How The Beatles won a Grammy Award for a nearly 60-year-old song

6 February 2024, 12:43

The Beatles – Revolver Special Edition boxset trailer

By Mayer Nissim

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The Beatles have an interesting history at the Grammy Awards.

That's partly because in its earliest days the industry bash was very much an anti-rock 'n' roll affair, with more traditional crooners dominating proceedings.

That began to change over the years, and like much in pop at the time The Beatles were at the very centre of that.

They picked up four nods in 1965, winning Best Performance by a Vocal Group for 'A Hard Day's Night' and – inexplicably given they were three UK albums and SIX US albums in at the time – Best New Artist.

The following year they were the first rock band to be nominated for Album of the Year, with their Help! missing out to then-Grammys favourite Frank Sinatra with September of My Years.

The Beatles - I'm Only Sleeping

Eventually, The Beatles racked up six wins by 1971, scooping up another three gongs around Anthology, and 'Free As A Bird' a couple more for Love, and Best Historical Album in 2011 for The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings) (aka The Beatles: Stereo Box Set).

So the band have been as successful at the Grammys after the split as they were during their remarkable lifetime, but all their recent-ish awards have been for either newly-put together work (the Anthology films and the 'Free As A Bird' single, the radical Love project), or in a category explicitly designed for reissued music from the past.

So if you heard The Beatles won an award in 2024, you might well assume it was for the stunning 'Now and Then', which was pieced together from an old John Lennon demo, the Threetles 1990s reunion including George Harrison's guitar work and new bits only recently added by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

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But the Grammy eligibility window is startlingly early. The 2024 awards only considered releases from October 1, 2022 to September 15, 2023.

That's four-and-a-half months before the ceremony, and six weeks before the release of 'Now and Then'.

So when The Beatles won a Grammy Award at the weekend it was for an older song. A much older song.

Em Cooper wins the 2024 Grammy Award for her Beatles video
Em Cooper wins the 2024 Grammy Award for her Beatles video. Picture: Alamy

The track that picked up a bauble on Sunday night was 'I'm Only Sleeping', released way back in 1966 on the band's classic Revolver.

Only one double-A-side single was released from the album at the time, the seriousface/silly double-header of 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'Yellow Submarine'.

So why is a 58-year-old album track winning awards in the 2024 Grammys?

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Well, back on October 28, 2022 – just inside the eligibility period for this year's awards – Revolver was re-released in a bunch of newly-mixed and expanded Special Edition package, including a massive 5CD version.

To accompany the release, the band commissioned a new music video for 'I'm Only Sleeping, directed by Em Cooper, and released the following month.

For the remarkable film, Cooper painted over 1,300 film cells individually.

"IM ONLY SLEEPING" Wins Best Music Video | 2024 GRAMMYs

"Literally, I paint and then I shoot that individual frame straight away, and then I move on to the next one," she told Animation World.

"It's like paint and shoot it, and then repaint. I might wipe it and repaint it or keep it wet and morph it like it's painted on glass. Each photograph shows an entirely new painting. It's kind of a stop-motion process."

And all that hard work paid off, with the video beating promos for more recent songs by Tyler Childers, Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar and Troye Sivan.