A Thousand Beautiful Things
A Thousand Beautiful Things is an enchanting song. Though not a ‘hit’ in the conventional sense, it was always special, and has gone on to occupy a place in the heart of many of Annie’s most devoted fans.
I got to know her through my working relationship with Dave Stewart in the 1990s – a time when Eurythmics were on a ten-year hiatus, and Dave and I were making a lot of records together for the likes of Sinead O’ Connor, Alisha’s Attic, Imogen Heap and others.
In 1998, Dave and Annie decided the time was right to make another Eurythmics record, and I was asked to work on it with them as a player and co-producer. Making the record gave me the chance to get to know Annie as the album progressed. And the finished article, ‘Peace’, was released a year later to great success.
From around that point, from 2000 onward, a lot of new doors started opening for me, and among the many opportunities I got a call from Simon Fuller about doing something with Annie on a possible new solo record.
We had no real plans to start with but I’d go around to her house in Highgate and we’d do preliminary work on Annie’s new songs, just the two of us – she had an upright Steinway in one of the rooms, we had some basic recording gear, and we’d demo new ideas, anything that felt right on the day.
She’d sing on a hand-held Shure SM58, sitting on a little sofa in this really small room – it was very down-to-earth and stripped back, very uncomplicated. But out of it came some very sophisticated and expressive songs including ‘Pavement Cracks’ and ‘A Thousand Beautiful Things’. I have a really strong memory of the first time we worked on it; it was a spring morning, the sun was shining, and that was the song she brought to our session that day. Right from the start it stood out – I remember putting on the rippling guitar part, which went on to become one of its signature motifs, thinking ‘this could be really special…’ Even then, it had the most beautiful feeling about it.
Later that year, we went out to Annie’s place in Mallorca to record it, which I think only enhanced it as a piece, and then we finished it at Metropolis studios back in London. The album was to go through many iterations over the next few years, being largely completed by Steve Lipson, but that song and that experience is something that will always stay with me – such simplicity in its earliest creation, finally such depth and resonance. A wonderful time spent with one of the music world’s greatest artists.