Before delving into “Now and Then,” the song hailed as The Beatles’ final single, let’s acknowledge the obvious – it faces the daunting task of standing alongside iconic Beatles classics like “Let It Be” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Originally a humble demo by John Lennon, recorded in the late ’70s with the background noise of a TV, this song is now a full band production.
The fascinating tale of its production is as captivating as the song itself, if not more so. The Beatles initiated the process of refining “Now and Then” in the mid-’90s, during the sessions that culminated in the release of previous “last Beatles songs” – “Free As a Bird” in 1995 and “Real Love” in 1996. Notably, George Harrison recorded a guitar part for “Now and Then,” a crucial contribution given that he passed away in 2001. The stumbling block was the original tape’s quality, characterized by a persistent hiss and constant background TV noise. Lennon’s demo couldn’t be polished to showroom perfection, especially when it came to isolating his vocal and piano. As a result, the song was shelved.
This is where artificial intelligence enters the narrative. Utilizing the same technology employed by Peter Jackson to restore footage for his 2021 documentary “The Beatles: Get Back,” AI played a pivotal role in separating Lennon’s vocals, his piano, and the unwanted background sounds and hisses. It’s essential to emphasize that AI’s involvement doesn’t entail creating a song from scratch but rather enhancing an existing piece.
Nevertheless, ‘Now and Then’ remains what destiny had intended it to be: a heartfelt and lovingly rendered curiosity. The lyrics primarily convey a sense of appreciation, nostalgia, and profound wistfulness. Lennon’s words take on greater significance when viewed through the lens of surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, who surely reflect on their departed comrades with a mix of sorrow and gratitude: “Now and then / I miss you / Oh, now and then / I want you to be there for me / Always to return to me.”
Despite these poignant moments, there isn’t much lyrical depth in “Now and Then,” and Lennon’s vocals, while enhanced, may not meet the standards he envisioned for the final product.
This leaves us with four simple yet poignantly complete minutes that offer a sense of closure. “Now and Then” may never surpass the extraordinary Beatles catalog that precedes it, but it also doesn’t diminish it. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of The Beatles. In the end, it’s best to appreciate this rediscovered gem for what it is and continue celebrating every Beatles moment we have.
The Beatles, arguably the most influential and iconic band in the history of popular music, need no introduction. Comprising John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, the Fab Four changed the musical landscape forever with their innovative sound and timeless songs. From the early days of “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You” to the groundbreaking “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the spiritual journey of “Let It Be,” The Beatles’ evolution as artists continually pushed the boundaries of creativity. Their impact extends far beyond music, as they became cultural and social revolutionaries of the 1960s. Even today, their melodies, harmonies, and lyrics continue to resonate, making them a beloved and enduring presence in the world of music.