Thursday, June 04, 2009

Beatle People: Norman Smith

Norman Smith a.k.a. Hurricane Smith (22 February 1923 – 3 March 2008) was an English musician and record producer.


Smith was born in Edmonton, North London and served as a RAF glider pilot during World War II. After an unsuccessful career as a jazz musician, Smith joined EMI as an apprentice sound engineer in 1959.

He was the engineer on all of the EMI studio recordings by The Beatles until 1965 when EMI promoted him from engineer to producer. The last Beatles album he recorded was Rubber Soul, and Smith engineered the sound for slightly fewer than 100 Beatles songs in total.

While working with The Beatles on 17 June 1965, he was offered £15,000 by the band's music publishing company, Dick James Music, to buy outright a song he had written.

In early 1967, he began working with a new group, Pink Floyd, producing their first, second, and fourth studio albums The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and Ummagumma. During the sessions for the song, "Remember a Day," drummer Nick Mason became agitated that he could not come up with the right drum part for the song. Smith, however, knew what he wanted with the drums, so he played the part himself.

In 1968, Smith produced one of the first rock concept albums, The Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow.

He produced early recordings by Barclay James Harvest, including their highly-rated album Once Again, and many years later was name-checked in John Lees's song, "John Lennon's Guitar."

In 1971, Smith, using a recording artist pseudonym of "Hurricane Smith," had a UK hit with "Don't Let It Die." This recording was a demo of a song that he had written with the hope that John Lennon would record it. When he played it for fellow record producer Mickie Most, Most was impressed enough to tell him to release it as it was. In 1972, he enjoyed a transatlantic hit with "Oh Babe What Would You Say?" which became a U.S. #1 Cashbox and a Billboard Pop #3 hit. Also included on Smith's self-titled debut album was a third hit single, a cover version of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Who Was It?"

Some minor hits followed, like "My Mother Was Her Name" (1972), "Beautiful Day, Beautiful Night" (1973) and "To Make You My Baby" (1974). However, his subsequent attempts at producing successful recordings proved elusive.

He also recorded an instrumental track entitled "Theme From an Unmade Silent Movie," which the West Midlands based radio presenter Tony Butler adopted as his theme music. Aston Villa F.C. also used the track, much to Smith's displeasure as he was a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. It was performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on 6 June 2008.

In 2004, Smith released a new CD, From Me To You (SFMCD030), including new recordings of his biggest self-penned hits, "Don't Let It Die" and "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?" and includes messages in the liner notes from Sir Paul McCartney and members of Pink Floyd.

Smith wrote a memoir, entitled John Lennon Called Me Normal. It debuted on 16 March 2007 as a limited edition at The Fest for Beatles Fans in Secaucus, New Jersey. There, Smith appeared and sang "Oh Babe." The book contains never before published pictures, newly revealed historical facts about the Beatles and Pink Floyd at Abbey Road Studios, as well as details of Smith's life as an RAF glider pilot.


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