meta-scriptDave Mason On Recording With Rock Royalty & Why He Reimagined His Debut Solo Album, 'Alone Together' | GRAMMY.com
Dave Mason On Recording With Rock Royalty & Why He Reimagined His Debut Solo Album, 'Alone Together'

Dave Mason

Photo: Chris Jensen

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Dave Mason On Recording With Rock Royalty & Why He Reimagined His Debut Solo Album, 'Alone Together'

The ex-Traffic guitarist has played with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to George Harrison to Fleetwood Mac—now, he's taken another stab at his classic 1970 debut solo album

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2021 - 04:33 am

Dave Mason is charmingly blasé when looking back at his life and career, which any guitarist would rightfully give their fretting hand to have. "I did 'All Along The Watchtower' with Hendrix," he flatly tells GRAMMY.com, as if announcing that he checked the mail today. "George [Harrison] played me Sgt. Pepper's at his house before it came out," he adds with a level of awe applicable to an evening at the neighbors' for casserole. 

Last year, Mason re-recorded his 1970 debut solo album, Alone Together, which most artists would consider a career-capping milestone. When describing the project's origins, he remains nonchalant: "It was for my own amusement, to be honest with you." 

Fifteen years ago, when the Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer started to kick around the album's songs once again in the studio, he didn't think it was for public consumption—until his wife and colleagues encouraged him to reverse that stance. On his latest release, Mason gives longtime listeners and new fans an updated take on the timeless Alone Together, this time featuring his modern-day road dogs, a fresh coat of production paint and a winking addendum in the title: Again.

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Alone Together…Again, which was released last November physically via Barham Productions and digitally via Shelter Records, does what In The Blue Light (2018) and Tea For The Tillerman² (2020) did for Paul Simon and Yusuf / Cat Stevens, respectively. It allows Mason, a prestige artist, to take another stab at songs from his young manhood. Now, songs like "Only You Know And I Know," "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave" and "Just A Song," which demonstrated Mason's ahead-of-the-curve writing ability so early in his career, get rawer, edgier redos here.

Mason cofounded Traffic in 1967 and appeared on the Birmingham rock band's first two albums, Mr. Fantasy (1967) and Traffic (1968). The latter featured one of Mason's signature songs: "Feelin' Alright?" which Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night and The Jackson 5 recorded. After weaving in and out of Traffic's ranks multiple times, Mason took the tunes he planned for their next album and tracked them with a murderers' row of studio greats in 1970. (That year, Traffic released John Barleycorn Must Die, sans Mason, which is widely regarded as their progressive folk masterpiece.)

Over the ensuing half-century, Mason has toured steadily while accruing an impressive body of work as a solo artist; Alone Together...Again is a welcomed reminder of where it all began. 

GRAMMY.com caught up with Dave Mason to talk about his departure from Traffic, his memories of the original Alone Together and why the new 2020 takes are, in his words, "so much better."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Where do you feel Alone Together stands in your body of work? Is it your favorite album you've made?

No, I wouldn't say it's the favorite, but it's sort of spread out. When people ask me, "Well, what's your favorite music? What are you listening to?" I'm like, "I don't know. Which genre do you want me to talk about?" I can't pick it out and say it's my all-time favorite. There are other things I like just as much.

I mean from your solo canon, specifically.

Well, even from a solo thing, 26 Letters, 12 Notes, which I put out [in 2008], went right under the radar, because trying to put new stuff out these days is … an exercise in futility. And that was a great album! Really good. [Alone Together] definitely had great songs on it, and it still holds up, redone. So, from that point of view, it's great. It's probably one of my faves, yes.

When you made the original album, you had just left Traffic, correct?

Pretty much after the second album [1968's Traffic], I moved over here in 1969, to the U.S., for a couple of reasons. Traffic was not a viable option for me anymore, from the other three's point of view. So I decided to come to the place where everything originated from, which is America. Bluegrass, which had its roots in Europe and everything else, is uniquely American music. So that, and probably the 98-cents-to-the-dollar taxes, too. But I mostly came here for musical reasons.

Which divergent creative directions did you and the other Traffic guys wish to go in?

Had that not have happened, all those songs on Alone Together would have been on the next Traffic album.

Read: WATCH: Dave Mason & The Quarantines Uplift With New Video Version Of "Feelin' Alright"

You had quite an ensemble for the original Alone Together: pianist Leon Russell, vocalist Rita Coolidge, bassist Chris Etheridge and others. Were there specific creative reasons for involving these musicians? Or was it more in the spirit of getting some friends together?

I knew Rita and a few other people from early on, being in Delaney & Bonnie. All those people kind of knew each other. Leon Russell was new. I think Rita was going out with Leon at the time. A lot of them were gathered together by Tommy LiPuma, who coproduced Alone Together with me. Otherwise, I was just new here. I didn't know who was who.
Many of those guys were the top session guys in town: [drummers] Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon and [keyboardist] Larry Knechtel, for instance. Leon, I had him play on a couple of songs because I'd met him, I knew him, and I wanted his piano style to be on a couple of things. He put the piano on after the tracks were cut.

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Let's flash-forward to Alone Together… Again. Tell me about the musicians you wrangled for this one.

Well, that's my band, the road band that I tour with. [Drummer] Alvino Bennett, [guitarist and background vocalist] Johnne Sambataro—Johnne's been with me for nearly 40 years, on and off—and [keyboardist and bassist] Tony Patler. 

Other than the slight differences in arrangements, there's more energy in the tracks. Other than the vocals, they were pretty much all cut live in the studio. The solos were cut live, because that's my live road band. "Only You Know And I Know," "Look At You Look At Me," "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave," all those songs have been in my set for 50 years, on and off, so they knew them.

If I never had that session band on the original album and could have taken them on the road for a month, then that original album would have had a little more of an edge to it, probably. This new incarnation of it has more of that live feel. Those boys knew the songs. They didn't really have to think about them, but just get in there and play.

Aside from that, there are slightly different arrangements. "World In Changes" is a major departure, "Sad And Deep As You" was basically a live track cut on XM Radio probably 12, 14 years ago and "Can't Stop Worrying, Can't Stop Loving" is a little bit more fleshed out, which I like. The other songs pretty much stick to the originals. 

"Just A Song," I think, has a little more zip to it. It's got the addition of John McFee from The Doobie Brothers, who put that banjo on it, which is cool. Then there's Gretchen Rhodes, who does a lot of the girl background vocals on these tracks.

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What compelled you to change up the rhythm of "World In Changes"?

I just wanted to see what would happen, taking one of my songs and adapting it to something else. I have a version of it cut the way it was originally done, and it was a question of whether I stick to that and put that on the album or do something exciting and totally different. To me, it came out so cool. The sentiment is timeless, and I wanted something on there that was new—an older song, done in a new way.

It seems like you still feel poignancy and urgency in these songs. Besides the fact that the album's 50th anniversary just passed, why did you return to the well of Alone Together?

Well, I started playing around with doing this 15 years ago. Mostly, it was for my own amusement, to be honest with you. But then, as it started to come together, and it was approaching 50 years since the [release of the] original, my wife and some people around me were like, "You should put this out." That's how it all led up to this.

Any other lyrical or musical changes that the average listener may not notice?

As to whether this ever reaches the ears of some new people, it would be nice. It seems unless you have some Twitter trick or social media thing happen, trying to get people aware [is difficult]. In other words, if a younger audience could hear this, I'm pretty sure they would like it. You'll probably have some people out there—the purists—but otherwise, I don't know. 

"Sad And Deep As You" is so much better than the original version, frankly. To me, it holds up. I think my vocals are better, which is one of the big reasons why I decided to redo it in the first place.

When you said "purists," there was an edge in your voice.

[Long chuckle.] Everybody's got their tastes and opinions, and that's the way that is. Same reason they booed Bob Dylan when he had The Band behind him. Some people are that way.

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Even if people aren't familiar with the original album, I'd think your backstory would resonate with them. Your role in George Harrison's All Things Must Pass comes to mind.

Yeah, I played on a bunch of things. With All Things Must Pass, I pretty much just played acoustic guitar stuff in there with a group of people … George gave me my first sitar and played me Sgt. Pepper's at his house before it came out. I did "All Along The Watchtower" with Hendrix.

A lot of it's available on my website. There's a lot of cool stuff on there. On my YouTube channel, there's a great live version of "Watchtower" from the Journey and Doobie Brothers tour we did four years ago. But we'd be here for another half hour or more if we went over everybody I appeared with and everything I've been on.

Read: It's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50

Regarding Hendrix, that's an experience that not many other people can say they've had.

Very few. Very few. There are a lot of great guitar players out there, but there are no more Jimi Hendrixes.

You also played with Fleetwood Mac in the '90s, yeah?

I was with Fleetwood Mac from '94 to '96. We did an album called Time, which sort of went under the radar somehow. It didn't get promoted.

Why was that?

I don't know. It's not a bad album, but Warner Bros. was trying to force the issue of getting Stevie Nicks and whatshisname back in there.

Lindsey Buckingham?

Yeah, Lindsey. Christine McVie was on the album, but she didn't go on the road with us. It was kind of weird. The only original members were Mick [Fleetwood] and John [McVie]. It was a little bit like a Fleetwood Mac cover band, but it was cool. It was fun to do for a couple of years, but then they got back together again. C'est la vie. There you go.

Anything else you want to express about reimagining Alone Together 50 years down the road?

I don't think it's just the fact that it's my stuff because there are certain songs I've done that I would not address again. But the thing about those songs is that they all have very timeless themes. "World In Changes," I mean, that could have been written a month ago. To redo them doesn't seem that out of place to me.

Director John McDermott Talks New Jimi Hendrix Documentary, 'Music, Money, Madness … Jimi Hendrix in Maui'

Who Is Rhiannon Giddens? 3 Things To Know About The Banjoist & Violist On Beyoncé’s "Texas Hold ‘Em"
Rhiannon Giddens

Photo: Ebru Yildiz

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Who Is Rhiannon Giddens? 3 Things To Know About The Banjoist & Violist On Beyoncé’s "Texas Hold ‘Em"

Rhiannon Giddens has been esteemed in various folk circles for years — and her appearance on Beyoncé’s "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM" just broke her into the mainstream. Here are three things to know about the eclectic singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2024 - 06:40 pm

After the club-storming Renaissance, its Act II begins with an unexpected sound: a burble of banjo, later joined by flowing viola. Welcome to "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM," one of two advance singles from Beyoncé’s forthcoming album, along with "16 CARRIAGES."

Beyoncé’s recently announced Act II promises to be an immersion into country music — which is both a fresh aesthetic and one deeply rooted to her Texan upbringing. The 32-time GRAMMY Winner has spoken about the "overlooked history of the American Black cowboy" and nodded to the culture with a Western getup at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

All of this is a completely natural fit for Rhiannon Giddens, who played said fiddle and viola on "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM."

"The beginning is a solo riff on my minstrel banjo — and my only hope is that it might lead a few more intrepid folks into the exciting history of the banjo," Giddens explained on Instagram. "I used to say many times as soon as Beyoncé puts the banjo on a track my job is done.

"Well, I didn’t expect the banjo to be mine," she continued. "And I know darn well my job isn’t done, but today is a pretty good day."

The "job" defines Giddens. Sure, she may be completely new to certain contingents of the Beyhive, but the two-time GRAMMY winner and 10-time nominee’s been on the scene for almost two decades.

Since making her mark with the Carolina Chocolate Drops in the mid-aughts, Giddens has forged a singular legacy. She’s not only a purveyor of traditional musics, but as an investigator of the racial and cultural cross-currents that forged our modern-day understanding — and misunderstanding — of Americana.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Giddons was nominated for two golden gramophones — for Best Americana Album (You’re the One) and Best American Roots Performance ("You Louisiana Man"). You’re the One was her first album of all-original material; in that regard, these noms show that a new, exciting chapter for Giddens is just beginning.

Here are five things to know about the artist who just played "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM" with Queen Bee.

Her Interrogation Of Black Music History Is Indispensable

Giddens has worked in a diverse array of fields, including opera, documentary, ballet, podcasting, and more. Her mission? To explore "difficult and unknown chapters of American history" through musical lenses, like the evolution of the banjo from Africa to Appalachia.

"In order to understand the history of the banjo, and the history of bluegrass music, we need to move beyond the narrative we've inherited," she’s stated. Elsewhere, she noted, "People seem ready for a more in-depth idea of folk music, culture and history.

Which extends beyond merely other people’s stories — but to her own.

…And It Led Directly To You’re The One

Speaking to GRAMMY.com about her GRAMMY-nominated first album of original material, Giddens was quick to note that "autobiography" doesn’t hit the mark.

"It doesn't express how I feel… they're still songs, and it's still a performance," Giddens said. "I'd say I'm drawing a little bit more from my experience, but I had to draw from my experience to write other people's stories.

"There's emotions that I feel that I then translate into these other stories," she added, "so I don't think this record is completely different from that."

She’s Made Killer Appearances With Paul Simon

Paul Simon’s ended his touring years, but he does make sporadic appearances, including at 2022’s "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon."

There, they performed a version of his epochal "American Tune," where he changed the words in nuanced ways as relates to the American origin story — and he enlisted Giddens to sing it with him.

"He didn't have to do nothing but sit back and collect his checks," Giddens told GRAMMY.com. "He made a statement with that song, and I don't want to take that away from him. I didn't change those words; he changed those words."

Where will Giddens go from her star turn with Bey? Wherever it might be, we’ll feel — and learn — something profound, one banjo strum at a time.

On You’re The One, Rhiannon Giddens’ Craft Finds A Natural Outgrowth: Songwriting

Em Cooper's GRAMMY-Nominated Beatles Video Is A "Protest" Against Time
Em Cooper

Photo: John Ford

interview

Em Cooper's GRAMMY-Nominated Beatles Video Is A "Protest" Against Time

British animator and film director Em Cooper's immersive video for the Beatles' 'Revolver' track "I'm Only Sleeping" is the product of some 1,300 hand-painted frames. Here's how the 2024 GRAMMY nominee for Best Music Video came to be.

GRAMMYs/Feb 1, 2024 - 03:32 pm

The Beatles' discography can be heard as a long conversation between four brothers, and the songs on 1966's Revolver certainly talk to each other.

On "Love You To," George Harrison muses, "Each day just goes so fast/ I turn around, it's passed." On "Got to Get You Into My Life," Paul McCartney tunes in and drops out: "I was alone, I took a ride/ I didn't know what I would find there." And in every line of the somnambulant, gently roiling "I'm Only Sleeping," John Lennon declares war on awakeness itself.

Clearly, a shared energy flowed from each of their pens: an askance look at linear time, and how it pertains to modern society. And while painstakingly painting more than a thousand frames for "I'm Only Sleeping," oil painter and animator Em Cooper picked up exactly what Lennon was transmitting.

"I really love the fact that this is some major call towards rest and sleep and dreaming and allowing your mind to wander," the effervescent Cooper tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom. Productivity, efficiency, investment, return: as Lennon seemed to sing, they're for the birds.

As the lore goes, McCartney in 1966 was a man about town, soaking up Stockhausen and Albert Ayler and the avant-garde, while a suburbia-bound Lennon opted to drop acid and, well, lay in bed.

This is reflected in their contributions to Revolver, which got a 2022 remix and expansion: McCartney's tunes, like "Here, There and Everywhere" are borderline classical, while Lennon sometimes couldn't be bothered to add a third chord. But Lennon being Lennon, he made inertia into a transcendent force.

"It feels as though it's a bit of a protest against the calculus view of time and the idea that our time is for sale, we can just slice up our hours and sell it off by the chunk," Cooper says. "I feel like in John's desire for just letting himself sleep and rest, he's saying to the world, 'Let's allow ourselves our own time, our own lives.'"

But the experience of making the "I'm Only Sleeping" clip — which involved painstakingly painting each frame by hand — was anything but tranquil: at times, Cooper even found it painful. This labor of love paid off, though: it's nominated for Best Music Video at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Cooper details the development of  "I'm Only Sleeping" video, her methodology for mapping the visuals to the music, and, after numberless listens, whether she's sick of this Revolver favorite.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The Beatles' story is filled with unforgettable sights, and with the "I'm Only Sleeping" video, you added to their visual language. Was that a daunting responsibility?

Absolutely. It really was. And, I think maybe if I had really stopped to think about it too much, it would've really tightened me up. In a way, weirdly, I was quite lucky it was on a tight schedule. That took precedence. I was just in the flow, trying to just focus on each task ahead of me and get it done.

Sophie Hilton, who's the Creative Studio Director at Universal Music, commissioned the film with Jonathan Clyde from Apple Corps. They were very good at guiding the project in a very natural way, so that it made a very natural fit into where they needed it to fit, as it were, in that big, big legacy. So, the fact that I'm an oil paint animator and I work with archive footage — it's got that timeless quality a little bit to it anyway, as does the song.

I worked with the Beatles' archivist, Adrian Winter, who helped me find footage; managing to place it within the history of the Beatles was really important. I didn't get too worried until finally when it came out. 

And then, literally, that was the first moment it really hit me about the legacy — of what I suddenly realized I'd just done.

Em Cooper

*Photo courtesy of Em Cooper.*

Like the experience of sleep itself, "I'm Only Sleeping" is flowing, undulating. It looks like you picked up on that, with this impressionistic continuum of visuals.

Yeah, absolutely. I was inspired by the song itself, because the song has just that continuous rocking motion to the melody. It was as though it was a synesthetic reaction to the song. It felt almost like it just drew itself out in my mind — the movement all kind of choreographed itself around those moments where it's like [sings lyric in dramatic swoop]  "Yawning," and then it felt like it goes over the top.

But, I don't know whether everybody else hears that when they hear that lyric, but that's certainly what I heard, and I could just produce that movement to match. All I really felt I had to do was just stay incredibly true to the song and the movement that was already there, and it just flowed.

How did you do this under such a tight schedule? One thousand, three hundred oil paintings?!

Yeah, I'm not going to lie. It was painful. It was a very tight schedule to produce an entirely hand-painted oil paint animation in. I literally painted every frame on a cel; sometimes, I painted and wiped and repainted.

It's hard work, but I just love oil painting. Now that I've had enough projects that it flows out of me, I find I'm reasonably quick. Some parts were easier than others; doing the faces was particularly difficult. Trying to get John Lennon's likeness over and over again was a real challenge, but other parts of it were much easier.

Obviously, lots of people these days are working digitally to do drawings and things, but I just work in actual oil painting. I find that I'm definitely not quicker at doing something digitally than I am just manually.

I suppose I want to promote the real artforms, because actually there isn't anything that much quicker or different about dipping a brush in some red paint and doing a stroke than doing a digital stroke. If you just gain confidence, it's fine.

How did you collaborate with Apple Corps on this, whether they offered artistic direction or just moral support?

Jonathan Clyde really helped direct all of that. I put all my ideas together into a document, and there was lots of consultations with them and honing those ideas and making sure that they fit with everybody's vision and what everybody was thinking.

And then, carrying on honing and honing, so that by the time I got to actually going, Yeah. We're going for it. We're going to start making this, it was all very clear.

I did a pencil-drawn animatic, which was about, I think two frames a second, which is quite a lot for an animatic, so as to really show the flow of imagery, so that there were no questions. I think there were a couple of changes after that, but very, very few.

So, it was quite clear, and everybody agreed on all the imagery and everything. But, I came up with most of it andwould maybe put some suggestions.

And, we came up collectively with this idea of  the backwards guitar sequence going backwards through Beatles' history from that moment, from 1966 backwards as it were, so as to the feeling from Revolver back to the beginning of the Beatles.

And, I was trying to meld that all together with the magnetic tape in the magnetic tape recorders going in and out of that. It was group calls, so I would take one and spark off and think, Oh, yeah. I remember Adrian Winter, the archivist, mentioning how John Lennon often had a notebook with him because he was always just thinking of ideas; he suggested that. And so, I put the notebook next to his pillow and things like that.

Em Cooper

*Photo courtesy of Em Cooper.*

When Giles Martin's remix of Revolver came out, it was striking how modern it sounded. How did this project enhance your appreciation for this song, album and band?

I watched it again just before jumping on this call with you, and I love the song. I was listening to little individual parts of it over and over again, whilst I was working on it, getting really into the detail of tiny bits of each line. And, it holds up, it's so good. I do not get bored of it. I love it.

I just could carry on listening to it over and over, which really, to be honest, says a lot, because when you work very hard on something, you do tend to find yourself a little bit bored by it by the end. But, absolutely not the case with this.

And, actually, after it was all finished, we went to Abbey Road together as a treat to listen to the [remixed and] remastered version of Revolver that was being re-released, and wow! To listen in Abbey Road Studios with the surround sound, it was just mind-blowing.

I already had an incredible respect for the Beatles, and that has only grown.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

'Meet The Beatles!' Turns 60: Inside The Album That Launched Beatlemania In America
The Beatles in 1964

Photo: Mark and Colleen Hayward / Redferns / Getty Images 

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'Meet The Beatles!' Turns 60: Inside The Album That Launched Beatlemania In America

A month before the Beatles played "The Ed Sullivan Show," they released their second American studio album — the one most people heard first. Here's a track-by-track breakdown of this magnitudinous slab of wax by the Fab Four.

GRAMMYs/Jan 19, 2024 - 06:48 pm

For many in America, Meet the Beatles! marked their first introduction to the legendary Fab Four — and their lives would be forever altered.

Released on Jan. 20, 1964 by Capitol Records, the Beatles' second American studio album topped the Billboard 200 within a month and stayed there for 11 weeks — only to be ousted by their next U.S. album release, The Beatles' Second Album.

It's almost impossible to put into words the impact of Meet
the Beatles! on an entire generation of the listening public. But Billy Corgan, of the Smashing Pumpkins, gave it a shot as an early fan of the Beatles in a series of LiveJournal remembrances — in this case, of himself at five years old, in 1972.

"I am totally overwhelmed by the collective sound of the greatest band ever blasting in mono thru a tin needle into a tiny speaker," he wrote. "I associate this sound forever with electricity, for it sends bolts thru my body and leaves me breathless. I can not stand still as I listen, so I must spin… I spin until I am ready to pass out, and then I spin some more."

So many other artists remember that eureka moment. "They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid," Bob Dylan said of the opening track, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." "I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go." Everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Sting and Questlove agreed.

From Meet the Beatles!, the Fabs would have the most astonishing five-or-six-year run in music. And so much of their songwriting and production innovation can be found within its grooves; truly, the world had no idea what it was in for. In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Meet the Beatles!, here's a quick track-by-track breakdown.

"I Want to Hold Your Hand"

The Fabs' first American No. 1 hit may have been about the chastest of romantic gestures. Still, there's nothing heavier than "I Want to Hold Your Hand," because it's clamor and fraternity. That seemingly saccharine package also contained everything they'd ever do in concentrate — hints of the foreboding of "Ticket to Ride," the galactic final chord of "A Day in the Life," and beyond.

"I Saw Her Standing There"

A few too many awards show tributes have threatened to do in "I Saw Her Standing There," but they've failed. As the opening shot of their first UK album, Please Please Me, it's perfect, but as the second track on Meet the Beatles!, it just adds to the magnitude. What a one-two punch.

"This Boy"

Songwriting-wise, "This Boy" drags a little; it becomes a little hazy who "this boy" or "that boy"  are. But it's not only a killer Smokey Robinson rip; John Lennon's double-tracked vocal solo still punches straight through your chest. (Where applicable, go for the 2020s Giles Martin remix, which carries maximum clarity, definition and punch — said solo is incredible in this context.)

"It Won't Be Long"


Half a dozen other songs here have overshadowed "It Won't Be Long," but it's still one of the early Beatles' most ruthless kamikaze missions, an assault of flying "yeahs" that knocks you sideways.

"All I've Got to Do"

Lennon shrugged off "All I've Got to Do" as "trying to do Smokey Robinson again," and that's more or less what it is. One interesting detail is the conceit of calling a girlfriend on the phone, which was firmly alien to British youth: "I have never called a girl on the 'phone in my life!"he said later in an interview. "Because 'phones weren't part of the English child's life."

"All My Loving"

"All My Loving" was the first song the Beatles played on the American airwaves: when Lennon was pronounced dead, eyewitnesses attest the song came over the speakers. It's a grim trajectory for this most inventive and charismatic of early Beatles singles, with Lennon's tumbling rhythm guitar spilling the composition forth. (About that unorthodox strumming pattern: it seems easy until you try it. And Lennon did it effortlessly.)

"Don't Bother Me"

As Dreaming the Beatles author Rob Sheffield put it, "'Don't Bother Me,' his first real song, began the 'George is in a bad mood' phase of his songwriting, which never ended." Harrison wouldn't pick up the sitar for another year or two, but the song still carries a vaguely dreamy, exotic air.

"Little Child"

"I'm so sad and lonely/ Baby, take a chance with me." For a tortured, creative kid like Corgan, from a rough background — and, likely, a million similar young folks — Lennon's childlike plea must have sounded like salvation.

"Till There Was You"

McCartney's infatuation with the postwar sounds of his youth never ended, and it arguably began on record with this Music Man tune. As usual, McCartney dances right on the edge of overly chipper and apple-cheeked. But here, George Martin's immersive, soft-focused arrangement makes it all work.

"Hold Me Tight"

Like "Little Child," "Hold Me Tight" is a tad Fabs-by-numbers, showing how they occasionally painted themselves into a corner as per their formula. Their rapid evolution from here would leave trifles like "Hold Me Tight" in the rearview.

"I Wanna Be Your Man"

Tellingly, Lennon and McCartney tossed this half-written composition to the Stones — and to Ringo Starr. Mick Jagger's typically lusty performance works, but Starr's is even better — the funny-nosed drummer throws his whole chest into this vocal workout.

"Not A Second Time"

Meet the Beatles! concludes with this likable Lennon tune about heartbreak — maybe C-tier by his standards, but it slouches toward his evolutionary step that would be A Hard Day's Night

Soon, these puppy-dog emotions ("And now you've changed your mind/ I see no reason to change mine/ I cry") would curdle and ferment in astonishing ways — in "Ticket to Ride," in "Girl," in "Strawberry Fields Forever." And it all began with Meet the Beatles! — a shot heard around the world.

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New Year's Songs: 16 Tracks To Give You A Fresh Start In 2024, From The Beatles To Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs during night one of the Eras Tour in Kansas City in July 2023.

Photo: John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

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New Year's Songs: 16 Tracks To Give You A Fresh Start In 2024, From The Beatles To Taylor Swift

Whether you're looking to vibe with J Balvin or roar with Katy Perry, let these tracks welcome you to a prosperous and hopeful new year.

GRAMMYs/Dec 31, 2023 - 05:50 pm

The beginning of a new year often results in moments of reflection as well as anticipation about what lies ahead. And with the myriad of feelings that ensue upon New Year's Eve, music serves as a powerful source for both introspection and inspiration.

There are countless songs that give listeners a chance to reflect and resonate with the possibilities of what's yet to come. Whether it's the pulsingly hopeful beat of Jamie xx's "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," the inspiring narrative of The Notorious B.I.G's "Juicy," or Elton John's pumped-up "I'm Still Standing," a good soundtrack is the perfect catalyst for starting a new year on the right note.

As you envision what the coming year has in store, enjoy this playlist from GRAMMY.com — curated not just to celebrate the moment the clock strikes 12, but to infuse the coming year with inspiration and cheer.

79.5 — "B.D.F.Q"

Inspired by singer Kate Mattison's experiences in Detroit, 79,5's "B.D.F.Q." is about perseverance in the face of a music industry marred by misogyny. Short for "B—, Don't F—ing Quit," "B.D.F.Q." amplifies a mood of independence and strength with the declaration, "They! Don't mean a thing/ Don't mean a thing, just do your thing!" While the message is timeless, "B.D.F.Q." will certainly amp you up for any challenges the new year presents.

The Beatles — "Here Comes The Sun"

Whether you spin the 1969 original or the reinvigorated 2019 mix, the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun,"  remains a classic symbol of continuation and hope. A track from the Fab Four's iconic Abbey Road album, this George Harrison composition is celebrated for its uplifting melody and serene lyrics that playfully describe a new dawn and brighter days ahead.

Elton John — "I'm Still Standing"

Elton John delivered an upbeat ode to durability and the ability to bounce back with "I'm Still Standing," a 1983 track that resonates 40 years on. Between its catchy melody and John's energetic performance (particularly in the beach-set music video), the song conveys a triumphant message about overcoming challenges and emerging stronger.

"Hamilton" — "My Shot"

Of the many dynamic numbers in Lin-Manuel Miranda's renowned musical "Hamilton," "My Shot" is arguably the most inspirational and universal. A powerfully charged manifesto that embodies ambition and determination — delivered with an electrifying blend of hip-hop and theatrical flair — "My Shot" celebrates seizing opportunities and making a mark. It's a welcome New Year's song choice for those compelled to channel their inner strength and embrace new challenges in the year ahead.

J Balvin — "6 AM" feat. Farruko

This vibrant reggaeton track from J Balvin's 2013 album La Familia encapsulates the spirit of spontaneity. Its infectious beat and catchy lyrics manifest as a celebration of lively nights and the adventures that unfold in the early after hours — hence, the 6 a.m. title. This one's for the night owls, who may see the sun rise at the turn of the new year.

Jamie xx — "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" feat. Young Thug, Popcaan

"I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" by Jamie xx is as upbeat and optimistic as hip-hop tracks come. Featuring Young Thug and Popcaan, the 2015 track melds elements of dance and reggae for an infectious ode to good times ahead — an enduring NYE sentiment.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex — "Life Begins Again"

The title track of their 2005 album, "Life Begins Again"  is an intricate and evocative composition that blends elements of jazz and rock with a bit of emo sentiment. The track showcases Jimmy Chamberlin's exceptional drumming prowess while promising that life is cyclical — every day can be the first of your life with the right attitude.

John Lennon — "Just Like Starting Over"

With themes of rekindling love and starting anew, John Lennon's "[Just Like] Starting Over" is a fitting tribute to fresh starts and the enduring power of renewal in all aspects of life. And as the final single released while he was alive, it's a bittersweet testament to Lennon's enduring legacy.

Katy Perry — "Roar"

Katy Perry's "Roar," from her 2013 album Prism, is a proud declaration of self-empowerment and finding one's voice. An electrifying track with a booming chorus and spirited lyrics, it embodies the journey from silence to strength. Its message of embracing one's true self and speaking out makes it an inspiring celebration of new beginnings.

Lisa LeBlanc — "Pourquoi faire aujourd'hui"

For those looking to give themselves a little break as the new year begins, Lisa LeBlanc's "Pourquoi faire aujourd'hui" may be the song for you. A single from her 2021 album Chiac Disco, the energetic, disco-inspired French language track features playful lyrics about procrastination, with its titular line asking, "Why do today what you could do tomorrow?" — starting the year off in laid-back fashion. If tu ne parles pas Français, LeBlanc's catchy dance beats are fuel for a joyful New Year's Eve atmosphere.

Lizzo — "Good As Hell"

Like many of Lizzo's songs, "Good as Hell" captures a vibrant, empowering spirit. It celebrates self-care and resilience in the face of adversity, blending a lively rhythm with Lizzo's dynamic vocals. Its uplifting lyrics and infectious energy encourage a sense of confidence and self-appreciation — a powerful anthem of positivity any time of the year.

Nina Simone — "Feeling Good"

A timeless classic first made famous by Nina Simone, "Feeling Good" is a powerful anthem of rejuvenation and hope. Simone's jazz-infused rendition was released in 1965; its resolute delivery captures a spirit of personal transformation and empowerment, offering an enduring sentiment going into the new year: "It's a new dawn/ It's a new day/ It's a new life for me, ooh/ And I'm feeling good."

Notorious B.I.G. — "Juicy"

Although The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" is a personal account of the late rapper's rise to the top, the song encapsulates a spirit of triumph that can inspire anyone with a dream. From its bouncy beat to the iconic "If you don't know, now you know" hook, "Juicy" will have you reaching for the stars.

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas — "New Year's Resolution"

Memphis legends Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' aptly titled 1967 album King & Queen is notable for being the final studio release before Redding passed away that December. The album also spawned a NYE classic: "New Year's Resolution." With lyrics that explore the concept of ​​making resolutions and embracing change in the new year. While the song lacks Redding's trademark soulful wail, "New Year's Resolution" is temperate and contemplative — a reprieve from the let-it-all-out powerful Stax sound to ease your way into the new year.

Peter Cat Recording Co. — "Portrait of a Time"

Both modern and nostalgic, Peter Cat Recording Co.'s "Portrait of a Time" blends jazz, and indie rock for an eclectic and nostalgic, introspective jam. The song carries a reflective mood of contemplation and transition, with lyrics that encourage leaving "confusion and darkening clouds" in the past and hopping in the Lamborghini of life for a new wild ride.

Taylor Swift — "New Year's Day"

After all of the bold, empowered statements on Taylor Swift's 2017 album reputation, she closes the LP with a tender, piano-driven ballad that captures the quiet intimacy and hopeful sentiments of a new year. Aptly titled "New Year's Day," the song's reflective and heartfelt lyrics contemplate love and loyalty found in life's fleeting moments. Swift's delicate vocal delivery and the track's gentle melody evoke a sense of warmth and enduring connection, making it a poignant choice to embrace the new year with a sense of closeness.

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