A dispute over a $6.3 million Beatles recording heads to court

The tape was originally destined to be destroyed, but was kept by Geoff Emerick until his death.

Geoff Emrick and Ringo Starr

Geoff Emrick and Ringo Starr. Image: Monti Spry / Getty

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An early demo recording of The Beatles is at the centre of a legal dispute between the family of sound engineer Geoff Emerick and Universal Music Group.

The recording in question was taped by Emerick on 6 June 1962, before Ringo Starr had even joined the band. According to The Sun, EMI at the time judged the demo to be of insufficient quality, and so ordered it destroyed. However, Emerick kept the recording until he died in 2018.

Universal Music Group, which acquired EMI in 2012, reportedly now wants the demo returned – and unsurprisingly so, given one estimate for its value clocks in at $6.3 million. As both Universal and Emerick’s family claim ownership over the demo, the dispute will be resolved in a Californian court, beginning tomorrow (16 June).

A junior employee at EMI when he recorded the tape, Emerick gradually worked his way through the ranks before becoming the band’s official recording engineer in 1966, aged just 20. He most notably worked on the Beatles records Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road. After the Beatles split in 1970, he continued to work as an engineer with Paul McCartney.

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