- 02 Nov 23
The single, written by John Lennon 45 years ago, was released today. An official music video directed by Peter Jackson is due tomorrow, November 3, featuring unseen early footage of the iconic rock band.
A song 45 years in the making, The Beatles released ‘Now And Then’ today, marking what has been dubbed as the last new release from the band. The track was written and sung by John Lennon in 1978, and since developed and worked on by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, with McCartney and Starr finishing it over the last year.
‘Now And Then’ features all four Beatles on the song credits, and has been billed as their ‘final song’ during the band’s new short film, Now And Then - The Last Beatles Song.
While the original demo has been floating around as a bootleg for years, the recorded version released today required decades of improvement – and an AI-generated software – to reach a production level that would do justice to Lennon’s unfinished tune.
The story of the song begins in 1978, when Lennon first recorded the demo with simple vocals and piano at home in New York. After his death, his wife Yoko Ono passed the recording on a cassette to the three remaining Beatles, along with demos for ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love.’
The other two songs were completed and released as singles in 1995 and 96, after a 25-year hiatus of new Beatles material. As for ‘Now and Then,’ the track wasn’t quite there yet – and wouldn’t be, until now.
At the time the band received the demo of the song, the audio quality was too poor to save. Harrison reportedly deemed the song “rubbish” after toying around with it one day in the studio.
"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."
However, McCartney refused to let go of the track, confident that it would eventually resurface. That time came during the making of The Beatles’ Get Back documentary, when director Peter Jackson’s film company created a software which allowed them to ‘de-mix’ fuzzy recordings of overlapping sounds.
This software, called the WingNut Films’ MAL audio technology, was used last year to create a new mix of the band’s staple album, Revolver. The same technology was used for ‘Now And Then’ to lift Lennon’s vocals from the original cassette demo and remove the background noise that had originally prevented the song’s completion.
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it's a genuine Beatles recording,” said McCartney of the song. “In 2023 to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
Starr added, “It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”
Besides Lennon’s vocals, ‘Now And Then’ includes electric and acoustic guitar parts recorded in 1995 by Harrison, Starr’s newly added drum part, and bass, guitar and piano from McCartney, which matches John’s original demo recording; McCartney also added a slide guitar part, inspired by Harrison, and contributed backing vocals to the chorus alongside Starr.
The finished single was produced by McCartney and Giles and mixed by Spike Stent.
The release of ‘Now And Then’ is a full-circle moment, issued as a double A-side single along with the band’s 1962 debut ‘Love Me Do.’ The first and the very last, side by side.
Fans have reacted to the release with emotion and nostalgia on X/Twitter, with one user writing, “Think about it. A group that disbanded over 50 years ago is creating this much hype today. I love it.”
— Abbey Lane Beatles Podcast (@AbbeyLanePodC) October 25, 2023
“The moment John’s voice emerges from that old cassette,” another shared.
“It's days like this I'm reminded of the genius of John Lennon,” wrote one user.
The new Beatles song arrives on streaming services today. CD, vinyl and cassette copies will be available tomorrow, November 3, and from November 10 the track will be included on the newly remastered and expanded Red and Blue greatest hits albums.
Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, shared his thoughts on the release, “It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years that Dad had been gone,” he said. “It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”
Documentary director Peter Jackson created the music video for the song, which will be released tomorrow, November 3. It contains previously-unseen footage of the band in their early years, provided by original drummer Pete Best and his brother, Roag.
Of the video, Jackson shared, “We wove the humour into some footage shot in 2023. The result is pretty nutty and provided the video with much needed balance between the sad and the funny."
Listen to ‘Now And Then,’ the final Beatles’ song below.
Browse The Record Hub's full Beatles collection here.
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