meta-scriptPeter Frampton On Whether He'll Perform Live Again, Hanging With George Harrison & David Bowie And New Album 'Frampton Forgets the Words' | GRAMMY.com
Peter Frampton Band

Peter Frampton Band

Photo: Austin Lord

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Peter Frampton On Whether He'll Perform Live Again, Hanging With George Harrison & David Bowie And New Album 'Frampton Forgets the Words'

At 70 years old, Peter Frampton is happy, creative and generally healthy. But whether he'll finish his thwarted farewell tour depends on when the world reopens—and if he can keep his degenerative muscle condition at bay

GRAMMYs/Mar 25, 2021 - 04:59 pm

A year and a half ago, Peter Frampton may have played his final concert. Standing alone at the Concord Pavilion, just north of San Francisco, on October 12, 2019, he didn't want to follow his band offstage at the end of his performance. He didn't want to stop. 

"I had to wait until the crowd would calm down," Frampton tells GRAMMY.com. "In the end, I had to shut them up to say 'Thank you.' And I never said goodbye. I just said, 'I'm not going to say goodbye.'" Despite the fact the 70-year-old is creatively active and taking care of himself, the time will come when he has to say goodbye to touring. When? His inclusion body myositis, or IBM, will dictate that. 

The degenerative muscle condition, which has no cure, may one day claim his guitar mastery. And at that point, Frampton says, he will stop. But if it's cruel that the COVID-19 pandemic potentially robbed him of his final viable year as a live performer, Frampton doesn't carry any detectable resentment about it. The one-time GRAMMY winner and five-time nominee is too busy playing guitar—and every time he picks up the instrument, he says, it feels like the last time.

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That bittersweet parting between a man and his lifelong communication tool colors the Peter Frampton Band's latest instrumental album, Frampton Forgets the Words, which drops April 23 via UMe. (His last album 2007's Fingerprints, won a GRAMMY for Best Pop Instrumental Album; his cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" won Best Rock Instrumental Performance.)

Frampton Forgets the Words is a grab-bag of 10 covers of rock songs that just plain move Frampton, and he imbues every lick and line of tunes by Radiohead ("Reckoner"), Roxy Music ("Avalon") Lenny Kravitz ("Are You Gonna Go My Way") and other legacy artists with deep feeling and panache. 

GRAMMY.com gave Frampton a ring about the future of his touring career, why he chose these songs, and his relationships with David Bowie and George Harrison—both of whom he covered on this album. Check out Frampton Forgets the Words' version of Bowie's "Loving the Alien," which premieres exclusively above, and read on for the interview.

The pandemic interrupted your farewell tour, yeah?

Yes. We were lucky. I was so, so lucky that we decided to start it in May of '19 because we managed to get halfway through. We finished the U.S.-Canada portion in mid-October. And then, of course, by March, we were shut down. We were supposed to go to Europe in 2020, in May. Realistically, it was the right thing. We're all in the same boat, so it was definitely the right thing to do. But, yeah, it was disappointing.

Did you record Frampton Forgets the Words before or after COVID-19 hit?

Before. It was recorded before the finale tour. We did three, nay, four albums before coming off the road in 2018—again, in October-ish—with Steve Miller. Then, took nine or 10 days off, went straight into the studio and did the All Blues album and another blues album, which has yet to come out. Then, we took Christmas off and in early 2019, we did Forgets the Words.

And then, we started after that, all the way up to April sometime, we were working on my first new solo album since the last one. 

Peter Frampton in 1973. Photo: George Wilkes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images​

Were you playing some of the Frampton Forgets the Words tunes during the farewell tour?

No, we were playing stuff off All Blues, but we were not playing anything off the instrumental record. Because it wasn't out yet, and also, that meant we could do some of the Fingerprints instrumentals, like "Black Hole Sun" and occasionally some of the other ones in there from that album. 

This album feels very personal, in a sense. I remember reading a past interview where you said your playing has become more soulful over the past few years due to some of the physical issues you've been facing. It sounds like you're profoundly feeling every note of these songs.

I think it's a combination of things. I treasure being able to play so much, and of course, it's weighing on my mind that I do have my muscle disease clock—the IBM clock, I call it. Because I am slowly, slowly, slowly… but it's very slow. 

I think it's a combination of having played so many notes over the years—I've chosen what not to play anymore [laughs]—and I feel like every time I pick the guitar up, it's like I'm playing for the last time. So, I put my heart and soul into it, especially on stage. Especially on the finale tour, because the audiences were different every night, but the feeling I got from every audience was exactly the same. It was a phenomenal feeling of them all putting their arms around me and saying, "It's going to be OK." I got chills saying that. But I did, I felt that, and I realized I've touched a lot of people and their lives. 

It really brought it home to me, how much my music has meant to so many people. It was just a two-way "Thank you" the whole night, on every show. I have to say, every show. And at the end, I would be left on my own on the stage, the band would leave, and I had to wait until the crowd would calm down. In the end, I had to shut them up to say "Thank you."

They didn't want us to leave. And I never said goodbye. I just said, "I'm not going to say goodbye. I'm just waving." It was just phenomenal. The best experience of my whole career of touring.

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That's lovely, truly. I noticed while listening to Frampton Forgets the Words that even without lyrics, each song's intent came through loud and clear. Just your guitar "singing" them. Do you feel the emotions of "Isn't It a Pity" or "Reckoner" come through simply in the melodies and performances when you strip away the verbal element?

Well, I started as an instrumental player because of The Shadows, this incredible pre-Beatles instrumental band that was Cliff Richard's backup band as well. They had so many hits. You would call it "surf music," but we would call it The Shadows. So that's how I started—with very melodic stuff. 

Let's home in on "Isn't It a Pity," a song of compassion and tender concern. Your instrumental version telegraphs those emotions even without George's words.

My guitar is another voice. It's like I sing with my voice and I play with another voice. It's always been the most expressive part of what I do, is play. So, when I chose these songs to do instrumental versions of, I chose them because of my capability, of what I thought I could do.

"Isn't It a Pity," I tried to sound like George's voice but in my voice, if you know what I'm saying. It was an emulation of what he was singing. Obviously, with an instrumental, you don't have the second verse with different words to keep peoples' attention. So you have to make it more interesting as it goes along, with the notes you choose.

So, that one is what I enjoyed doing the most. That one and also Roxy Music's "Avalon." I'll play my own trumpet here, even though I play guitar: Brian Ferry's voice on "Avalon" is like, "Is there something coming out?" It's so laid back and I wanted to be able to emulate not the sound of his voice, but the effect his voice had on the listener. I'm very, very proud of the sound and the playing, especially on the verses of "Avalon."

You're terrific at building drama, too. You may not be able to add a second verse, but you can add embellishments that up the ante.

You have to do that. Otherwise, it would be boring.

We're touching a lot of spheres in rock history with this tracklist. What's the common thread between these 10 tunes, beyond the simple fact that you love them?

It's something that these songs all stir emotion within me. Especially Radiohead and even "Dreamland," which is the Jaco Pastorius tribute. I couldn't do most of these songs because as a guitar player, I can't play as fast as he could play on bass!

But it's all a choice of notes. That's the common thread. If you compare "Dreamland" with [Alison Krauss’] "Maybe," which is the end track, it's about the melody. It's about that choice of notes over that chord sequence. And I think it rings true with all of them.

"Isn't It a Pity" has got that diminished kind of chord that George does on the second line, and that just sets it apart from every other song on All Things Must Pass. And it was the first one I heard when I went into the studio. They had already done that track when I sat down and started cutting tracks with them, with George.

I've never forgotten… well, first of all, it's my first time walking into Abbey Road. I'm not going on a tour; I'm going to play on an album with George Harrison and all these incredible players, you know? RingoJim GordonKlaus VoormannBilly Preston. It was just unbelievable. So, I've never forgotten that moment when I heard "Isn't It a Pity." 

It's always been the one that just… again if I get goosebumps, you're in!

What was your relationship like with George?

I had a very, very good relationship with George. Apart from meeting him the same day as he asked me to play on the Doris Troy album, and then asked me back for All Things Must Pass, my wife and I—Mary, at the time—would go down to Friar Park, where they lived, and spend time on the weekends with George and Pattie. It became kind of a thing. He was a dear friend and I miss him terribly.

We've got David Bowie in there, with "Loving the Alien." Did you know him as well?

We went to school together. I met David when I was 12 or 13 [years old.] My father was his art teacher in high school for three years. He became—as well as my friend—almost closer to my dad because my dad was the head of the art department and it was every form of visual art known to man, from typography to fine art to you-name-it. History of architecture, the whole bit.

My dad obviously taught everybody, but when there was a student—in this case, a couple; there was George Underwood, who did the Ziggy Stardust cover as well as many others for David, who's a fantastic fine artist, a painter. I have some of his work here. He was Dave's best friend for life.

So, it was the two of them I met. At one point, my dad said, "Well, you boys all play these guitars and this rock 'n' roll music. Why don't you bring your guitars to school, and I'll stick 'em in my office, and you can play them at lunchtime? So we did, and David became sort of more of a family friend. 

When we did the introduction to the Glass Spider tour in London, my parents came up and afterward, there was a press conference and we played about four or five numbers. So afterward, my parents were backstage. And I'm talking to Mom and I'm saying, "Where's Dad?" She's saying, "Oh, I don't know. He went off with Dave somewhere!" They would just disappear off together. 

When I lost my dad, Dave was the first person to call. That gives you some idea.

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Such intimate connections! I also wanted to touch on Radiohead, since they're the most contemporary act of the bunch. What's your relationship with those guys and/or their music? I'm not sure if you know them personally.

No, I don't know them. But from afar, I'm amazed by that band. It's one of the most inventive bands ever, I think, and they keep reinventing themselves with every album, every piece. It's something so special; it's very unique. I mean, every band is unique in some way, but Radiohead are way ahead of their time, I think, which is wonderful. 

I can learn so much from them just listening to the way [Thom Yorke] sings, plays, the way they all write, the basic chord sequence and the track and the riff. You know, I delve in there. It's a lesson for a musician. It's a really big lesson listening to any one of their songs.

Let's say, best case scenario, venues start to open this summer. Are you going to try to finish up your farewell tour?

This is where I have to give you the realistic chat. Not you—I have to be realistic because we all have one clock. Well, we've got two clocks right now, worldwide, that we live with. One is our life-clock and one is the COVID clock. 

The COVID clock is stopping everybody from being around each other, for good reason, right now, obviously. And the more we stay away from each other, unfortunately, at this time, the better it is. But I have a third clock, which is my IBM—inclusion body myositis—clock. Slowly but surely, unfortunately, I'm losing strength in my hands, my arms and my legs.

It's specific muscles it hits. It picks and chooses the muscles and there's no rhyme or reason for it. They don't know; there's no cure. If it takes another year before we can reschedule any dates, I will have to be realistic to see if my hands work or my legs will keep me up. 

That's what I have to deal with, and I think there's a certain level of playing where I won't perform anymore. If I can't play certain things the way I want to—I don't want to be that person to go out there and people feel bad for me because I don't play as good but I am Peter Frampton. That's not going to happen.

If I go out having played my last show [near] San Francisco on October 12, 2019, if that's my last show, then so be it. But obviously, I am hoping more than anybody else that within a year—or if it is a year; I'm imagining it's going to be at least a year—if things aren't doing good, then that will be it for me, unfortunately.

In the meantime, it seems like you're feeling good and you're creatively percolating. What are you listening to lately? If you were to make another instrumental record, what might be on it, based on what you're checking out these days?

Oh, gosh. I can't answer that question. That's a whole thought process I'd need, like, a month for!

Jethro Tull's 'Aqualung' At 50: Ian Anderson On How Whimsy, Inquiry & Religious Skepticism Forged The Progressive Rock Classic

Lurrie Bell Lil Ed Williams
Lurrie Bell and Lil' Ed Williams

Photo: Christopher Caldwell

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Blues Music Awards 2024 and Blues Hall Of Fame Inductee Ceremony Honor the Past, Present, & Future Of The Blues

The Blues Music Awards kicked off several days of events honoring the genre's legacy, which included the Blues Hall of Fame Inductee ceremony and the opening of an innovative new exhibit at the Blues Hall of Fame featuring a hologram of Taj Mahal.

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2024 - 12:40 am

It was a big week for music in Memphis. The 45th annual Blues Music Awards, a top honor in the genre, were handed out on Thursday, May 9, in Memphis, Tenn. in a ceremony sponsored by the Recording Academy. The awards were the capstone to several days of blues-related events, including the annual Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony the day before.  

An audience of approximately 1,000 — including industry professionals, fans, and some of the genre's biggest artists — packed the grand main exhibit hall of the recently renovated Renasant Convention Center for the BMAs banquet, produced by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation. With 25 awards and more than a dozen performances, the awards show, hosted by broadcast veteran Tavis Smiley, often felt more like a homecoming than an industry event.

Read below for four key takeaways from this year's Blues Music Awards and Blue Hall of Fame Ceremony.

Mississippi's Blues Roots Remain Strong

Located right next to Memphis, Mississippi is home to one of the country's four GRAMMY Museums and is widely regarded as one of the birthplaces — if not the birthplace — of the blues. The state has nurtured some of the genre's greatest talents, including Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King. The Magnolia State's deep connection to the blues was evident during the awards, with Mississippi mainstays and GRAMMY winners Bobby Rush and Christone "Kingfish" Ingram among the top winners. 

Despite a 65-year age difference, Rush and Ingram share a deep devotion to the blues. At 90 years old, Rush, an incredibly spry chitlin' circuit road warrior who has re-emerged in recent years as perhaps one the blues' biggest stars, won Best Soul Blues Album for All My Love for You and his second B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award. Ingram, only 25 years old and already a GRAMMY winner for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2022, was the night's top winner, taking home four awards: Album of the Year and Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for Live in London, Contemporary Blues Male Artist, and Instrumentalist-Guitar.

Other multiple award winners included another artist originally from Mississippi, 79-year-old Chicago guitarist John Primer, who won Traditional Blues Male Artist and Traditional Blues Album for Teardrops for Magic Slim, and Texas' Ruthie Foster, who captured top vocalist honors and won Song of the Year for "What Kind Of Fool," co-written with Hadden Sayers and Scottie Miller.

The Blues Need To Be Seen To Be Heard

Though the BMAs largely honor recorded works, the show itself emphasized that the blues are a genre best experienced live. The ceremony, which ran about four hours (historically on the shorter side for this event), was packed full of performances, most running longer than your typical awards show slots. 

Highlights included the opening set by emerging artist nominee Candice Ivory, who performed selections from her BMA-nominated album When the Levee Breaks: The Music of Memphis Minnie, backed by keyboardist Ben Levin and guitarist William Lee Ellis, who also played songs from his album Ghost Hymns, a nominee for Best Acoustic Album.

Another Mississippi artist, powerhouse bandleader Castro Coleman, known as Mr. Sipp, who has one GRAMMY nomination and an appearance on a GRAMMY-winning Count Basie Orchestra album, brought the crowd to their feet early with his gospel-fueled segment. To cement his Best Guitarist win, Ingram delivered a blistering performance with his band, wading into the audience for one of his beautifully precise, soaring solos.

There was so much music to be heard that it spilled out into the streets. Most nights following BMA-related events, fans and fellow artists could be found in the clubs on Beale Street, the famous Home of the Blues, for showcases and impromptu jam sessions. These were highlighted by the 10th annual Down In the Basement fundraiser for the Blues Foundation on Wednesday. Organized and hosted by Big Llou Johnson, a blues musician and host of Sirius XM's B.B. King's Bluesville channel, the show featured appearances by Mr. Sipp, GRAMMY nominees Southern Avenue, and more.

Honoring The Blues' Past

Among the other events that made up BMA week was the Blues Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, held on May 8 at Memphis' Cannon Center for the Performing Arts before a crowd of about 200, including past inductees Bobby Rush and Taj Mahal. Hosted by artists Gaye Adegbalola (Saffire — the Uppity Blues Women), GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops), and veteran blues radio deejay Bill Wax, the observance saw the induction of seven artists, five blues singles, one album, a book, and a blues academic into the Hall of Fame.

Highlights from the evening included Alligator Records head Bruce Iglauer's humor-filled induction of Chicago house stompers Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials in the performers category; the heartfelt introduction of the late folk singer Odetta by her friend Maria Muldaur and the emotional acceptance by Odetta's daughter, Michelle Esrick; and former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman William R. Ferris, inducted as a non-performer, delivering a circuitous-but-engrossing recounting of his life documenting blues music and culture.

Bringing The Blues To Life 

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal stands in front of the exhibit featuring his own hologram. | Photo: Kimberly Horton

One of the non-award related highlights of the week was the opening of a new exhibit at the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame, also on May 8, which introduced a high-tech element to the down-home genre. Musician Taj Mahal was on hand the day before for the unveiling of a cutting-edge AI-powered hologram of himself that acts as a virtual tour guide for the Half of Fame, allowing visitors to interact with the blues great. 

This hologram, only the second exhibit of its kind in America (the first is in the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame in Boston), uses Holobox, a new technology from Holoconnects, to render a life-like image that can answer questions, talk about exhibits, and play instruments. Taj Mahal, who had to sit and talk for several hours for the technology to scan his likeness and voice, is the first artist to receive the virtual treatment from the Blues Foundation. Bobby Rush and Keb' Mo' are expected to be added later.

Explore the full list of 2024 BMA winners below to celebrate the artists keeping the blues alive and discover who took home the top honors this year. 

2024 BMA Winners

B.B. King Entertainer of the Year

Bobby Rush

Album of the Year

Live In London, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Band of the Year

Nick Moss Band

Song of the Year

"What Kind Of Fool," written by Ruthie Foster, Hadden Sayers & Scottie Miller

Best Emerging Artist Album

The Right Man, D.K. Harrell

Acoustic Blues Album

Raw Blues 1, Doug MacLeod

Blues Rock Album

Blood Brothers, Mike Zito/ Albert Castiglia

Contemporary Blues Album

Live In London, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Soul Blues Album

All My Love For You, Bobby Rush

Traditional Blues Album

Teardrops for Magic Slim, John Primer

Acoustic Blues Artist

Keb' Mo'

Blues Rock Artist

Mike Zito

Contemporary Blues Female Artist

Danielle Nicole

Contemporary Blues Male Artist

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Soul Blues Female Artist

Annika Chambers

Soul Blues Male Artist

John Nemeth

Traditional Blues Female Artist (Koko Taylor Award)

Sue Foley

Traditional Blues Male Artist

John Primer

Instrumentalist – Bass

Bob Stroger

Instrumentalist – Drums

Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith

Instrumentalist – Guitarist

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

Instrumentalist – Harmonica

Jason Ricci

Instrumentalist – Horn

Vanessa Collier

Instrumentalist – Piano (Pinetop Perkins Award)

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

Instrumentalist – Vocals

Ruthie Foster

Washington D.C. Chapter Dinner & Conversation Answers "Can We Have Rhythm Without the Blues?"

Beatles Let it Be
The Beatles during the 'Let it Be' sessions in 1969

Photo: Ethan A. Russell / © Apple Corps Ltd

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5 Lesser Known Facts About The Beatles' 'Let It Be' Era: Watch The Restored 1970 Film

More than five decades after its 1970 release, Michael Lindsay-Hogg's 'Let it Be' film is restored and re-released on Disney+. With a little help from the director himself, here are some less-trodden tidbits from this much-debated film and its album era.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 05:34 pm

What is about the Beatles' Let it Be sessions that continues to bedevil diehards?

Even after their aperture was tremendously widened with Get Back — Peter Jackson's three-part, almost eight hour, 2021 doc — something's always been missing. Because it was meant as a corrective to a film that, well, most of us haven't seen in a long time — if at all.

That's Let it Be, the original 1970 documentary on those contested, pivotal, hot-and-cold sessions, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Much of the calcified lore around the Beatles' last stand comes not from the film itself, but what we think is in the film.

Let it Be does contain a couple of emotionally charged moments between maturing Beatles. The most famous one: George Harrison getting snippy with Paul McCartney over a guitar part, which might just be the most blown-out-of-proportion squabble in rock history.

But superfans smelled blood in the water: the film had to be a locus for the Beatles' untimely demise. To which the film's director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, might say: did we see the same movie?

"Looking back from history's vantage point, it seems like everybody drank the bad batch of Kool-Aid," he tells GRAMMY.com. Lindsay-Hogg had just appeared at an NYC screening, and seemed as surprised by it as the fans: "Because the opinion that was first formed about the movie, you could not form on the actual movie we saw the other night."

He's correct. If you saw Get Back, Lindsay-Hogg is the babyfaced, cigar-puffing auteur seen throughout; today, at 84, his original vision has been reclaimed. On May 8, Disney+ unveiled a restored and refreshed version of the Let it Be film — a historical counterweight to Get Back. Temperamentally, though, it's right on the same wavelength, which is bound to surprise some Fabs disciples.

With the benefit of Peter Jackson's sound-polishing magic and Giles Martin's inspired remixes of performances, Let it Be offers a quieter, more muted, more atmospheric take on these sessions. (Think fewer goofy antics, and more tight, lingering shots of four of rock's most evocative faces.)

As you absorb the long-on-ice Let it Be, here are some lesser-known facts about this film, and the era of the Beatles it captures — with a little help from Lindsay-Hogg himself.

The Beatles Were Happy With The Let It Be Film

After Lindsay-Hogg showed the Beatles the final rough cut, he says they all went out to a jovial meal and drinks: "Nice food, collegial, pleasant, witty conversation, nice wine."

Afterward, they went downstairs to a discotheque for nightcaps. "Paul said he thought Let it Be was good. We'd all done a good job," Lindsay-Hogg remembers. "And Ringo and [wife] Maureen were jiving to the music until two in the morning."

"They had a really, really good time," he adds. "And you can see like [in the film], on their faces, their interactions — it was like it always was."

About "That" Fight: Neither Paul Nor George Made A Big Deal

At this point, Beatles fanatics can recite this Harrison-in-a-snit quote to McCartney: "I'll play, you know, whatever you want me to play, or I won't play at all if you don't want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you… I'll do it." (Yes, that's widely viewed among fans as a tremendous deal.)

If this was such a fissure, why did McCartney and Harrison allow it in the film? After all, they had say in the final cut, like the other Beatles.

"Nothing was going to be in the picture that they didn't want," Lindsay-Hogg asserts. "They never commented on that. They took that exchange as like many other exchanges they'd had over the years… but, of course, since they'd broken up a month before [the film's release], everyone was looking for little bits of sharp metal on the sand to think why they'd broken up."

About Ringo's "Not A Lot Of Joy" Comment…

Recently, Ringo Starr opined that there was "not a lot of joy" in the Let it Be film; Lindsay-Hogg says Starr framed it to him as "no joy."

Of course, that's Starr's prerogative. But it's not quite borne out by what we see — especially that merry scene where he and Harrison work out an early draft of Abbey Road's "Octopus's Garden."

"And Ringo's a combination of so pleased to be working on the song, pleased to be working with his friend, glad for the input," Lindsay-Hogg says. "He's a wonderful guy. I mean, he can think what he wants and I will always have greater affection for him.

"Let's see if he changes his mind by the time he's 100," he added mirthfully.

Lindsay-Hogg Thought It'd Never Be Released Again

"I went through many years of thinking, It's not going to come out," Lindsay-Hogg says. In this regard, he characterizes 25 or 30 years of his life as "solitary confinement," although he was "pushing for it, and educating for it."

"Then, suddenly, the sun comes out" — which may be thanks to Peter Jackson, and renewed interest via Get Back. "And someone opens the cell door, and Let it Be walks out."

Nobody Asked Him What The Sessions Were Like

All four Beatles, and many of their associates, have spoken their piece on Let it Be sessions — and journalists, authors, documentarians, and fans all have their own slant on them.

But what was this time like from Lindsay-Hogg's perspective? Incredibly, nobody ever thought to check. "You asked the one question which no one has asked," he says. "No one."

So, give us the vibe check. Were the Let it Be sessions ever remotely as tense as they've been described, since man landed on the moon? And to that, Lindsay-Hogg's response is a chuckle, and a resounding, "No, no, no."

The Beatles' Final Song: Giles Martin On The Second Life Of "Now And Then" & How The Fab Four Are "Still Breaking New Ground"

The Melvins
The Melvins (L-R: Dale Crover, Steven McDonald, Buzz Osborne)

Photo: Chris Casella

interview

On The Melvins' 'Tarantula Heart,' Buzz Osborne Continues His Idiosyncratic Calling: "I Don't Want To Do Anything Normal"

Kicking out bassists, flipping the script on drummers, beating up drunks: no conversation with the razor-sharp Buzz Osborne is going to be conventional. And the Melvins' gloriously strange new album, 'Tarantula Heart,' is a boon to off-center music fans.

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 08:24 pm

"I will answer any and all questions. Just, a lot of times, people don't like my answers."

So goes Buzz Osborne — the long-reigning King Buzzo, of cult heavies the Melvins — halfway through a hair-raising, hour-long interview. He had a catbird seat to the exhilarating rise and tragic fall of the grunge era; for some, his brutal honesty in that regard might be a liability.

"That's just Buzz," said his old friend Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, after Osborne virally disparaged the documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck as "90 percent... bulls—." "He's always been like that, but we love him so we just accept him for that. He's always had these opinions. Like, 'Oh, there goes Buzz again.'"

There he goes again, indeed. But Osborne's honesty is just that — honesty. Go ahead and scour his interviews; try to catch him in a lie, or a half-truth, about anything he's lived through.

"I wasn't wrong then, I'm not wrong now. I was misunderstood then, and I'm going to continue to be misunderstood," Osborne tells GRAMMY.com of the old days, when he watched his friends in Nirvana and Soundgarden grow from nothing to dominate the earth. "But that's OK, it's part of the deal."

Unlike either act, Osborne has always been 100 percent opposed to conventional notions of rock stardom. (Cobain seemed hot and cold on the matter.) He doesn't drink or take drugs. He's been married to the same woman forever. "I live a conservative life, and I let my wildness come out of my art," Osborne explains.

And while Tarantula Heart might not necessarily grow his cult fanbase, it's one of the wildest things Osborne's made — and that alone makes it worth celebrating and cherishing.

The Melvins' 27th studio album (Osborne estimates the total to be over 30, so perhaps it depends on how you count) is rife with off-kilter, pummeling tracks like "Working the Ditch," "She's Got Weird Arms" and "Smiler."

Therein, Osborne shows he can still throw a wrench in the works when things threaten to become predictable, and come up with profoundly idiosyncratic and ineffably satisfying art. (How he recorded the drums alone is fascinating — and by some standards, backwards.)

Read on to learn how Tarantula Heart was made, living with Kurt Cobain's distorted public shadow, which of his grunge-era contemporaries he still talks to, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I'll admit that I haven't heard every Melvins album. But Tarantula Heart still strikes me as a high watermark in the discography.

Well, I don't think anybody has heard our entire catalog.

I probably have. I would say that I guarantee you Steven [Shane McDonald]'s never listened to all of our records. The guy who plays bass for us. I really, seriously doubt it. I doubt that [former bassist] Kevin Rutmanis has ever listened to all of our records. I can't imagine that the Big Business guys listened to all our records. It's too much for anybody to take in. I don't expect people to do that.

At any rate, how do you keep your artistry so fresh and inspired?

I stay inspired by thinking — moving my feet. After 30-plus albums, I am always looking for something that's going to inspire me in a new way. I don't really have much interest in going back and making records the way that I did 30 years ago, or 15 years ago.

There's really no template for how you guys do things, is there?

No, there's no template. I don't want to do anything normal. Nothing. I'm an accidentalist, I'd say, by 50 percent. And the other 50 percent is making sure that you are not throwing out the good stuff with the bad stuff. 

Also, as time has gone on, I've realized that my tolerance for lots of stuff is a lot higher than most people are capable of dealing with. I can listen to long, drawn-out stuff, and I always could, but I realized in my music, I always held back a little bit on it. Then, I realized, Well, I don't need to do that. I can do whatever I want. I can view albums the way that I want to.

Do go on.

One of my favorite albums for that kind of thing is Heathen Earth by Throbbing Gristle. That's been a huge inspiration on what I've done for a long time. Or early Swans. I mean, we were never going to sell millions of records. All we were going to do was make music that, because I felt like I had good taste, there'd be other people that would like it. It probably won't be millions, but it'll be enough.

Those kinds of inspirations [are] very exciting for me. And I expect people not to understand it, but that's the way it's always been.

We did this record in such a weird fashion. I knew that I needed to tell people how we did it, but…once they knew, they would say, "That's what it sounds like." They'd piss all over it.

You know how many times I have been told what I should do in the last 41 years? It's like if I listened to all this good advice, I'd be sitting here with nothing.

You characterized yourself as an "accidentalist." Give me a couple of great accidents on Tarantula Heart.

Well, one of them was accidentally figuring out how we were going to do this record. Because that's not how we recorded the drums originally. I didn't know that's what we were going to do. I just accidentally stumbled on it while listening to the demos or the rough mixes of all the jams that we made.

So, we would have a basic riff that we could jam to with the drummers. We recorded for about 15 minutes, 20 minutes, maybe a few minutes into it, the drummers would lock up into something. And I realized when I was listening back to [the demos] that they did something interesting for this little six-minute section or eight-minute section, and then they kind of lost it.

Then, I would take that section, and write a riff to it that had nothing to do with the original riff that was on it. The first one I did was "Allergic to Food," I think. And then I put vocals on it and then I realized I could do the whole record like this. The drums are playing along with stuff that's not now on there. So, all their accents and all the way that they're playing isn't the way they would've done it, had we rehearsed it or something like this.

So, I got something out of it that's brand new.

That's the epitome of a happy accident.

I just accidentally stumbled upon this thing that might work, let me try doing the whole record like that. And it worked. But I don't know, I couldn't do it again, because now they'd be suspicious of it and they might play in a way that wasn't as free as the way they played. So, it's probably a one-time-only.

There's a song we did a long time ago called "The Bloated Pope," and there's a stumbly-sounding drum intro. Dale [Crover] made a mistake. I went, "Leave that in there. That's really cool." Now, that's the intro. It sounds intentional. That's how we play it now. But it was a mistake.

You mentioned Kevin Rutmanis. Do you keep in touch with old members of the Melvins?

I'm still really good friends with Kevin. Let me think. Mark [Deutrom], no. Lori [Black], no. Jeff Pinkus… I'm going to do a big acoustic tour starting in August with Trevor Dunn, who's also played with us. Jeff Pinkus is doing all the U.S. touring, and we're trying to get him on the European end of it. So, I talk to both Trevor and him a lot.

Matt [Lukin] from Mudhoney — no, not in the least.

I didn't know stuff wasn't cool with Matt. I just knew he played on the first Melvins album, Gluey Porch Treatments.

Oh, no, I don't get along with him at all. I haven't liked him since I was in high school. He's a very toxic human being. He wasn't a very good player, and I just found him irritating and counterproductive. I've not looked back one minute, nor have I regretted any part of not having him in my life.

He can do or say whatever he wants. I don't give a s—. That's nothing new. It's not like that's a new revelation. Look, hardly anybody in the world even knows who he is. You're one of the first people that's even brought him up.

That's surprising, as Pearl Jam named a song after him. It's not a hit, but fans know it.

Yeah, well, if Eddie wants to think he's a great guy, then so be it. Better him than me.

How about your other contemporaries, like the other members of Mudhoney?

Oh, I get along with those guys great. I would love to do a recording with all the Mudhoney guys.

Mark [Arm], especially, is someone I've known since the very early '80s. I learned a lot of stuff about bands and music that I never knew before. He turned me on to lots of stuff that I was very excited about, like Foetus and the Birthday Party — just a host of bands.

I always viewed him as somebody who was really smart — really fun to be around. He and Steve Turner know more about music than anyone I've ever been around.

I’d like to broach this as sensitively as possible: April 5 marked the 30th anniversary of your old friend Kurt's passing. How have you dealt with the endless flattening and deification of a person you knew as flesh and blood?

It's very weird. It's not the kind of thing you get over. People tend to want me to look at it like the good old days, but to me, heroin addiction and death, it's hard to romanticize that. I'm not going to get over it anytime soon. I don't know that I ever will.

Part of me also thinks that, yeah, I turned him onto music and got him interested in all this stuff, and it's like maybe if I hadn't, he wouldn't be dead. So it's a weird position to be in.

I hope that doesn't bedevil you too much. That's a massive weight to carry — one that you didn't ask for.

I mean, at some point, you just have to move on. And musical ideas that I had, other people took, and it changed music on a global level. So I wasn't wrong about what I originally thought, and I'm happy to have that be the case, and I'll just move forward with the same attitude I did then.

I wasn't wrong then, I'm not wrong now. I was misunderstood then, and I'm going to continue to be misunderstood, but that's OK, it's part of the deal. I'm OK with that.

It's your lot in life.

That's all right. I mean, I make my living as a musician. That's all I ever wanted. So no one could have guessed any of that stuff would happen.

I mean, the Nirvana guys and the Soundgarden guys — those are rags-to-riches stories.Those guys, especially the Nirvana guys, had nothing. And if you look at the guys in Soundgarden, those people all come from nothing. Zero.

So, it's been exciting to watch people you're so fond of become successful and have that kind of thing happen and say that you were an influence on what they were doing. Great.

But when you're handed that kind of responsibility and those kinds of keys, you need to work harder than you ever have. You just need to keep doing this good work. And that's what I've tried to do for the next 35, 40 years.

The Melvins

*The Melvins in 1991 (L-R: Dale Crover, Buzz Osborne, then-bassist Lori Black). Photo: David Corio/Redferns*

It feels so unfair what happened to you guys. You were kids from the sticks — and to varying degrees, you were all thrown into this ruthless celebrity grinder.

Oh, yeah. It's easy to avoid that stuff. I'm not going to any industry parties. I never have. I don't want to do that kind of stuff. I've always shied away from it, because I'm not comfortable there.

I don't think it's wrong for everyone, but it's wrong for me. I'd rather just do my work and let that be the end of it. I'm not good at networking. I'm not good at outselling myself to people who may not give a s—.

I've been in L.A. for 30-plus years and most people in the industry don't even know I'm there. They still say, "Oh, so you live in the Northwest?" I go, "Well, I left there in '86, '87." And in L.A., you're far more likely to see me at a municipal golf course than at a rock and roll show.

At this point, I only go to rock and roll shows if I'm getting paid to be there. They're not fun for me. I end up in the audience talking to a bunch of drunks. That's not fun for me. Drunks are only fun if you're drunk.

And I appreciate everybody who comes to our shows, but I don't have fun at live shows myself as an audience member. I'm in those places all the time, and I don't want to put myself in a position where I'm going to have to punch someone in the mouth. It's not a good place for me to be, so I avoid it.

That's unfortunate, but I know exactly how I am. If you push me far enough. I'll beat the living f—ing s— out of you. And I don't fight fair. I don't. I grew up in a redneck town. I fought all the time. I'll kick you right in the nuts and then lay your head open.

I get to see enough shows. We did a tour last year with Boris, and we played some shows with We Are the Asteroid and Taipei Houston, who are really good. On stage, I'll get to watch Trevor Dunn play every night. I'm not feeling unfulfilled in a live music type of way at all.

I'm sure your intense work ethic also stems from your upbringing.

Suffering and working a s— job and all those kinds of things — I don't know that that ever made my music better, but it did give me an understanding of how important things like hard work are.

I think it's kind of a tragedy that teenagers don't work more. I always enjoyed working when I was a teenager. I wanted a job. I wanted to do things like that. I think that working hard is something that people should do. I couldn't wait to get a car. I couldn't wait to be mobile, and be my own person.

I've only ever been around my family situation, around people who had to work, so I don't know anything else. I don't know what it's like to live some bourgeois life where work is just not important. Unless you plan on inheriting a lot of money, I don't know how else it's going to work out for you.

I went to school and went to a job after school, got home by about 9 or 10 at night, and went and did the whole thing over again. I never had a problem with that. You don't do the work, you don't get the money. That's just how it works. So this whole idea that teenagers don't work anymore hardly in the US anyway, I think is just kind of absurd.

Before we go, give me a line from the album that you believe in with your whole heart.

"I'm about to make you happy."

What's that mean to you?

It could be the truth. It could be a lie.

Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard On New Album Dark Matter & The Galvanizing Force Of Andrew Watt

Photo of Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City
Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

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10 Record Store Day 2024 Releases We're Excited About: The Beatles, Notorious B.I.G. & More

In honor of Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, learn about 10 limited, exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:20 pm

From vinyl records by the 1975 and U2, to album reissues and previously unreleased music, record stores around the world are stocking limited and exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2024

The first Record Store Day kicked off in 2008 and every year since, the event supporting independently owned record stores has grown exponentially. On Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, there will be more than 300 special releases available from artists as diverse as  the Beatles and Buena Vista Social Club. 

In honor of Record Store Day 2024 on April 20, here are 10 limited and exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store. 

David Bowie — Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth

British glam rocker David Bowie was a starman and an icon. Throughout his career, he won five GRAMMY Awards and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. 

On RSD 2024, Bowie's estate is dialing it back to his Ziggy Stardust days to make Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth) available for the first time. The record features recordings of Bowie's sessions at Trident Studios in 1971, and many songs from those sessions would be polished for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

The tracklisting for Waiting in the Sky differs from Ziggy Stardust and features four songs that didn’t make the final album.

Talking Heads — Live at WCOZ 77

New York City-based outfit Talking Heads defined the sound of new wave in the late '70s and into the next decade. For their massive influence, the group received two GRAMMY nominations and was later honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

While promoting their debut album Talking Heads: 77, the quartet recorded a live performance for the New Albany, Pennsylvania radio station WCOZ in 1977. The Live at WCOZ 77 LP will include 14 songs from that performance at Northern Studios, including seven that will be released for the first time. Among the previously unheard cuts are "Love Goes To A Building On Fire" and "Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town." During that session, Talking Heads also performed songs like "Psycho Killer" and "Pulled Up."

The Doors — Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968

The Doors were at the forefront of the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s and early '70s. One of Jim Morrison's most epic performances with the band will be available on vinyl for the first time. 

Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968 includes recordings from a radio broadcast that was never commercially released. The 3-LP release includes performances of songs from the Doors’ first three albums, including 1967’s self-titled and Strange Days. In addition to performing their classics like "Light My Fire" and "You're Lost Little Girl," the Doors and Morrison also covered "Mack the Knife" and Barret Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" live during this session. 

Dwight Yoakam — The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s

Over the course of his 40-year career, country music icon Dwight Yoakam has received 18 GRAMMY nominations and won two golden gramophones for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1994 and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 2000.

On Record Store Day 2024, Yoakam will celebrate the first chapter of his legacy with a new box set: The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s. His debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. and 1987’s Hillbilly Deluxe will be included in the collection alongside exclusive disc full of rarities and demos. The 4-LP set includes his classics like "Honky Tonk Man," "Little Ways," and "Streets of Bakersfield." The box set will also be available to purchase on CD.  

The Beatles — The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable

Beatlemania swept across the U.S. following the Beatles’ first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964, setting the stage for the British Invasion. With The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable, the band will celebrate their iconic run of appearances on Sullivan’s TV program throughout that year.

The box set will include a Beatles-styled turntable and four 3-inch records. Among those records are the hits "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," and "I Saw Her Standing There," which the Beatles performed on Sullivan's TV across several appearances. 

Among 23 GRAMMY nominations, the Beatles won seven golden gramophones. In 2014, the Recording Academy honored them with the Lifetime Achievement Award.   

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan — From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan are two of the biggest pop stars in the world right now — Rodrigo hitting the stage with No Doubt at Coachella and near the end of her global GUTS Tour; Kahan fresh off a Best New Artist nomination at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Now, they're teaming up for the split single From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP, a release culled from each artist's "BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge" sessions. 

The special vinyl release will include Rodrigo's live cover of Kahan's breakout hit "Stick Season." The single also includes Kahan’s cover of Rodrigo’s song "Lacy" from her second album, GUTS. This month, they performed the song live together on Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour stop in Madison Square Garden.  

Buena Vista Social Club — Buena Vista Social Club

Influential Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club popularized genres and sounds from their country, including son cubano, bolero, guajira, and danzón. Buena Vista Social Club's landmark self-titled LP won the GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Album in 1998.

The following year, a documentary was released that captured two of the band's live performances in New York City and Amsterdam. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the documentary, the Buena Vista Social Club album will be released on a limited edition gold vinyl with remastered audio and bonus tracks.

Buena Vista Social Club is one of the 10 recordings to be newly inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as part of the 2024 inductee class.

Danny Ocean — 54+1

Venezuelan reggaeton star Danny Ocean broke through on a global level in 2016 with his self-produced debut single "Me Rehúso," a heartbreaking track inspired by Ocean fleeing Venezuela due to the country's economic instability and the lover he had left behind. 

With "Me Rehúso," Ocean became the first solo Latin artist to surpass one billion streams on Spotify, on the platform with a single song. "Me Rehúso" was included on his 2019 debut album 54+1, which will be released on vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day.

Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters — Skanking With The Upsetter

Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry pioneered dub music in the 1960s and '70s. Perry received five GRAMMY nominations in his lifetime, including winning Best Reggae Album in 2003 for Jamaican E.T.

To celebrate the legacy of Perry's earliest dub recordings, a limited edition run of his 2004 album Skanking With The Upsetter will be released on Record Store Day. His joint LP with his house band the Upsetters will be pressed on transparent yellow vinyl. Among the rare dub tracks on the album are "Bucky Skank," "Seven & Three Quarters (Skank)," and "IPA Skank." 

Read more: Lee "Scratch" Perry Documentary Director Sets The Record Straight On The Reggae Icon's Legacy — Including A Big Misconception About Bob Marley

Notorious B.I.G. — Ready To Die: The Instrumentals

The Notorious B.I.G. helped define the sound of East Coast rap in the '90s. Though he was tragically murdered in 1997, his legacy continues to live on through his two albums. 

During his lifetime, the Notorious B.I.G. dropped his 1994 debut album Ready to Die, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all-time. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the album (originally released in September '94), his estate will release Ready To Die: The Instrumentals. The limited edition vinyl will include select cuts from the LP like his hits "Big Poppa," "One More Chance/Stay With Me," and "Juicy." The album helped him garner his first GRAMMY nomination in 1996 for Best Rap Solo Performance. The Notorious B.I.G. received an additional three nominations after his death in 1998. 

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