hole”. Brian counters by playing and singing “Heroes and villains”, and Paul answers with “Lovely Rita”. Wangberg can still rewind Paul’s solo version in his mind, he writes. Brian performs “Surf’s up”, before the party breaks up, John and Paul leave and “Smile” is shelved indefinitely… until 2011!
This visit by John and Paul is not documented in Beatles history. In April 1967, Paul spent a week in USA with his assistant, Mal Evans – not John. During his time in LA, Paul did visit Brian and The Beach Boys in their recording studio (April 10, 1967) without Mal, and the story goes that Paul partly co-produced “Vegetables” with Brian, chewing a bit of celery during the proceedings, and also played “She’s Leaving Home” to Brian on the studio piano. It’s tricky to work John Lennon into the story here, but Paul gives credence to the tale in his introduction to the book. I believe more research should ensue.
|Wangberg’s book: The photo on the front cover was taken before McCartney’s concert in Drammenshallen in 1989.|
Another chapter in Wangberg’s book is from 1968, when George Harrison is in town and shows up with the “White album” tapes. Unhappy with Capitol’s mastering job, George wants it remastered by the studio where Wangberg is working. Wangberg’s business partner Armin Steiner is busy mastering the double album anew, assisted by Carl Frisk. The upcoming single, “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” is also part of the package they perform their work on, and Wangberg sits in to listen, leaving Harrison waiting.
This visit by George is somewhat documented. In the December 1968 issue of The Beatles Monthly Book, Mal Evans related how George was so upset by the cut he heard at Capitol that he took all day re-equalizing it so it sounded like it should. As detailed in page 270 of Bruce Spizer’s book “The Beatles Swan Song” George Harrison did not approve of the original mastering job done by Capitol on “The White Album” As was often the practice at the time, Capitol’s engineers had run the sound signal through a limiter and compressed the volume range of the recording by cutting back the high volume peaks and bringing up the low passages. Harrison insisted that the album be remastered. This took place under his supervision at Sound Recorders Studio on Yucca Street, which was located around the corner from the Capitol Tower.
The book is jumping back and forth through Wangberg’s exciting adventures and is a fun read. Anecdotes aplenty about celebrities like the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Mamas & Papas, The Jackson Five, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta and a host of renowned studio musicians. Of course, there’s a huge section devoted to Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Ram”, the most important album of Wangberg’s career. There are plans to have it translated into English. Wangberg is currently putting together a 2CD of music of his own, which he wrote and recorded during the sixties and seventies.