Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Photo of Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting
How The 'Trainspotting' Soundtrack Turned A Dispatch From The Fringes Into A Cult Classic
Twenty-five years after 'Trainspotting' first thrilled and scandalized moviegoers, the film's soundtrack remains an iconic collision of Britpop, rock and dance music
From its opening shot, Trainspotting is a movie in motion. As sneakers hit the sidewalk of Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, we hear the raucous drumbeat of Iggy Pop's 1977 barnstormer "Lust For Life." Renton—played by Ewan McGregor—and Spud—by Ewen Bremner—sprint away from two security guards, their shoplifting spoils flying out of their pockets.
"Choose life," Renton's narration begins, introducing an instantly classic monologue about the emptiness of middle-class aspirations. The action then zips to a soccer match that introduces Renton's ragtag mates: Spud, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and Tommy (Kevin McKidd). The scene is all propulsion and attitude, with Iggy Pop dropping the match on the trail of fuel. In just 60 exhilarating seconds, Trainspotting tells us precisely what it's going to be.
Trainspotting burst into U.K. cinemas in February 1996, followed immediately by a debate on whether its fizzing depiction of junkie life glorified drug use. Audiences staggered out, scandalized and delighted in equal measure by "The Worst Toilet In Scotland," Spud's soiled sheets and a ceiling-crawling baby. By the time it opened in the US in May, the movie was already a critical and box office hit at home. Its credentials were undeniable, including a compelling young cast led by newcomer McGregor, a visually daring director in Danny Boyle and a script adapted from Irvine Welsh's cult book of the same name.
In a year dominated by slick Hollywood blockbusters like Independence Day, Twister and Mission: Impossible, Trainspotting was the scrappy, no-kids-allowed outsider that could. One of the movie's most significant talking points, and a key reason for its enduring legacy, was its use of "needle drops" in lieu of a traditional composerly film score. The soundtrack reaches back to the '70s and '80s, while also showcasing of-the-moment Britpop and dance music. The music of Trainspotting endures because it's intrinsic to the movie, with each song meant to elevate a particular scene or moment.
Welsh's 1993 novel frames Renton's misadventures as a heroin addict against the dismal backdrop of Leith, just north of Edinburgh's city center. Trainspotting was first adapted as a stage play, with Ewen Bremner (perfectly cast as Spud in the movie) playing Renton. Before long, the movie offers rolled in. "There was loads of interest," Welsh told Vice in 2016. "Everybody seemed to want to make a film of Trainspotting."
Most directors wanted to ground the adaptation in social realism, but Welsh knew Trainspotting needed a wilder take. In 1994, a promising young director called Danny Boyle had made his feature debut with the pitch-black comedy Shallow Grave, starring Ewan McGregor. Impressed by the movie's visual flair, Welsh gave Boyle the keys to Trainspotting.
The making of the movie was a thrill for all involved. Fresh from writing Shallow Grave, screenwriter John Hodge relished the opportunity to adapt Welsh's book for the screen. (Hodge was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1997 Academy Awards - the movie's only Oscar nod.) Before filming, Boyle sent his actors to spend time with Calton Athletic, a real-life recovery group for addicts. The shoot began in June 1995 and lasted 35 days (a step up from the 30 allocated for Shallow Grave), with Glasgow mostly standing in for Edinburgh.
Alongside cinematographer Brian Tufano, Boyle brought a bold, kinetic style to every shot. "We'd set out to make as pleasurable a film as possible about subject matter that is almost unwatchable," Boyle told HiBrow in 2018.
While Shallow Grave gave an early glimpse of Boyle's tastes, including his fondness for electronic duo Leftfield, the music in Trainspotting demanded a bigger role. Welsh's book is peppered with references to The Smiths, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and David Bowie, so the call went out to a select list of musical icons. Bowie was a no, but others who'd loved the novel happily offered up their music to the project.
Welsh and Boyle were both clued-in to acid house and rave culture (represented on the soundtrack by the likes of Underworld, Leftfield and John Digweed and Nick Muir's Bedrock project), but it was the director's idea to bring in the likes of Blur and Pulp. That decision was a "masterstroke", Welsh told Vice, because "Britpop was kind of the last strand of British youth culture, and it helped position the film as being the last movie of British youth culture."
Several of the best scenes in Trainspotting are soundtracked by songs made before 1990. Following "Lust For Life", the sleazy strut of Iggy Pop's 1977 track "Nightclubbing" lurks behind a sequence of Renton's relapse into heroin. (Both songs were co-written by David Bowie, giving him an honorary spot on the soundtrack.) New Order's 1981 song "Temptation" is a motif for Renton's taboo relationship with high schooler Diane (Kelly Macdonald in her first film role), while Heaven 17's 1983 pop hit "Temptation" plays at the club where they first meet.
Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" lands the hardest punch. In a dazzling sequence, Renton visits his dealer Mother Superior (Peter Mullan) for a hit of heroin. As Renton's body sinks almost romantically into the floor, we hear Lou Reed softly singing about a perfect day drinking sangria in the park. The romance ends there. Knowing an overdose on sight, Mother Superior drags his sort-of friend to the street, then heaves him into a taxi, tucking the fare in his shirt pocket. (In a brilliant small detail, we see an ambulance rush past, headed for someone else.)
"Perfect Day" keeps on at its languid pace as Renton is ejected at the hospital, hauled onto a stretcher and revived by a nurse with a needle to his arm. "You're going to reap just what you sow," Lou Reed sings as Renton gasps wildly for air.
Boyle pushed for Britpop on the soundtrack, but he didn't want obvious hits. Britpop, a genre coined in the '90s to describe a new wave of British bands influenced by everything from the Beatles to the late '80s "Madchester" scene, was at its peak during the Trainspotting shoot in the summer of 1995. Pulp had just released the Britpop anthem "Common People," Elastica and Supergrass were flying high from their debut albums, and genre superstars Oasis and Blur were locked in a media-fueled battle for chart supremacy.
In the heat of all that hype, Boyle reached back to 1991 and took "Sing" from Blur's debut album, Leisure. The song's stirring piano melody picks up after the "Nightclubbing" sequence, as Renton and his fellow addicts hit a harrowing rock bottom. Later, when Begbie busts in on Renton's new life in London, Pulp's "Mile End" underlines the mood of big city ennui. Along with contributions from Elastica and Blur frontman Damon Albarn, Trainspotting draws on just enough Britpop to keep its cool.
If Trainspotting has a signature song, it's Underworld's "Born Slippy .NUXX". The duo of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde already had three albums behind them when Boyle reached out to use their 1995 B-side in his movie's climax. The duo was wary—as Smith later put it to Noisey, their music was often sought out to accompany "a scene of mayhem"—but Boyle convinced them with a snippet of the film. Underworld also contributed the propulsive "Dark & Long" to the indelible scene of Renton detoxing inside his childhood bedroom. After Trainspotting, "Born Slippy .NUXX" became the defining song of Underworld's career and a constant euphoric peak in their live sets.
Just as Trainspotting caught the Britpop zeitgeist, it also immortalized a high point for dance music. A rush of trailblazing dance albums came out in 1995, including Leftfield's Leftism, The Chemical Brothers' Exit Planet Dust and Goldie's Timeless. In a time of rave culture colliding with chart hits, the movie finds room for both the dark electronics of Leftfield's "A Final Hit" and the goofy Eurodance of Ice MC's "Think About The Way".
In one scene, Renton sits grinning between the speakers at a London nightclub that's going off to Bedrock and KYO's 1993 classic "For What You Dream Of." "Diane was right," he narrates, recalling a conversation from before he left Edinburgh. "The world is changing, music is changing, drugs are changing, even men and women are changing." For the briefest moment, we see the thrill of '90s dance music as it really was.
The Trainspotting soundtrack album hit shelves in July of 1996. The cover played on the movie's iconic poster design, framing the characters in vivid orange. The soundtrack sold so well that a second volume followed in 1997, featuring other songs from the movie and a few that missed the cut. (The same year, the hugely popular Romeo + Juliet soundtrack also inspired a "Vol. 2.")
Boyle continued to use music as a key character in his movies, following up Trainspotting with the madcap Americana of A Life Less Ordinary and the pop-meets-electronica of The Beach. After 20 years, Boyle got the gang back together for 2017's T2 Trainspotting. In contrast to the original's wall-to-wall needle drops, the sequel weaved a score by Underworld's Rick Smith around songs by High Contrast, Wolf Alice and Young Fathers.
Many impressive, star-studded soundtracks followed in the wake of Trainspotting. What makes this one rare, though, is how deeply its unholy union of rock, Britpop and dance music belongs to the movie. Remove any needle drop from a scene in Trainspotting, however fleeting, and it'd lose something vital—that's how you know it's built to last.
Photos: Antoine Flament/Getty Images; Amy Sussman/WireImage; Santiago Felipe/GettyImages; Ki Price; Rosie Cohe; Edward Cooke; Mauricio Santana/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This September: Olivia Rodrigo, Kylie Minogue, James Blake & More
Get your fall playlist ready. From pop blockbusters to the return of rock icons, check out 15 genre-spanning albums dropping in September.
With summer almost in the rear view, it’s time to welcome the first must-hear albums of the fall season. With the onset of chillier days comes a genre-spanning array of new music — from R&B sensation Jorja Smith to indie-rock maestro Mitski.
September's first big release comes from rock royalty the Pretenders, who return at the top of the month with their twelfth studio album, Relentless. The following week, pop firebrand Olivia Rodrigo will reveal GUTS, the feverishly anticipated follow-up to her 2021 debut, SOUR.
Rodrigo shares a release date with star-studded company, including disco queen Róisín Murphy, dance veterans the Chemical Brothers, shapeshifting singer/songwriter James Blake, and soul newcomer Jalen Ngonda. Elsewhere in the month, there’s something for all tastes, from the pop-rock reawakening of Demi Lovato to the noodly electronics of Animal Collective.
As we gear up for a season packed with musical highs, we’ve put together a handy guide to the 15 must-hear albums dropping in September 2023.
The Pretenders - Relentless
Release date: Sept. 1
For a band that released its debut album in 1979, the Pretenders still sounds remarkably vital 44 years on. Led by iconic songwriter and frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, the band is back in full force this September with the appropriately titled Relentless, which follows 2020’s on-form Hate for Sale.
The Pretenders announced their twelfth LP with a rousing-yet-poetic lead single, "Let the Sun Come In," and the album closes with an intriguing collaboration with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood on strings.
"I think anyone in a band is constantly questioning if they should keep going," Hynde said of the album’s title in a statement. "It starts as a youthful pursuit and eventually, it makes you wonder, why am I doing this? It’s the life of the artist. You never retire. You become relentless."
Speedy Ortiz - Rabbit Rabbit
Release date: Sept. 1
Philadelphia rock quartet Speedy Ortiz has kept fans waiting five long years for a new LP, having released their pop-inflected Twerp Verse back in 2018. This September, the band returns with Rabbit Rabbit, its first album on mercurial frontwoman Sadie Dupuis’ label, Wax Nine.
To record Rabbit Rabbit, Speedy Ortiz jumped between two locations steeped in rock lore: Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree and Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas. The band has already shared a few songs so far, including the spiky "You S02" and the crunching, cathartic closer "Ghostwriter." The album also opens with a song called "Kim Cattrall."
"I turned 33 while writing this album, a palindrome birthday and a lucky number associated with knowledge," Dupuis said in a statement. "I wanted to mark how I was making better choices as I got older, letting go of heedless anger even when it’s warranted."
Olivia Rodrigo - GUTS
Release date: Sept. 8
As far as breakout albums go, Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR was about as good as it gets. Powered by the stage-setting singles "drivers license" and "deja vu," the album dropped in May 2021 as a balm for dark pandemic days. Coming in at a lean 34 minutes, SOUR was all killer, no filler— and went on to pick up Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2022 GRAMMYs, alongside Rodrigo’s wins for Best Pop Solo Performance ("drivers license") and Best New Artist.
With Rodrigo now a bona fide pop superstar, she’s readying her second album, GUTS, for a buzzy September drop. Lead single "vampire" arrived back in June with a lush, swelling sound (producer Dan Nigro makes several appearances on GUTS) and score-settling lyrics that cut like a knife. Rodrigo followed this strong return with "bad idea right?," a gleefully fun throwback to the pop-punk and grunge that soundtracked her teens.
In an interview with the New York Times ahead of GUTS, Rodrigo enthused about embracing crunchy guitars and big emotional swings: "\[I\] always loved rock music, and always wanted to find a way that I could make it feel like me, and make it feel feminine and still telling a story and having something to say that’s vulnerable and intimate."
James Blake - Playing Robots In Heaven
Release date: Sept. 8
Following 2021’s acclaimed Friends That Break Your Heart, which featured guest turns from the likes of SZA, JID and Monica Martin, James Blake is stripping it back to basics on his sixth studio album, Playing Robots Into Heaven.
This time around, the etherally-voiced singer has seemingly gone back to the electronic roots of his earlier works that emerged as part of the UK’s post-dubstep scene.
With no featured guests, the tracklist includes the already-released singles "Big Hammer," which is all chopped-up samples and low-end frequencies, and "Loading," which recalls the vocal manipulations of the producer’s self-titled debut LP. Blake also shared the ambient title track, which will close the album in perfect contemplation.
Jalen Ngonda - Come Around and Love Me
Release date: Sept. 8
Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Jalen Ngonda was immersed from an early age in soul music, courtesy of his music-obsessed father. Fast forward to 2023, and Ngonda is himself a talented soul artist signed to the revered Brooklyn indie label Daptone Records.
The singer's debut album, Come Around and Love Me, features lushly arranged singles "If You Don’t Want My Love" and "Just Like You Used To," which showcase his timeless vocal prowess.
The Chemical Brothers - For That Beautiful Feeling
Release date: Sept. 8
On their ninth album, 2019’s No Geography, UK electronic duo the Chemical Brothers sounded thrillingly energized. Now, after weathering a global pandemic, the veteran producers return with their tenth studio outing, For That Beautiful Feeling.
The album features a new version of the duo’s cautiously hopeful 2021 release, "The Darkness That You Fear," alongside the propulsive, classically-Chems single, "No Reason," and collaborations with indie darling Beck and French singer/songwriter Halo Maud.
The duo is set to follow the album in October with a career-spanning retrospective book, Paused in Cosmic Reflection, that’ll have fans clamoring.
Demi Lovato - REVAMPED
Release date: Sept. 15
Already an experienced master of reinvention, Demi Lovato is continuing her rock era with REVAMPED 5. On last year’s Holy Fvck, the pop chameleon wholeheartedly embraced hard rock and pop-punk, including collaborations with Yungblud, Royal & the Serpent and Dead Sara.
While touring Holy Fvck, Lovato also played heavier versions of her earlier songs, and discovered her fans loved it. This inspired her to re-record rock versions of ten songs from past albums, including Demi and Confident, which are now brought together on REVAMPED.
On the evidence of early singles like "Heart Attack (Rock Version)" and "Sorry Not Sorry (Rock Version)", the latter featuring Guns N Roses shredder Slash, Lovato is relishing the chance to rock out.
Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
Release date: Sept. 15
Back in July, ever-inventive singer-songwriter Mitski sent a voice memo to fans via her newsletter. "Hi, this is Mitski, and I’m at Bomb Shelter Studios in Nashville, where we recorded my new album that’s coming out," Mitski revealed. "It’s called The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, and its first single is coming out on Wednesday."
That beautifully elegiac first single "Bug Like An Angel" suggests a heart-rending album to come from one of the boldest voices in indie-rock. The single also features a surprising (and powerfully effective) appearance from a 17-person choir that’s likely to appear elsewhere on The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We. As Mitski teased in a statement, "This is my most American album."
NEEDTOBREATHE - CAVES
Release date: Sept. 15
Following 2021’s Into The Mystery and its country-rock crossover hit, "I Wanna Remember," featuring Carrie Underwood, Christian rock troupe NEEDTOBREATHE returns with their ninth album, CAVES.
As documented in an intimate making-of video, the GRAMMY-winning band assembled in a house overlooking the majestic mountains of Utah to begin writing the album, which they completed while on the road with OneRepublic.
"We always believed we could make a record that would feel at home on the world’s biggest stages," the band wrote in a statement announcing CAVES. "It was important to us to prove that we could. This is the most ambitious record we’ve made in a really long time."
Kylie Minogue - Tension
Release date: Sept. 22
Thanks to the runaway viral success of her dance-pop earworm "Padam Padam," 2023 has already been a triumphant year for Australian pop veteran Kylie Minogue. Released in May, the single went on to vie for song of the summer status, powered by countless dance videos on TikTok and its warm embrace as a Pride anthem.
Buoyed by her surprise chart hit, Minogue will release her sixteenth studio album, Tension. As suggested by the glossy cover art, and the presence of producers such as Oliver Heldens and Biff Stannard, Minogue is ready to reclaim her electro-pop crown.
"I started this album with an open mind and a blank page," Minogue said in a statement. "Unlike my last two albums, there wasn’t a 'theme.' It was about finding the heart or the fun or the fantasy of that moment and always trying to service the song."
Bakar - Halo
Release date: Sept. 22
Acclaimed British artist Bakar will help kick off the month in style with his second album, Halo. The sophomore release is billed as a sonic counterpart to his genre-hopping 2018 mixtape, BADKID. Like that breakout release, Halo is set to blend indie, punk and hip-hop, with Bakar’s beguiling voice at front and center.
Ahead of a busy summer jumping between festival stages, Bakar dropped a mood-lifting single, "Alive!," accompanied by a music video featuring the artist bringing traffic to a standstill (for real) in Central London.
Animal Collective - Isn't It Now?
Release date: Sept. 29
Following 2022’s Time Skiffs, experimental pop four-piece Animal Collective returns with its most expansive album to date. With a total runtime of 64 minutes, Isn’t It Now? will explore a rich sonic palette, as suggested by the layered and hypnotic single, "Soul Capturer."
Co-produced, mixed and recorded with GRAMMY-winning producer Russell Elevado, Isn’t It Now? reportedly finds each band member digging deep into their current musical whims — such as multi-instrumentalist Panda Bear focusing more on drumming.
The centerpiece of the album is "Defeat," a 22-minute epic that captures Animal Collective at its most exploratory.
Jorja Smith - Falling or Flying
Release date: Sept. 29
As one of the brightest stars to emerge from the UK in the past decade, Jorja Smith has already put together an accomplished discography. Following her 2018 debut, Lost & Found, and 2021’s three-track EP, Be Right Back, Smith will release her most complete artistic statement to date.
Like her previous releases, the singer’s long-awaited second album, Falling or Flying, will connect the dots between soul, R&B, UK garage and house, with a song for every mood and situation.
"This album is like my brain,” Smith said in a statement. “There’s always so much going on but each song is definitely a standstill moment." So far, Smith has given us two standout singles — the garage-tinged "Little Things" and the more contemplative "Try Me" — so anticipation is sky high.
TINASHE - BB/ANG3L
Release date: TBD
While it’s yet to lock an official release date, the hype is building for Tinashe’s sixth studio album, BB/ANG3L — her first under a new deal with GRAMMY-winning hitmaker Ricky Reed’s record label, Nice Life.
"I’ve enjoyed stripping back layers of aesthetic fluff, smoke & mirrors, and white noise to get down to the core of myself," the alternative R&B star said of the album in a statement.
On lead single, "Talk to Me Nice," Tinashe’s indelible smoky vocals are offset by skittering, seductive production from hip-hop beatmaker Scoop DeVille and electronic artist Nosaj Thing. Follow-up single "Needs" is another undeniable bop, setting the stage for a standout album.
(G)I-DLE - HEAT
Release date: Oct. 15
Prolific K-pop girl group (G)I-DLE is set to release its first English language project, HEAT.
HEAT follows the group’s 2022 debut album, I Never Die, which opens with the pop-punk-influenced single, "TOMBOY." While little has been revealed about HEAT, the project comes via the Asian market-focused U.S. music company 88rising and South Korean label Cube Entertainment, and will showcase the songwriting prowess of group leader Jeon So-yeon.
(G)I-DLE has released one single from HEAT so far — the highly polished synth-pop love song, "I DO" — and the anticipation has K-pop fans feeling giddy.
Photo: Delali Ayevi
Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano On New Album 'Slugs Of Love,' Damon Albarn's "Inspiring" Impact & Leaning Into Intuitive Creativity
The electro-pop group's frontwoman details how their seventh album, 'Slugs of Love,' expands on the group's synergy and the fun they've had together for nearly three decades.
There's a special synergy and magic that comes from music made by people that love and really know each other. Little Dragon has manifested and expanded on that feeling since they were teenagers.
The spirit-lifting Swedish dance-pop quartet — drummer Erik Bodin, bassist Fredrik Wallin, keyboardist Håkan Wirenstarnd and singer Yukimi Nagano — met at their local music high school, and formed Little Dragon back in 1996. Now, they're back with their seventh album, Slugs of Love, and they're simply having fun.
The LP follows 2020's New Me, Same Us, which saw the band at their most collaborative, working together on all elements of the music-making progress to shake things up. Slugs of Love furthers their ultra-collaborative and experimental impulse, exemplified by the exuberant, silly title track, a playful meditation on the essence of humanity.
Their creative freedom radiates throughout the rest of Slugs of Love, like the sun-soaked "Disco Dangerous," whose funky instrumentals provide a dreamy backdrop for Nagano to coyly exclaim "never ever!" to falling in love. The subsequent track, "Lily's Call," shows another side of Little Dragon, a dark and driving number whose instrumental could fit in a Blade Runner soundtrack. Slugs of Love also sees them reconnecting with Damon Albarn — who they first worked with in 2010 on the Gorillaz's Plastic Beach — on the trippy, shimmery "Glow."
"We feel really grateful that we don't have to compromise ourselves at all," Nagano tells GRAMMY.com. "We do what we love and there are people who are into it."
GRAMMY.com caught up with the Little Dragon frontwoman to chat about the group's lively new album, their longevity as a band, reuniting with Damon Albarn and more.
When I first heard "Slugs of Love," I was obsessed and listened to it on repeat. I love how euphoric and absurd it is. What inspired it and how did the track come together?
The track was first written as just a demo beat and it had that infectious energy from the very start, without any vocals and melodies on it, and it just really grabbed me. The guys always write very random titles for demo tracks because you have to name it something, but I loved that title. And sometimes you get inspired by an odd angle, and the demo title together with the music gave me this image to write to. I painted this picture in my mind of humans being like slugs that are crawling on the wall, and everyone's becoming more obsessed and lazier, but ultimately kind of all needing and wanting the same thing — just wanting to be loved and safe.
It took a few turns production-wise. We tried to play it live and then we kind of returned back to the demo vibe. That sometimes feels like you're going backwards because you're trying too much stuff and nothing's working, but then you realize that the vibe was in the original ideas.
Since you chose "Slugs of Love" as the title track of the album, in what ways do you feel like it speaks to or sets the tone for the rest of the album?
It is just a fun image, so we're playing with that. Our first idea was that we wanted to make a trilogy [of] albums. We were gonna make one that was just romantic songs, one of dance songs and one with trippy forest music. In the end, we decided just to make an old-fashioned album because it was becoming very complicated.
"Slugs of Love" stood out as a track and as a title, and it felt sort of representative to the whole process and that time of making music. It felt like it also represented something a little bit new for us. [Our music] is very intuitive when we write it, whatever feels good in our guts, and then we let journalists and the people describe what it means.
You've said that your last album New Me, Same Us was your most collaborative and saw you working together in a new way. How did your approach to making Slugs of Love compare or differ, or build upon that?
Well, it's all just one long, linear story in a way for us, so [we gain] more experience with and understanding of each other. Sometimes you gotta throw away ideas that you have of each other as well – like you do with a family, with someone always being the little sister.
Sometimes we just have to try to have a blank slate and not get too stuck in the characters we've created. So it keeps evolving and everyone really wants to collaborate. I think we all feel like it's a meaningful process, even though sometimes it's really hard. Everyone is pretty strong-willed in different areas of the creative process so it can get complicated.
When you're on stage, you're so in the moment and your feelings are so big, but when you're watching the show, you're so relaxed and you're just there ready to take it in. And I think that kind of feeling [exists] with the process of making your music, and with the relationship with ourselves. Sometimes it's so serious, it's like the center of the universe — but at the end of the day, it's just music. We can get really caught up in one little detail, but really, we just want to be friends and have fun.
Being in a band, you have each other's different perspectives. I think it'd be different if it was just one artist in your own head, being your own neurotic self. We're four neurotic egos bumping heads with each other, so we get a little perspective.
I love the combination of the funky, fuzzy, sparkly instrumentals on "Disco Dangerous" with the sort of anti-love love song lyrics and the "never ever!" refrains. What was the spark for that track?
That track was just fun. [We were just] being silly and having fun and enjoying writing music. We love music that has that vibe of playfulness, and I think that kind of translated on that track. But most of all, we just had a good time making it, so I'm happy that came through.
And how did the instrumentals evolve on that one, from the demo to where it is now?
It started as a pretty basic layer of bass and drums. Then I wrote a little part and then more things got added, and I wrote a little more. We weren't sure about this song. Sometimes you want to write a good song, and sometimes you just want to have fun.
It's fun to know that you can release that stuff as well and not care too much. I think we can all get too stuck in the sickness of wanting to create something special and get caught up in thoughts that actually don't really help the process very much.
You reunited with Damon Albarn on the shimmering "Glow"— how did working with him on it inspire or shift the track?
We just chanced it to see if he was into the song, and he was. What we really loved about Damon's contribution was that he was very careless in a way that we found really inspiring.
When we collaborate with people, we're a little bit tip-toeing, like, "Okay, does this work for you? Is this okay?" And he came in and chopped it up, and added a bunch of new harmonies and a whole new part. I think it fits really well.
When I listened to the song, the visuals I got were very psychedelic; you're in the desert and then you're in the water. And when his part came in, I started seeing these big statues. The music, vocals and everything else he added felt like a whole new scenery which I found really refreshing. It was inspiring [to realize] you don't have to be so careful.
What did you learn from touring with him back in 2010 on the Gorillaz's Escape to Plastic Beach Tour?
The whole experience was a really big impression because there was such a mix of artists on the tour. Fred and I shared a tour bus with Bobby Womack. De La Sol was also on the tour, along with a whole horn band and a Syrian orchestra. There were maybe eight or nine tour buses — it was crazy, like a festival on tour. It was such a good time and a lot of fun memories.
We traveled the States and the UK and Australia, so it was a good three months. The inspiring part was seeing Damon deliver on stage — he gave everything — and the way that he brought all those different artists together. It created a lot of friendships that still exist.
Speaking of performing, you all bring so much energy and joy to live shows. What does it feel like for you and the band when you're on stage?
That's probably the main reason why we gravitated towards each other, because we admired each other as musicians. It feels like we're all in our element together and it feels natural because we've done it for so long. We know each other's language musically, and we know how to communicate with each other. That's such a special thing.
You don't really realize that until you play with people that you don't know their musical language in the same way. It's something that we cherish. Of course, you have good shows and bad shows, but the guys still impress me on stage with the way they play because we improvise a lot and we try to take it somewhere. Every show is different.
Is it important to you to change things up on stage to not get bored yourself, or to entertain the audience, or a bit of both?
I think it's some kind of musician's pride. We also love the jazz philosophy of music. I guess it bores us if we see bands and they have a backing track. I think that's where it shows that we're musicians first, and then we became a band. We were all session musicians, and we had these vibrations between us when we were playing and that's what made us write music together. It started there. It reminds us of the core of what we are on stage together.
What do you get out of sharing your music in person? I'm sure it's one thing to get sweet comments from people online, but it must be something to feel people freaking out to your songs.
It's the best feeling. I mean, we don't always get [an engaged crowd]. Any band will know that doing support shows strengthens your backbone because you have to play almost for yourself. So we have shows that are great, and shows that are less good. Every show has its twists, but when the stars are aligned, it's pretty amazing.
You can have moments where you lose track of yourself, and you feel like the communication between the band is just flowing so nicely — you almost feel like it's flowing back and forth with the audience too. It's a bit addictive, actually, to get that feeling, that energy, from a crowd. Sometimes you have a few people that are going off so hard and dancing and giving so much energy that it just fuels us.
"Ritual Union" was such a big track when it came out in 2011. What did the success and buzz you experienced then feel like to the band at the time?
I don't think it necessarily felt like a peak or anything to us because we've always felt like we were on some kind of a verge. But now we're appreciative of it. Just this last summer when we did shows in San Francisco, I recognized hardcore fans from 10 years back, who still come to the front.
At the time, we were touring so much that we almost exhausted ourselves after Ritual Union. We needed a proper break. As a band, when you feel that you're up-and-coming, it's the feeling that you've got to grab this thing right in front of you, but it keeps moving forward — you're just running after nothing.
We had to stop and be like, "Okay, you can prioritize other things and you can say no to shows." We had to learn stuff like that because you can get this FOMO feeling like if you don't grab it, someone else is going to take it and you're gonna miss it.
There's this feeling in industry that there's so much competition, so if you don't take it now, it's never gonna come back. There's so much fear and pressure in the industry that can push a band too hard. It was a very intense time after Ritual Union. But we were getting a lot of love and touring hard.
What came after that pause? What was the thing that was like "this is why we're a band" or "this is what we're actually focused on"?
We still have our studio and we go there pretty much every day. People rent studios for tons of money, and we have a nice homemade one that's an apartment that we made into a studio. That allows us to be able to make a song like "Disco Dangerous" and to be silly in the studio. It's such a blessing to be able to release that and know that people actually want to hear it and dance to it.
We feel really grateful that we don't have to compromise ourselves at all. We do what we love and there are people who are into it. That's what every artist wants to do, not have to sell out.
Do you feel connected to or inspired by the music scene in Gothenburg?
We have our bubble in the studio. The setup is four studios in one space, so we're definitely bouncing off of each other in that collective space. In a dream world, it'd be a whole building and tons of bands, that would be pretty awesome.
I read that it actually took some time for the band to catch on in Sweden, after the U.K. and U.S. When did that home country recognition finally happen?
I feel like it's still pretty slow here. We're gonna do a show in Gothenburg and Stockholm this fall, it's definitely been growing. We did a few things here during COVID; we were a house band for a really big Swedish TV show. That probably made some people aware, but I feel like it's still growing.
We haven't really invested that much time, either, in playing here. Some bands tour all over Sweden and play all the small towns, but we haven't really done that. You can't really complain if you haven't really toured and promoted that much here. We probably need to play more shows in Sweden. Our first record label [Peacefrog] was in the U.K. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but they were definitely not really focusing on Sweden.
As a band, how do you make sure that you're still having fun making music together and meshing creatively, since you have been doing it for so long?
Most of the time, it's pretty easy. I mean, it's not always gonna be a vibe, but since we go to the studio pretty much every single day, you're going to flow at some point, even though it can take some time. After the summer, you're going to need a little bit of time to warm up before, and you're not necessarily gonna write your favorite song the first day you get in. You just have to just flow with it.
I think just showing up in the studio every day, being with each other, makes things happen. But how do you make it fun? I think we just have fun together, we don't even have to try most of the time.
Photo: Erika Goldring/WireImage, Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Luisaviaroma, Scott Legato/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images, Don Arnold/WireImage, Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Atlantis Paradise Island, Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This July: Taylor Swift, Dominic Fike, Post Malone, NCT Dream & More
From the highly anticipated 'Barbie' soundtrack to a celebration of Joni Mitchell's iconic Newport Folk Festival return, check out 15 albums dropping this July.
The first half of 2023 is already behind us, but July gives us much to look forward to. The warm sun, tours and festivals abound, and a heap of exciting releases — from Colter Wall's country music to NCT DREAM's K-pop — will surely make this season even more special.
We start it off with Taylor Swift and her third re-recorded album, Speak Now (Taylor's Version) on July 7, the same day Pitbull returns with his twelfth studio album, Trackhouse. Post Malone will deliver his fourth LP, AUSTIN, and Blur returns with their first album in eight years. And for the classic music lovers, folk legend Joni Mitchell will release At Newport — a recording of her first live performance since 2015 — and rock maven Stevie Nicks will drop her Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set.
To welcome the latter half of a year filled with great music so far, GRAMMY.com offers a guide to the 15 must-hear albums dropping July 2023.
Taylor Swift, Speak Now (Taylor's Version)
Release date: July 7
Taylor Swift fans are used to gathering clues and solving puzzles about the singer's intricate, ever-expanding discography. Therefore, in her hometown of Nashville concert last May, when she announced that Speak Now (Taylor's Version) would come out on July 7, it was not much of a surprise to the audience, but rather a gratifying confirmation that they had followed the right steps.
"It's my love language with you. I plot. I scheme. I plan. And then I get to tell you about it," Swift told them after breaking the news. "I think, rather than me speaking about it ... I'd rather just show you," she added, before performing an acoustic version of Speak Now's single, "Sparks Fly."
Shortly after, she took it to Instagram to share that "the songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing … and living to speak about it."
Speak Now (Taylor's Version) is Swift's third re-recorded album, following 2021's Red (Taylor's Version). It will feature 22 tracks, including six unreleased "From the Vault" songs and features with Paramore's Hayley Williams and Fall Out Boy. "Since Speak Now was all about my songwriting, I decided to go to the artists who I feel influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist at that time and ask them to sing on the album," she shared on Twitter. Swift is currently touring the U.S. with her acclaimed The Eras Tour, which will hit Latin America, Asia, Australia, UK, and Europe through August 2024.
ANOHNI and the Johnsons, My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross
Release date: July 7
"I want the record to be useful," said ANOHNI about her upcoming sixth studio album, My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross. The English singer says she learned with her previous LP, 2016's HOPELESSNESS, that she "can provide a soundtrack that might fortify people in their work, in their activism, in their dreaming and decision-making," therefore aiming to make use of her talents to further help and inspire people.
Through 10 tracks that blend American soul, British folk, and experimental music, ANOHNI weaves her storytelling on inequality, alienation, privilege, and several other themes. According to a statement, the creative process was "painstaking, yet also inspired, joyful, and intimate, a renewal and a renaming of her response to the world as she sees it."
My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross "demonstrates music's unique capacity to bring harmony to competing, sometimes contradictory, elements" — qualities that can be observed in the album's contemplative pre-releases "It Must Change" and "Sliver Of Ice."
Release date: July 7
GRAMMY-winning singer/rapper Pitbull has recently broadened his reach into an unexpected field: stock cars. Together with Trackhouse Entertainment Group founder Justin Marks, he formed Trackhouse Racing in 2021, an organization and team that participates in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Now, to unite both passions, the Miami-born singer is releasing Trackhouse, his twelfth studio album and first release since 2019's Libertad 548. "In no way, shape, or form is this some kind of publicity stunt," said Mr. Worldwide of the upcoming album during a teleconference in April. "This is real. This is all about our stories coming together, and that's why the fans love it. […] This right here is about making history, it's generational, it's about creating a legacy."
Preceded by singles "Me Pone Mal" with Omar Courtz and "Jumpin" with Lil Jon, it seems that Trackhouse, despite its innovative inception, will continue to further Pitbull's famed Latin pop brand. This fall, he will also join Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin on The Trilogy Tour across the U.S. and Canada.
Dominic Fike, Sunburn
Release date: July 7
Multitalented singer, songwriter and actor Dominic Fike also joins the roll of summer comebacks. His second studio album, Sunburn, comes out July 7, and follows 2020's acclaimed What Could Possibly Go Wrong.
In recent years, the Florida star found great exposure after landing a role in the HBO hit series "Euphoria" as well as the upcoming A24 drama Earth Mama, which is slated to release on the same day as Sunburn. The past three years were also marked by collaborations with a handful of artists, from Justin Bieber ("Die For You") to Paul McCartney ("The Kiss of Venus") to his Euphoria co-star Zendaya on "Elliot's Song" from the show's soundtrack.
Sunburn marks Fike's joyful return to music, aiming to portray "the aching and vulnerable revelations of a young artist still growing and putting their best foot forward," according to a press release. Through 15 tracks, including singles "Dancing in the Courthouse," "Ant Pile," and "Mama's Boy," Fike will explore themes of "heartbreak and regret, addiction, sex, and jealousy."
One week after Sunburn's arrival, Fike will embark on a tour across North America and Canada, starting July 13 in Indianapolis.
Lauren Spencer Smith, Mirror
Release date: July 14
Lauren Spencer Smith said on TikTok that she's been working on her debut album, Mirror, for years. "It has been with me through so much in my life, the highs and the lows, and it means more to me than I can put into words. It tells a story of reflection, healing and growth," she added.
The 19-year-old, British-born Canadian singer is unafraid to dive deep into heartbreak and sorrow — as she displayed on her breakthrough hit "Fingers Crossed" — but offers a way out by focusing on her growth. "I went through a hard breakup, and the album tells the story of that all, the journey of that and now being in a more happy relationship. The title comes from the one thing in my life that's seen me in every emotion through that journey — my bedroom and bathroom mirror."
Like a true Gen Zer, Smith has been teasing the 15-track collection and its upcoming world tour all over social media. On July 14, the day of the album release, she kicks off the North American leg of the tour in Chicago, before heading to the UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Colter Wall, Little Songs
Release date: July 14
"You might not see a soul for days on them high and lonesome plains/ You got to fill the big empty with little songs," sings Colter Wall on the titular track off his fourth studio album, Little Songs. The Canadian country star says in a press release that he wrote these songs over the last three years, and that "I penned most of them from home and I think the songs reflect that."
Born and raised in the prairies of Battle Creek, Saskatchewan, Wall found inspiration in the stillness of his surroundings. With this album, he bridges "the contemporary world to the values, hardships, and celebrations of rural life" while also opening "emotional turns as mature and heartening as the resonant baritone voice writing them," according to a press release.
Little Songs is composed of 10 tracks — eight originals and two covers (Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina," and Ian Tyson's "The Coyote & The Cowboy.") He'll celebrate the album's release with a performance at Montana's Under The Big Sky festival on the weekend of the LP's arrival.
Release date: July 14
British singer Mahalia celebrated her 25th birthday on May 1 by announcing IRL, her sophomore album. Out July 14, the R&B star claims the album to be "a real reflection of the journeys I've had, what actually happened, and a celebration of everyone who got me there."
The 13-track collection will feature names like Stormzy and JoJo, the latter of whom appears on the single "Cheat." Before the release, Mahalia also shared "Terms and Conditions," a self-possessed track that pairs her silky voice with delightful early-aughts R&B.
"I'm so proud of this album, and so proud of how much I challenged myself to just let those stories out," she said in a statement. "We're all fixated on how we can make ourselves better but I want people to also reminisce on lovely or painful situations they've lived through and how they've helped shape the people they are now."
IRL is Mahalia's follows 2019's highly-acclaimed Love and Compromise. In support of the release, she has announced UK and Europe tour dates from October through November.
NCT DREAM, ISTJ
Release date: July 17
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test (also known as MBTI) is a current craze in South Korea, therefore, it was only a matter of time until a K-pop group applied its insights on their music. Although none of NCT DREAM's seven members has the ISTJ personality type, that's what they decided to call their upcoming third studio album, out on July 17.
The 10-track collection comes in two physical versions: Introvert and Extrovert, the first letters and main differentiators in any MBTI personality. Spearheaded by the soaring "Broken Melodies," where they display an impressive set of vocals, their comeback announcement on Twitter promises "The impact NCT DREAM will bring to the music industry."
Since September, the NCT sub-group embarked on The Dream Show 2: In A Dream World Tour, which crossed Asia, Europe, North America. The group will wrap up July with four concerts in Latin America.
Blur, The Ballad of Darren
Release date: July 21
"The older and madder we get, it becomes more essential that what we play is loaded with the right emotion and intention," said Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon in a statement about The Ballad of Darren, the band's ninth studio album set to arrive on July 21.
Maybe that explains why The Ballad is their first release in eight years, and represents "an aftershock record, reflection and comment on where we find ourselves now," according to frontman Damon Albarn. During a press conference in May, bassist Alex James reinforced the positive moment that they find themselves in, stating that "there were moments of utter joy" while recording together.
Produced by James Ford, the album contains 10 tracks, including the wistful indie rock of lead single "The Narcissist." On July 8 and 9, Blur is set to play two reunion gigs at London's Wembley Stadium, followed by a slew of festivals across Europe, Japan and South America.
Barbie: The Album
Release date: July 21
The most-awaited summer flick of 2023 also comes with a staggering soundtrack. Scored by producers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, Barbie: The Album features songs by hot stars like Dua Lipa, Lizzo, and Ice Spice, as well as some surprising additions, such as psychedelic star Tame Impala and K-pop rookie sensation Fifty Fifty.
As undecipherable and alluring as the actual movie plot, the album tracklist only increases expectations for Greta Gerwig's upcoming oeuvre. Is it all a satire? Is it a serious take on "life in plastic" and consumerism? Is it about nothing at all? You can try to find some clues through pre-release singles "Dance the Night" by Dua Lipa, "Watati" by Karol G, and "Angel" by PinkPantheress.
Greta Van Fleet, Starcatcher
Release date: July 21
Fans who attended the three final shows of Greta Van Fleet's Dreams in Gold Tour this March already got a sneak peek of the band's upcoming third studio album, Starcatcher. Among their most popular hits, the quartet played five new songs — or half of Starcatcher — including singles "Meeting the Master," "Sacred the Thread," and "Farewell for Now."
In a statement about the album, drummer Danny Wagner said that they "wanted to tell these stories to build a universe," and that they wanted to "introduce characters and motifs and these ideas that would come about here and there throughout our careers." Bassist Sam Kiszka adds: "When I imagine the world of Starcatcher, I think of the cosmos. It makes me ask a lot of questions, like 'Where did we come from?' or 'What are we doing here?' But it's also questions like, 'What is this consciousness that we have, and where did it come from?'"
Just a few days after release, Greta Van Fleet will embark on a world tour. Starting in Nashville, Tennessee on July 24, they will cross the U.S. and then head over to Europe and the UK in November.
Post Malone, AUSTIN
Release date: July 28
In a shirtless, casual Instagram Reel last May, hitmaker Post Malone announced his upcoming fourth studio album, AUSTIN, to be released on July 28. Titled after his birth name, the singer shared that "It's been some of the funnest music, some of the most challenging and rewarding music for me, at least" — a very different vibe from the more mellow, lofi sounds of 2022's Twelve Carat Toothache — and that the experience of playing the guitar on every song was "really fun."
Featuring 17 tracks (19 on the deluxe version), AUSTIN is preceded by the dreamy "Chemical" and the angsty "Mourning," and sees Malone pushing his boundaries in order to innovate on his well-established sound. The album will also be supported by a North American 24-date trek, the If Y'all Weren't Here, I'd Be Crying Tour, starting July 8 in Noblesville, Indiana and wrapping up on August 19 in San Bernardino, California.
Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set
Release date: July 28
To measure Stevie Nicks' contribution to music is an insurmountable task. The Fleetwood Mac singer and songwriter has composed dozens of the most influential, well-known rock classics of the past century ("Dreams," anyone?), also blooming on her own as a soloist since 1981, when she debuted with Bella Donna.
In the four decades since, seven more solo albums followed, along with a trove of rarities that rightfully deserve a moment in the spotlight. Enter: her upcoming vinyl box set, Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities. The 16xLP collection compiles all of her work so far, plus a new record with the aforementioned rarities, and is limited to 3,000 copies. It's also the first time that Trouble in Shangri-La, In Your Dreams, and Street Angel are released on vinyl. For those who can't secure the limited set, a version of Complete Studio Albums & Rarities with 10xCDs will be available digitally.
Joni Mitchell, At Newport
Release date: July 28
Last year's Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island was one to remember. During one evening of the fest, a surprise guest graced the "Brandi Carlile and Friends" stage: it was none less than legendary folk star, Joni Mitchell. And what's more? It was her first live appearance since 2015, when she suffered a debilitating aneurysm.
During that time, the 79-year-old singer quietly held "Joni Jams" at her home in Los Angeles — inviting musicians that ranged from Elton John to Harry Styles to participate — with organizational support offered by Carlile. With Mitchell's special appearance at Newport, the coveted experience of a Joni Jam was available for thousands of fans.
This month, the release of At Newport eternalizes the headlining-making moment, bringing her talents to an even bigger audience. Among the classics in the tracklist are "Carey," "A Case of You," and "The Circle Game," proving that Mitchell is still as magical as when she stepped on the Newport Folk Festival stage for the first time, in 1969.
Jennifer Lopez, This Is Me… Now
Release date: TBD
In 2002, J.Lo was everywhere. Her relationship with actor Ben Affleck ensued heavy attention from the media, and her This Is Me… Then album — which featured hits like "Jenny from the Block" — was a commercial success, with over 300,000 first-week sales in the U.S.
How funny is it that, 20 years later, the singer and actress finds herself in a similar situation. After rekindling with Affleck in 2021, she announced the sequel to her 2002 release, This Is Me… Now, and stated in an interview with Vogue that the album represents a "culmination" of who she is.
A press release also describes This Is Me… Now as an "emotional, spiritual and psychological journey" across all that Lopez has been through in the past decades. Fans can also expect more details on the new-and-improved Bennifer, as many of the titles among its 13 tracks suggest, especially "Dear Ben Pt. II."
Although an official release date has not yet been revealed, on June 29, Lopez posted a cryptic image on social media with the caption "album delivery day" — suggesting that the highly anticipated This Is Me update may not be far away.
Photo: PA Images via Getty Images
7 LGBTQ+ Connections In The Beatles' Story
As "Another Kind of Mind" podcasters Daphne Mitchell and Phoebe Lorde revealed in a recent episode, the Beatles' world had many LGBTQ+ people in it — not just their manager, Brian Epstein.
After 2,000 books and counting, is there much more to uncover about the Beatles' story? Apparently so, because two queer women who run a Beatles podcast — and a nonbinary singer/songwriter who made a queer Beatles rock opera — constellated something that even diehard fans may not know.
In a 2022 episode of their podcast "Another Kind of Mind" titled "Queering the Beatles," hosts Daphne Mitchell and Phoebe Lorde, interviewed Caleb Nichols about his eccentric and radiant 2022 album, Ramon — which explores his queer identity through the lens of Beatles fandom.
Of course, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were not gay, or otherwise. But through the academic lens of "queering" — that is, viewing something through a LGBTQ+ and/or queer theory lens — the three dug deep into their philosophical connections to LGBTQ+ identity, from their leather-bound early days in seedy bars, to their cultivation of an androgynous group look, to their rainbow-hued Sgt. Pepper suits.
Naturally, their transformative manager, Brian Epstein is a link to LGBTQ+ identity in Beatles lore — he was a closeted gay man, and tortured about it. Plus, there's that did-they-or-didn't-they holiday to Barcelona that Epstein took with Lennon — still a point of debate among diehards.
But aside from speculation and extrapolation, there is one core truth: LGBTQ+ people other than Epstein were around the Beatles throughout their history, and after they broke up. Some of these people were pivotal to their very existence — and a world without them would have resulted in a very different Beatles, or none at all.
As Pride Month winds down, read on for a list of queer figures in the Beatles' universe — compiled thanks to "Another Kind of Mind."
One Of Their Essential Cavern-Era Movers Was Gay
A larger-than-life figure in the Merseybeat scene and driving force behind the Carvern Club's success, Bob Wooler is crucial to the Beatles' early story; he played a pivotal role in introducing them to Brian Epstein.
Unfortunately, this connection took a dark turn at McCartney's 21st birthday party, in 1963 when Wooler made a reference to Lennon's Barcelona trip with Epstein, calling it a "honeymoon." A drunken Lennon proceeded to attack Wooler, landing him in the hospital.
A Gay Man Aided In Their Hair Evolution
Near the top of Martin Scorcese's must-see 2011 documentary on George Harrison, Living in the Material World, you'll see a teenaged George Harrison with an impressive coiff.
That photo — and hair — were by Jürgen Vollmer, a German student who befriended the future Fabs during their Hamburg days.
While Vollmer's sexuality isn't a public matter, it's established that he had a crush on Harrison; he even altered an I LIKE IKE badge to read I LIKE GEORGE.
"It was chemical," Vollmer once said. "I liked George the most. He was very quiet and shy, like me, and also a dreamer."
Paul McCartney Was Mentored By This Gay Art Dealer
Three hours into episode two of Peter Jackson's Get Back documentary, a suave gentleman, dressed to the nines, saunters into the studio. "Ah, here's to Robert Fraser," Lennon sings; the caption reads "Art dealer Robert Fraser."
Robert Fraser sold art to McCartney, but he was a whole lot more than that; he was a flamboyant, hard-partying dynamo, and a pivotal figure in the London art scene. His artists also worked on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and White Album covers; a Magritte painting he turned McCartney onto acted as inspiration for the Apple Records logo.
Fraser moved to India in the 1970s, and returned to the London scene in the early 1980s. Sadly, his life was cut short; he died of AIDS in 1986, at just 48.
The "TV Director" From A Hard Day's Night Was Played By A Gay Man
Remember the TV director in the fuzzy sweater A Hard Day's Night that the Beatles give a hard time? That's Victor Spinetti, the only non-Beatle appear in three Beatles films — Help! and Magical Mystery Tour included.
"George Harrison said, 'You've got to be in all our films,'" Spinetti later recalled. "I said, 'Why?' And he said, 'Well, if you're not in 'em, me mum won't come and see 'em 'cause she fancies you.'"
"Polythene Pam" Was Partly Inspired By A Bisexual Man
It's long been Beatles lore that Lennon's Abbey Road medley snippet "Polythene Pam" is about a strange character from the Beatles' Cavern days.
Pat Dawson (née Hodgett), a fan from their Liverpool days, used to consume the titular material.
"I used to eat polythene all the time. I'd tie it in knots and then eat it," she said in an interview — and that's how she became known as "Polythene Pat," which became "Pam."
"That was me, remembering a little event with a woman in Jersey, and a man who was England's answer to Allen Ginsberg," Lennon recalled in 1980. "I met him when we were on tour and he took me back to his apartment and I had a girl and he had one he wanted me to meet."
Who was said man? None other than Royston Ellis, a bisexual beat poet who often wrote homoerotic yarns.
He met the Beatles when they were the Silver Beetles, in the early 1960s. He once claimed to the four Beatles that "one in four men were queer"; as McCartney put it, "We looked at each other and wondered which one it was."
For that — and his debatable claim that he convinced them to drop the second 'e' in their name — Ellis's place in Fabs lore was set in stone. He passed a few months ago, in 2023.
A Gay Man Connected John Lennon And Elton John
"The first time I met John Lennon, he was dancing with Tony King." John later wrote in his 2019 memoir Me. "Nothing unusual in that, other than the fact that they weren't in a nightclub, there was no music playing and Tony was in full drag as Queen Elizabeth II." (This was for a TV advertisement for Lennon's then-new-album, Mind Games.)
Lennon and John went on to spend plenty of time together in what's known as Lennon's "Lost Weekend" period in the mid-'70s; they recorded a hit song together, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night." If that song resonates with you, thank King, who was gay.
Billy Preston, Who Helped Them Forge Ahead At The End, Was Gay
With the Get Back documentary in the rearview, the story of Billy Preston and the Beatles is etched in stone.
As the band seemed to reach its most threadbare, Preston came in and supercharged them with a newfound sense of jubilation. ("You're giving us a lift, Bill!" Lennon crowed at one point.)
Preston continued on as a Fabs associate post-breakup, especially with Harrison — although he performed on solo records by Lennon and Starr as well.
Although Preston remained vital through the '70s, his career took a downturn in the '80s. He had a string of drug, legal and personal issues in the ensuing decades, although he turned in a stunning performance during the Concert for George, as well as other noteworthy moments.
It wasn't widely known until after his 2005 death that Preston struggled with his homosexuality, through the lens of his Christianity and devotion to the church.
This recontextualizes the triumphal highs and desperate lows of Preston's story — and renders it a lesson in allowing people to be who they are. There are few more Beatlesque messages than that.