After a week of build-up, The Beatles have released what’s been billed as their “final song” called Now And Then, which has been 45 years in the making.
The first bars were written by John Lennon in 1978 and the song finally completed last year. All four Beatles feature on the track, which will be the last credited to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.
And in a full-circle moment, it’s being issued as a double A-side single with their 1962 debut Love Me Do.
“Now and Then” is available on streaming services, and the story behind the song’s production is one that’s drawn a lot of interest from fans of the iconic rock band. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr turned to breakthrough technology and machine learning to piece together a finished track from an old lo-fi John Lennon recording.
The story of Beatle’s Now and Then
The story begins in 1978, when Lennon recorded a demo with vocals and piano at his home in New York.
After his death, his widow Yoko Ono gave the recording to the remaining Beatles on a cassette that also featured demos for Free as a Bird and Real Love.
Those two songs were completed and released as singles in 1995 and 96, marking The Beatles’ first “new” material for 25 years.
The band also attempted to record Now And Then, but the session was quickly abandoned. “It was one day – one afternoon, really – messing with it,” producer Jeff Lynne recalled.
“The song had a chorus but is almost totally lacking in verses. We did the backing track, a rough go that we really didn’t finish.”
In the end, the quality of the recording was considered too poor to salvage. Harrison reportedly called it “rubbish”, but McCartney never let go of the idea.
The pivotal moment came earlier this decade, when director Peter Jackson was working on his comprehensive Get Back documentary for Disney Plus. His team developed a technology that allowed them to take practically any piece of music (even ancient demos) and “split all the different components into separate tracks based on machine learning.”
McCartney and Starr realized this was their opportunity to go back and give “Now and Then” the ending it deserved. “Now we could mix it and make a proper record of it,” McCartney said. He recorded a bass track, Starr added drums, and producer Giles Martin came up with a string arrangement “like Giles’ dad would’ve done in the old days.”
Hearing John and Paul sing the first chorus together, as they lock into the line ‘Now and then I miss you’ – it’s intensely powerful, to say the least,” said Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine.
“I cried like a baby when I heard it,” added BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne. “Just gorgeous.”