The Beatles Signing Off With “Now and Then”
Written by Molly Cannatella on November 13, 2023
The Beatles. Not much can be said about the legendary band that hasn’t been said before. They are the musical blueprint for successive generations, a cultural force. Their legacy is massive and, with the release of their latest single, expanding.
The two remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, have enlisted the help of some advanced tech to give The Beatles a pulse sixty years after the group started. The song is slated to be their last release, the final Beatles track.
“Now and Then” is a blad, a simple composition of guitar, bass, piano, and drums, with the added drama of some Beatles strings. Lyrics like “and if I make it through, it’s all because of you” and “I want you to be there for me, Always return to me” give the song a melancholy tone. It’s beautiful, maybe not the most shining in their catalog, but the historical and cultural context makes this song special.
The song’s story begins some odd fifty years ago, with some demos John Lennon recorded passively in his New York residence around 1970 before his assassination.
“When we lost John we knew that it was really over.”Paul McCartney, Now and Then the documentary
But was it? Twenty years later, in the mid-90s, a conversation between McCartney and Yoko Ono, Lennon’s wife, revealed that she had held onto some old cassettes. The tapes with Lennon demos. She gave them to the remaining members of the band.
These recordings later manifested into the Beatles’ three-album archival project, the anthology albums. Each album was meant to have one of Lennon’s original demos. Anthology 1 has “Free as a Bird,” and Anthology 2 has “Real Love.” “Now and Then” was supposed to appear on Anthology 3, but it didn’t.
In the initial 1995 anthology album session, the band experimented with “Now and Then,” but due to some technical limitations, the group was ultimately unable to record the song. In its original recording, Lenno’s vocals were coupled with a piano course, and at the time, they were unable to separate his voice from the piano’s music.
Then, six years later, in 2001, George Harrison tragically passed away. Hopes that “Now and Then” would see the light of day diminished further. Until… two decades later, when the Beatles started developing their 2021 documentary. The Beatles: Get Back, led by Peter Jackson.
“For the first three years, I was putting it together and was excited to see the footage but I was so frustrated by the audio because it was so noisy.”Peter Jackson, Esquire
While working on the project, Jackson was bothered by the audio clarity in most clips and came up with an inventive solution. The Get Back team created sophisticated software Inspired by tech used for surveillance by the New Zealand Police. The MAL machine is an advanced musical technology that can separate all the parts of a recorded track flawlessly.
In true Beatles fashion, McCartney and Starr jumped at the chance to utilize new recording technology to produce. Jackson was able to separate John’s voice from his piano. With Lennon’s Isolated vocals and recordings of Harrisons’ guitar intended for the song from the 1995 recording sessions, in 2023, we have a Beetles track with original contributions from all four members.
“Now and Then” was released November 2nd, 2023, with a remix of “Love Me Do,” the band’s first single released in 1963.
“The rock ‘n’ roll group, which may become Britain’s most successful export since the bowler.”New York Times 1964
From four-track tapes to AI, the Beatles and their legacy have weathered the ever-changing music landscape for 63 years. They are something everyone has in common, and their contribution to the music industry is immeasurable. The latest and final contribution to their musical catalog, “Now and Then,” is a beautiful and melancholy goodbye and a perfect sign-off from my favorite band.