- 21 Feb 21
On February 21, 2001, U2's hit single 'Beautiful Day' took home three awards at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards – winning 'Record of the Year', 'Song of the Year' and 'Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal'. To celebrate, we're revisiting Niall Stokes' reflections on the classic track.
When Jimmy Iovine landed in Dublin amidst U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind sessions at the turn of the millennium, he was given a preview of what was going down in the studio. One of the great rock producers (John Lennon, Patti Smith) turned Interscope mogul, Iovine had worked with the band on Rattle And Hum. The lyrics were only half-crafted but he still got that sensation of being overwhelmed by the power of the music when he listened to ‘Beautiful Day’ in its formative stages. “You’ve landed a big bass,” he told them, applying an angling metaphor. Now all they had to do was to reel it in...
‘Beautiful Day’ started as another song entirely. Brian Eno had got the show on the road, coming up with the beat, a kind of contemporary twist on a Bo Diddley classic. Edge found a guitar sequence that went with it, and Eno did about ten different renditions of that. In a moment of spontaneous invention, Bono yelled out the declamatory chorus that would take the song into another dimension.
“The track at that point was really pumping,” Daniel Lanois remembers, “and the mix that we did had the power of shattered metal. You don’t know where it comes from – I think it was a lot of processing. And I had this image of Bono, singing about beauty in the midst of flying pieces of metal and mayhem. It was only a glimmer at the end of the jam version.
“It’s like a hymn,” Lanois adds. “I believe that song has that in its backbone. So I kept fighting for the track and I did an even more transcending mix of it. The verse had never really been established lyrically but we just knew we had something special in the chorus. It wasn’t an easy one to pull into the boat, but it was worth fighting for.”
When Steve Lillywhite arrived in and polished it up even more with a sparkling final mix, they had the opening track, the lead single – and a monumental U2 anthem that would run and run, delivering them back to the No 1 spot in singles charts all over the world and garnering U2 three Grammy Awards.
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