meta-scriptIt's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50 | GRAMMY.com
It's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50

George Harrison c.1970/1971

Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns

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

On the 50th anniversary of the chart-topping, GRAMMY-nominated album, GRAMMY.com explores all the reasons why 'All Things Must Pass' remains an important landmark in George Harrison's legacy and his most enduring solo testimony

GRAMMYs/Nov 27, 2020 - 08:33 pm

In 1970, Let It Be, the documentary chronicling The Beatles' final studio album of the same name, hit theaters worldwide, providing a blunt answer to the whys and the hows for those who might still be in denial about the group's inevitable separation. The film unmercifully exposed numerous cracks in their interpersonal relationships, only letting us see fragments of what had once been a cohesive, seemingly indivisible unit. Although incredibly frustrating to many fans, this portrayal proved crucial for an adequate understanding of each member's personal and professional motivations at the time—particularly George Harrison, whose creative persona was undergoing a vital and revolutionary change.

Those sessions, which author Peter Doggett describes in his book, "You Never Give Me Your Money," as "a drama with no movement or character development," showcase Harrison's growing exasperation with the part he'd been given to play within The Beatles' equation as well as a certain impatience and dissatisfaction replacing his acquiescence of previous years. Recently returned from a stay with Bob Dylan at Woodstock to what he would later call "The Beatles' winter of discontent" in "The Beatles Anthology," Harrison continued to see his musical contributions systematically met with disdain from his bandmates. It soon became obvious that challenging the John Lennon/Paul McCartney power axis would be an impossible task while the band was still together—a realization that further accelerated The Beatles' disintegration.

All Things Must Pass is a direct result of this unmaking. Released November 27, 1970, All Things Must Pass was technically Harrison's third studio album yet his first fully realized solo release following two slightly niche LPs prior: Wonderwall Music (1968), the mostly instrumental soundtrack to Joe Massot's film, Wonderwall, and Electronic Sound (1969), a two-track avant-garde project.

The imbalance in group dynamics made evident in the Let It Be documentary is essential to understand the genesis of All Things Must Pass since the two projects are irrevocably intertwined—perhaps more so than Lennon's or McCartney's respective debuts, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and McCartney, which also released in 1970. While his bandmates had long made peace with their prime status as composers, Harrison's mounting refusal to be repeatedly pushed to second best was reaching a boiling point, and his creativity soared in proportion. By then, the material he'd been putting in the drawer was far too vast to fit in a single album alone. 

For anyone doubting Harrison's ability to stand on his own two feet as a solo artist, All Things Must Pass must have hit like a ton of bricks. Composed of three records, two LPs plus an extra disc titled Apple Jam that mostly contained improvised instrumentals, the album emerged as Harrison's definite and irrevocable declaration of independence. 

Still, the album was colored with references to a painful recent past: These are visible in the cryptic album art showing Harrison in his Friar Park estate surrounded by four gnomes, often interpreted as the musician removing himself from The Beatles' collective identity. There are also the not-so-veiled attacks on his bandmates in "Wah-Wah," the sad contemplation of a breakup in "Isn't It A Pity?" and the inclusion of several compositions that had been turned down by The Beatles, such as "Art Of Dying," "Let It Down" and the album's title track, which Harrison can be seen playing to the other three in Let It Be.

The album, recorded between May and October in 1970, gathered an impressive supergroup of backing musicians that included bassist (and Revolver cover artist) Klaus Voormann, members of Badfinger and Delaney & Bonnie, Let It Be keyboardist Billy Preston, Eric Clapton and even Ringo Starr, the only Beatle who seemed to have no major feud with the other three. 

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Although Harrison had a very clear idea of what he wanted, things did not always go so smoothly. By summer, sessions came to a temporary halt as he made regular visits to see his dying mother in Liverpool. At the same time, further pressure came from EMI, who grew preoccupied with the alarming costs that a triple album would ensue. This, combined with Clapton's escalating heroin addiction and infatuation with Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd, who he would eventually marry, contributed to a strained ambience that might at times have struck a chord of déjà vu for the Beatle. 

Producer Phil Spector's erratic behavior didn't help either: Having been recruited by both Harrison and Lennon for their solo debuts following his impressive work on Let It Be, he was frequently unfit to function or nowhere to be found, forcing Harrison to take production matters into his own hands.

Despite all the delays and behind-the-scenes tension, some of it still resulting from the ongoing legal disputes between the four Beatles, All Things Must Pass triumphed. The album received a nomination for Album Of The Year at the 1972 GRAMMYs, while its No. 1 single "My Sweet Lord," for which Harrison was sued for copyright infringement and ultimately lost, was nominated for Record Of The Year. All Things Must Pass was ultimately inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2014; Harrison was honored with the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award one year later.

While a triple album could have easily been dismissed as self-indulgence as pop crossed over to the individualistic '70s, the reception of All Things Must Pass was so indisputably solid and favorable that some music critics claimed it eclipsed Lennon's and McCartney's solo efforts. Maybe it was the surprise factor, too. Melody Maker's Richard Williams would best summarize this in his review of the album with the famous line, "Garbo talks! - Harrison is free!"—a reference fitting of how it felt to witness "the quiet one" finally raising his voice. 

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All Things Must Pass opened the gates to a world the public had only glimpsed during The Beatles years, proclaiming a coming of age that had been delayed for too long. Encapsulating Harrison's serenity without falling into a trap of passiveness, the album acted simultaneously as epilogue and opening chapter by precipitating both public and personal healing.

But the ghost of Beatles past would still come back to haunt Harrison as he, like the other three, quickly realized one doesn't simply cease to be a Beatle. Recurrent comparisons and undeclared fights both in and outside the charts persisted throughout the years, bringing back the vestiges of a narrative he hadn't fully absconded yet no longer defined him. "We've been nostalgia since 1967," Doggett quotes Harrison as saying at the time of the album's release, commenting on The Beatles' inability to escape a very specific, even if outdated, image that had been crystallized in the public's collective imagination. 

Fifty years later, All Things Must Pass remains an important landmark in George Harrison's legacy and his most enduring solo testimony—something music journalist Paul Du Noyer points out on the text "When 1 Becomes 4" as a slight irony, since the title refers precisely to "the impermanence of things." But more than that, the album is a fascinating and detailed snapshot of the exact moment Harrison officially announced he was willing to move on from a game whose rules had long ceased to serve him.

Celebrating The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's' 50th Anniversary

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.

1962 Was The Final Year We Didn't Know The Beatles. What Kind Of World Did They Land In?

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.

TikTok's Musical Class Of 2023: 8 Artists Who Transformed Virality Into Stardom, From Tyla to FIFTY FIFTY

The Beatles' Final Song: Giles Martin On The Second Life Of "Now And Then" & How The Fab Four Are "Still Breaking New Ground"
The Beatles in 1968

Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.

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

The wait is over: The Beatles will release their final song, "Now and Then," on Nov. 2. Read an interview with remixer Giles Martin about the decades-in-the-making parting gift, as well as remixed, expanded 'Red' and 'Blue' albums.

GRAMMYs/Oct 26, 2023 - 02:16 pm

The Beatles and grief have always been fundamentally intertwined. When John Lennon and Paul McCartney met as teenagers, they bonded over losing their mothers early on. Their manager, Brian Epstein, died in 1967 at only 32; as McCartney put it during the ensuing Get Back sessions, "Daddy's gone away now, you know, and we're on our own at the holiday camp."

Lennon's murder in 1980, at just 40 years old, imbued their story with bottomless longing — not just between this band of brothers, but a world that had to process the Beatles were never coming back. George Harrison's death from cancer, in 2001, was another catastrophic blow.

But the Beatles' message, among many, was that the light prevails. And from "In My Life" to "Eleanor Rigby" to "Julia" to "Let it Be" and beyond, almost nobody made sorrow sound so beautiful. And "Now and Then," billed as "the last Beatles song" — yes, the AI-assisted one you heard about throughout 2023 — is liable to move you to the depths of your soul.

A quick AI sidebar: no, it's not the generative type. Rather, it's the technology Peter Jackson and company used to separate theretofore indivisible instruments and voices for the Get Back documentary. It also worked in spectacular fashion for Giles Martin's — son of George — 2022 remix of Revolver.

*The cassette edition of "Now and Then." Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.*

With this tech, Martin and his team were able to lift a Lennon vocal from a late-'70s piano-and-vocals demo of "Now and Then," a song he was workshopping at the time. (Remember "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love," the reconstituted Beatles songs from the Anthology era? "Now and Then" was the third one they tried — and, until now, aborted.)

The final version of "Now and Then" features Lennon's crystal-clear, isolated vocal, as well as Harrison's original vocal and rhythm guitar from that 1995 session. McCartney adds piano and guitar, including a radiant slide guitar solo in homage to Harrison. Ringo Starr holds down the groove and joins on vocals.

"Now and Then" is more than a worthy parting gift from the most beloved rock band of all time. And you can experience it a la carte or as part of the Red and Blue albums — the Beatles' epochal, color-coded 1973 hit compilations, remixed by Martin, with expanded tracklistings, out Nov. 10.

Ahead of "Now and Then," which will arrive on Nov. 2, read an interview with Martin about his approach to the emotionally steamrolling single — and the host of Beatles classics that flank it on Red and Blue.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What was the thinking behind the expansion of the Red and Blue albums?

That kind of stemmed from "Now and Then," really. You know, we finished "Now and Then," and then there was the thought about, OK, it can't go on an album. What are we going to put it on?

There was a thought about trying to respect people's listening tastes. And the fact that they've changed — and the No. 1s, for example, don't really reflect the most popular Beatles songs that people are listening to.

Then, we realized it was the 50th anniversary of Red and Blue. For a whole generation — much older than you, my generation — the Red and Blue albums have this sort of gravitas behind them. I know all the tracklistings; even though I think I was 3, when they came out, we had them at home.

So, we decided to do the Red and Blue albums — which took quite a long time, because there was quite a lot of stuff to do on them.

Since you've remixed all the Beatles albums from Sgt. Pepper's onward, I've been glued to the pre-1967 material — this is the first time I've heard your touch on their early work. Remixing songs as early as 1962 must have been a whole different ballgame.

In all honesty, that was the fun bit.

You know, we couldn't have worked on these songs six months ago; the technology had to be developed in place so we could do this — separate drums, bass and guitar, and have the different elements. And they sound good; it doesn't sound strange or artifact-y in any way.

I think people will talk about "Now and Then" for "Now and Then." But I [also] think the true innovations come back from the early Beatles stuff. The way that it pops out; the way that the records still sound like the same records. Hopefully, the character doesn't change, but the energy is different.

Ringo always said, "We're just a bunch of punks in the studios," and they sound like a bunch of punks in the studios. Now, they sound the age they were when they played it.

And that's so key to me, to making these records — that they sound like that. You know, they were way younger than Harry Styles is now, when they were making these records. People think they're old guys, and they're not.

That, to me, is important, in a way. We get old — I hate to break that to you, but we do get old. And recordings, by their nature, stay the same age. And the Beatles will always be that age on those records.

I think, now, they sound like a bunch of young guys in the studios bashing their instruments, and I think that's really exciting, and the technology we've applied has enabled us to, bizarrely, strip back the inadequacies of the technologies they had.

And I don't mean that in a pompous way. What I mean is that my dad never wanted the Beatles to be coming out of one speaker, and then coming out of another speaker. They didn't want the two tracks to be like that. He hated it. He hated it.

But now, we can have the drums coming out of the middle, like a record is now. He can luxuriate in that, and I think it's fun and exciting.

I'm noticing so many heretofore-obscured details in their early work. The vocal flub on "Please Please Me." The maniacal bongos that power "A Hard Day's Night."

I think you're right, but I think from experience — which, actually, I have a lot of now — there is a beauty in the reality.

What I mean by that is: so much music is perfect, and it's fabricated. There are checks and balances that go on, to make sure that everything is in tune, in time. And all this stuff goes on, which is fine and it suits a place. But it's a bit like the dangers of plastic surgery — everyone ends up looking the same.

And in records, everyone's sounding the same. We dial in so it's exciting, and it becomes boring, essentially, is what I mean.

The excitement you get from hearing a mistake in a song you've heard for years doesn't necessarily demean the song itself. It doesn't make you think, Oh my god, the band is s—. You think, Oh my god, what's exciting is these are humans. These are human beings in a room, making noise.

People go, "Well, who's responsible for the sound of the Beatles? Is it your dad? Is it Geoff Emerick? Is It Norman Smith…" blah, blah, blah. I go, "No, it's the Beatles. It's the fact they're four friends in a room. They make that noise."

And that's the thing about great bands; great bands make a great noise together, and they don't even know how they do it themselves. That's the beauty of it.

It's like, why do you love someone? "Well, because they're nice to me," or because they're whatever. You can't explain things; they just happen. And there's something about "Please Please Me," all that early stuff — you can hear it. It's something just happening, and that's so exciting. God, I sound like such an old hippie.

The Beatles in 1962

*The Beatles in The Cavern, Liverpool, August 1962. Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.*

Your first Beatles remix project, for Sgt. Pepper's, came out five years ago. On the other side of the coin, The Blue Album features songs from that dense, psychedelic era, like "I Am the Walrus," which is such a beast. That must have been a different kind of fun.

Yeah, well, "Walrus" is a beast. I've actually gone back and re-changed the stereo [mix] recently, because I got asked questions like, "Why did I change the end section so it didn't sound like the original?" I was thinking, Did I? I didn't do it deliberately. It's just the balance of speech versus vocals and stuff like that.

I was very lucky, because "Walrus" was on the Love album and show. I tackled a version of that before, and know how tricky it is.

Because by its nature, "Walrus" sounds technically bad, but it's beautiful. It's beautifully ugly as a record, and they're the hardest ones, because you don't want to take away the character. You don't want to remove the grime, because the grime is the record. I spent a lot of time looking at this and doing this — hopefully, we're in a good place with "Walrus."

You know, music's about, How does this make you feel? You don't want to feel secure around "Walrus" at any stage; you want to be unnerved by it. People sort of ask about plugins and technology, and it's like, it's not about that — something you can get on a shelf. How it makes you feel is the most important thing.

You once said that a White Album remix couldn't be too smooth — it's "slightly trashy. It's visceral. It slaps you in the face." I thought of that while listening to the remixed "Old Brown Shoe"; George's vocal is way grimy on that one.

This is going to sound really ridiculous — and I've been through this with a number of different people — but my job is to make a record sound like how you remember it sounding. Because records never sound like how we remember them sounding. And you go back and go, Was that really there?

Some people accuse me of doing stuff that I haven't done, or maybe forgot to do, or whatever. But the fact of the matter is that we kid ourselves all the time, and we fill in the blanks constantly.

It's like, "What about the vocal of 'Old Brown Shoe'? Why does it sound like this?" And I go, "Well, it sounds like that on the record." It's part of the character of the record. If it was too clean, it wouldn't sound [right].

George was very particular at that stage. He didn't get many goes, is the way I would say it, because he wasn't given enough songs.

There's a story [Beatles engineer] Ken Scott told about The White Album, of him doing "Savoy Truffle" — which is incredibly bright as a song, by the way. And my dad apparently went, "You know, it sounds quite bright, George." And he goes, "I know, and I like it." Like, "I know, and f— off," basically.

You have to respect the artists' wishes when you're doing these things, even though they're not there. Yeah, on "Old Brown Shoe," the vocal's quite strange. But that's what George wanted it to sound like, and [far be it from] me to say it shouldn't sound like that.

The Beatles in 1965

*The Beatles in 1965. Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.*

What's your understanding of the extent of the work the Beatles put into "Now and Then" back in 1995, before they aborted it?

I wasn't there, so I'm just going to speculate. What Paul played me — what we worked on together — was kind of after he'd looked at the material they did together.

Far be it from me to argue with a Beatle: there were some things that I thought we should change from that recording. There were a few synth [things], which I thought, once we decided to put strings on it, [weren't necessary].

You know, the key thing is that George is playing on it. Therefore, it is, by definition, a Beatles song, because all four of them are on it. People ask me, "Why is this the last Beatles song?" Well, there's not another song. There won't; there can't be another song where all four Beatles are playing on it.

So, there were bits and pieces that were used and not used. I don't think they spent a lot of time working on it, but essentially, what we kept was George — and obviously, John's vocal, which then we looked at.

Listening, I was thinking, Thank god that George tracked a rhythm guitar part and harmony vocal back then. Or else, this couldn't happen. Or, if it happened, you and your team would never hear the end of it.

What was interesting was, we did the string arrangement. I sat down with Paul in L.A., and there are lots of chugs and "Eleanor Rigby" kinds of ripoffs in the string arrangement.

And what essentially happened was, Paul spent a lot of time listening to what George was playing on the guitar, and it really changed the arrangement. It's in service to the guitar; it doesn't go against George's playing. They were completely respectful of the other Beatles, and made sure it was a collaboration, and it was all four of them.

As Yoko said to me, "John is just a voice now." And I think it sounds like the Beatles, "Now and Then."

Looking at the post-"Now and Then" Beatles landscape, I'm enticed by which Beatles albums you'll remix next. The select tracks on Red and Blue open a door to what Rubber Soul or Beatles For Sale redux might sound like.

Technology doesn't — and never has — made great records, but it creates a pathway. You can do certain things that you couldn't do in the past. And the most exciting thing for me is — as you say — it does open that door to that early material, which we couldn't have done before.

I suppose fortuitously, we kind of worked backwards, in a way — and it made sense to do that. I couldn't have done what I've done on The Red Album even six months ago, probably; it's that quick. I love the fact that the Beatles are still breaking new ground with technology that will pave the way for other artists.

The Beatles in 1969

*The Beatles during a photo session in Twickenham, 9 April 1969. Photo: Bruce McBroom / © Apple Corps Ltd.*

I can't imagine what this next week of "Now and Then" promotion will be like. There's an incredible weight to this. You must be feeling that.

Well, I mean, there's some perspective. My mom's just died. So, it's like [dark laugh] what's important in life?

It's a funny time. We just talked about her funeral arrangements, and she's getting buried the day, I think, the record comes out. So, there are personal things for me in this.

I've been doing interviews this week, and people have asked me, "How do you feel about what your motivation was?" Somebody was saying I'm talking about the Beatles as a resource, or whatever. I go, "You do these things and hope people get touched by stuff."

When you say you enjoy "Now and Then," that's really nice, because that's why we do it. We do it so people can listen to stuff and not just hear it. "Now and Then" sounds like a love song. It sounds like a song that John wrote for Paul, and the other Beatles: "I miss you/ Now and then."

It sounds like Paul has gone there, which I think he did. You know, no one told Paul to go and do it, and Paul didn't go, This would be a great exercise for the Red and Blue Album.

He was at home in the studio. He dug on the record and started working on it, because it's his mate. And he really misses John. I mean, that's the truth. They broke up, and John died nine years later. It really isn't very long.

So, I hope that people listen to the record and they think about loved ones. Or they think about things. That's what I hope. I don't really care about anything else — do you know what I mean? What I'm excited by is people being touched by it.

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