The untold story behind the Beatles last song ‘Now and Then’

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In 2023, Paul McCartney remains hopeful that there’s still a chapter left to the Beatles’ legacy.

For a long time, McCartney’s focus was on “Now and Then,” a song that John Lennon began in the late 1970s. The remaining Beatles tried to finalize it in the 1990s during the production of their documentary, “Anthology.”

In a twist of fate, recent machine learning advancements, spearheaded by Peter Jackson (the filmmaker behind the 2021 Beatles documentary “Get Back”), paved the way for McCartney and Ringo Starr to complete “Now and Then.” Now labeled as “the last Beatles song”, it’s set to be released this Friday, decades after its original planned debut in the “Anthology 3” collection. The song will also feature in an expanded edition of the iconic “Red Album” and “Blue Album.”

Given the current atmosphere, this new track might receive more attention now than it would’ve years ago. Once overlooked, “Now and Then” now marks a significant moment in rock history, signaling a final bow for the legendary Beatles.

However, promoting it as a major event might overshadow the song’s true essence. Lennon, during a quieter phase of his life, penned this gentle ballad which, though forgotten for years, always held a touching melody. When the Beatles were considering new songs for “Anthology”, Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, suggested four of his unfinished works. From these, they decided on “Free as a Bird” and “Now and Then,” seeing potential in both.

The Beatles, with the assistance of Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra, successfully produced “Free as a Bird”, enhancing Lennon’s original piece. However, when they tried to do the same for “Now and Then”, challenges arose. George Harrison, feeling the song lacked merit, eventually halted its progress.

With Harrison’s passing in 2001, McCartney found the space to revive the project. For years, he had spoken about his desire to complete “Now and Then.” Finally, in 2022, technological advancements allowed Lennon’s vocals to be extracted from a cluttered demo. This was a key hurdle back in the 90s.

The final version of “Now and Then” seems to invite McCartney’s touch. His connection with the song is evident in the production, carefully blending Lennon’s initial recording with fresh elements. Despite being apart for so long, McCartney masterfully blends his and Lennon’s voices, evoking a sense of unity and nostalgia.

This sense of unity is even reflected in McCartney’s nod to the late Harrison. Once irritated by Harrison’s slide guitar techniques, McCartney now adopts them in homage.

The final “Now and Then” track carries a deeper sentiment than previous reunion songs. It’s a mix of gratitude and sorrow. McCartney’s delicate touches, from removing some of Lennon’s original lyrics to adding his own, emphasize the song’s inherent emotion, offering a musical tribute to the legacy of the Beatles.

The song’s chorus beautifully captures the essence of Lennon’s and McCartney’s partnership – a blend of Lennon’s hopes and McCartney’s retrospection. “Now and Then” serves as a poignant endnote to the Beatles’ journey, reminding listeners of their timeless bond and the impact they’ve had on the world.

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