“Now And Then”: The Beatles’ last song is released today

“Now And Then”: The Beatles’ last song is released today
Paul McCartney (from left), Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison
Image: dpa

Electric and acoustic guitars by George Harrison are from 1995.

The story of “Now And Then” begins in the late 1970s, when Lennon recorded a demo with vocals and piano in New York’s Dakota Building. In 1994, his wife Yoko Ono gave the recording to Paul, George and Ringo – along with Lennon’s demos for “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”. The latter two songs were completed for the “Anthology” project and released as “new” Beatles songs. The trio worked with producer Jeff Lynne on a rough mix for “Now And Then”. However, due to technical limitations at the time, it was not possible to separate Lennon’s vocals and piano. Therefore the song remained in the archive.

This is where Peter Jackson came into play. For the documentaries “The Beatles: Get Back”, the New Zealander and his team were able to unmix mono recordings and isolate instruments, vocals and all individual voices in the Beatles’ conversations using the so-called MAL audio technology from WingNut Films. That paved the way for a 2022 Revolver mix, taken directly from the four-track master tapes. This raises the question: What could be done with the “Now And Then” demo? The team actually managed to isolate the voice satisfactorily.

“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear”

“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” McCartney is quoted as saying in a broadcast. “It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it’s a real Beatles recording.” Starr adds: “We will never get any closer to the feeling of having him (Lennon, note) in the room with us again.”

In 2022, McCartney and Starr set about completing the song. Lennon and McCartney share lead vocals on “Now And Then.” Harrison’s guitar parts come from the failed attempt to complete the song for the “Anthology” series. Starr and McCartney re-recorded drums and bass, “Macca” added “a George-inspired slide guitar solo,” according to the broadcast. Strings were recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Producer Giles Martin and McCartney also used original background vocal tracks from “Here, There and Everywhere”, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Because” and incorporated them into “Now And Then”.

Last Beatles song

Widow Olivia Harrison gave her blessing to the project: “After working on this song for days in the studio back in 1995, George finally came to the conclusion that the technical problems associated with this demo recording remained simply insurmountable “He felt it was impossible to finish this song to meet sonic standards. If he were still with us today, he would have supported Paul and Ringo with all his might to finish ‘Now And Then’.”

Sean Ono Lennon was moved: “It’s the last song that my dad and Paul and George and Ringo were able to do together. It works like a time capsule. And you have the feeling that everything just had to happen that way.”

The single will be available digitally and on vinyl. On November 10th there will be new editions of the exhibitions “1962-1966” (“The Red Album”) and “1967-1970” (“The Blue Album”) from 1973, expanded with a total of 21 songs, which for many people were the introduction to the world of Beatles. There are now 75 tracks represented on both albums (CD and vinyl) – from the first single “Love Me Do” to the final “Now And Then”. Martin and Sam Okell remixed the songs at Abbey Road Studios, also in Dolby Atmos (available digitally). In addition, journalist and author John Harris contributed new essays as line notes.

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