The Curious Tale Of The Last Beatles Song “Now And Then”
via The Beatles / YouTube
In 2023, Paul McCartney believes there’s one unfinished piece of business for the Beatles, a song called “Now and Then.” This song was originally sketched by John Lennon in the late 1970s, and the surviving Beatles attempted to complete it in the mid-1990s during the making of their Anthology documentary.
With the help of machine learning techniques developed by Peter Jackson, who directed the 2021 Beatles documentary Get Back, McCartney and Ringo Starr were allowed to finish “Now and Then.” This song is now referred to as “the last Beatles song” and will be released after a long wait of 26 years since it was originally intended for the Anthology 3 album.
“Now and Then” will not only be released as a standalone track but will also be included in a deluxe reissue of the Red Album and Blue Album, which are career-spanning Beatles compilations.
The song was part of the unfinished work of “the Threetles,” the name given to McCartney, Starr, and George Harrison when they reunited. In the past, it might have gone unnoticed, but today it is being celebrated as an event, marking the end of the iconic rock band.
“Now and Then” started as a song that Lennon wrote during his time in seclusion at the Dakota apartment building. It was one of four unfinished Lennon songs given to the surviving Beatles by Yoko Ono for Anthology. While “Free as a Bird” was successfully completed, “Now and Then” presented challenges, and the attempt to finish it was abandoned in the 1990s.
With Peter Jackson’s Help
After Harrison’s passing in 2001, the dynamics within the Beatles changed, and McCartney finally had the chance to complete “Now and Then.” He had been talking about finishing the song for decades, and the opportunity came in 2022 thanks to Peter Jackson’s innovative audio techniques.
McCartney saw “Now and Then” as a song that called for his contributions, much like “Free as a Bird.” The finished product is a deliberate and skillful production that conceals the gap between Lennon’s original recording and McCartney’s new vocal.
Apart from certain Lennon and Harrison parts and Starr’s drums, McCartney performed nearly all of the instrumentation on the song. The song carries a sense of loving tribute to Lennon, particularly in the guitar solo.
A Touching Tribute
“Now and Then” has a wistful quality, reflecting on what was given and what was lost. McCartney made subtle changes to Lennon’s words, adding a touch of his own, and the recording focuses on the instruments rather than vocal harmonies.
In the end, “Now and Then” serves as a fitting conclusion to the Beatles’ recorded career, emphasizing the partnership and shared emotions between Lennon and McCartney. It’s not a summation but a coda, conveying the band’s achievements and losses.