Now and Then
Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr (see lyrics here)
Released: November 2, 2023
First Charted: --
Peak: -- (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 5.52 video, -- streaming
About the Song:
When the Beatles broke up in 1970, fans held out hope of an eventual reunion. John Lennon’s murder in 1980 squelched any dreams of the Fab Four ever working side by side in the studio or on the stage again, but it didn’t mean there would never be another Beatles’ song. In 1994, Yoko Ono – Lennon’s widow – gave the surviving members a tape of demos recorded by Lennon in the late ‘70s. They crafted “new” Beatles’ songs out of “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love,” which were released as part of the Anthology series.
They also worked on “Now and Then,” a song written and recorded by Lennon around 1977. WK The band added some instrumental backing, but Lennon’s piano drowned out his vocal in places. VY In his article for TheRinger.com, Ben Lindbergh called the original demo “spare, imperfect, and fittingly ghostly.” RG At the time, George Harrison (who died in 2001) apparently rejected the song as rubbish, but it isn’t clear if he disliked the song itself, the quality of the demo, or both. RG
Paul McCartney apparently always believed in the song. Supposedly Lennon’s last words to him were, “Think about me every now and then, old friend” RG which gave the song some poignant resonance. The estates of Lennon and Harrison signed off on giving the song another shot. Harrison’s widow, Olivia, proclaimed that “he would have wholeheartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording.” RG
Thanks to an artificial intelligence (AI)-backed audio restoration technology developed for the Beatles’ 2021 documentary Get Back, Lennon’s vocal on the original demo could be isolated from the piano accompaniment. The hum and background sounds were also removed. The new technology generated controversy from people mistakenly thinking the use of A.I. meant creating an artificial vocal of Lennon via the computer.
Guitar work from George Harrison during the 1995 efforts was added along with harmony samples from some of the Beatles’ original songs. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr also added new vocals and instrumentation to the piece along with orchestration. It comes complete with “Starr’s drums, a definitive McCartney bassline, subtle three-part harmonies on the backing vocals, [and] an orchestra playing a vaguely ‘Eleanor Rigby’-sh accompaniment.” VY McCartney also plays a brief slide guitar solo in tribute to Harrison. VY
The end result “is an amalgamation of music made over four different decades with varying levels of fidelity…it’s a wonder that it sounds as cohesive as it does.” RG What’s being billed as “the last Beatles song” is “sweet, nostalgic, and not excessively schmaltzy.” RG Liam Gallager, the former frontman of Oasis, has established a reputation for shredding any music that isn’t his, but called the song “absolutely incredible biblical celestial heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time.” UT Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield called it “the final masterpiece that the Beatles – and their fans – deserve.” WK
First posted 11/3/2023.