It was on the drive to the City Target with my dad and he was in control of the radio. He put on “Dig A Pony” by The Beatles, and in those few seconds before the song was about to begin, I had no idea that the next three minutes and fifty-five seconds would spur a years-long Beatles obsession. Ask me my favorite artist and I will immediately answer with The Beatles, no hesitation. I’ve seen two in concert, visited Abbey Road and Liverpool, collected vinyls and have even gone down the rabbit hole of the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy. I own four Beatles t-shirts. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that The Beatles would be releasing a “new” song on Nov. 2, accompanied by a short film of vaulted, never-before-seen footage of the band together.
“Now And Then” was released alongside a 2023 mixed version of the Beatles’ first single “Love Me Do” – a full circle moment and perfect way to close out the greatest rock and roll band in history.
Regarded as the last song all four Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) will be credited with, “Now And Then” marks the closing chapter of arguably the greatest rock band of all time. Although not comparable to masterpieces like “A Day in the Life,” “Hey Jude” or “She Loves You,” “Now And Then” perfectly sums up the Beatles’ discography—maybe more emotionally than musically— and has been met with wild praise.
In 1995, 15 years after John Lennon was shot outside his home in New York City, his wife, Yoko Ono, gave the remaining Beatles unfinished songs John had been working on. McCartney, Harrison and Starr met at McCartney’s home studio in Sussex, England to work on the songs, their first reunion since the band’s December 1974 breakup. “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were released later that year, but “Now And Then” was left behind due to a muddled track that was too difficult to separate and piece together again.
Fast-forward two decades later to the “Get Back” docuseries. New Zealand screenwriter and producer Peter Jackson worked with the surviving Beatles, McCartney and Starr, and used the technology he created to take old footage – in this case, footage from 1969 – and make it modern with newer production techniques. Out of the 55 hours of footage and 140 hours of audio, Jackson created the Disney Plus exclusive “Get Back,” which chronicled the writing and recording of the album “Let It Be” and The Beatles’ final concert on a London rooftop.
Using this same modern AI technology, Jackson was able to separate tracks on Lennon’s “Now And Then.” Harrison had already recorded guitar solos in the 1995 failed attempt to finish the song, and McCartney and Starr were able to record their bass and drum tracks on their own. McCartney also recorded a guitar solo in Harrison’s style, a tribute to him within the song. Lennon’s vocals were separated and made clear, and it is his iconic voice that is leading on the track. Along with the song, Jackson directed and produced a mini-documentary that broke down the process of creating “Now And Then,” which can be watched on Youtube. It combines footage from the 1995 recording sessions, when Harrison was alive, and the 2022 sessions.
The track begins in a familiar manner. The McCartney count-in. And then the piano chords and acoustic guitar, drastically different from the Beatles’ early works. And finally, Lennon’s voice, so crisp and clear, singing “I know it’s true / It’s all because of you / And if I make it through / It’s all because of you,” followed by an unmistakable Lennon vocalization. Then McCartney’s bass comes in along with Starr’s drums, something any fan could spot (or hear) from miles away. About halfway into the song comes a string ensemble, on par with classic Beatles’ songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Yesterday.” Perhaps keeping the Beatles in mind when he wrote it – or maybe not – Lennon’s lyrics evoke an emotional response from fans, and one would like to think that the last Beatles song is Lennon reminiscing on his time in the band. All four Beatles shine on “Now And Then,” even posthumously their sound is the same. It’s The Beatles.
“Now And Then” may not be a Beatles masterpiece and probably will not go down as one of the greatest songs ever. But the emotion it holds puts it right on up there with the rest of their discography. When “The Beatles” – known as the white album – was met with criticism, McCartney said in an interview, “It’s great! It sold! It’s the bloody Beatles white album! Shut up!” To quote him, “It’s great! It sold! It’s the bloody Beatles “Now And Then! Shut up!”
This appeared in the November 9th Daily Nexus printed edition.