The music world is abuzz with anticipation as the release of the long-awaited and mythical Beatles song “Now And Then” draws near.
This unfinished demo, originally recorded by John Lennon in 1979, has piqued the curiosity of Beatles enthusiasts for decades.
The official release date for this extraordinary track is set for November 2 at 10 AM ET. In this article, we delve into the fascinating story behind this song and its remarkable journey to completion.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence
The story of “Now And Then” wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the role of advanced technology, specifically artificial intelligence. Paul McCartney, one of the legendary Beatles, teased the song’s release earlier this year.
He revealed that AI played a part in the final track’s creation, albeit not the dystopian AI often portrayed in popular culture. Instead, the process involved cutting-edge audio restoration techniques similar to those used in Peter Jackson’s documentary, “The Beatles: Get Back.”
Isolating Lennon’s Vocals
The magic behind “Now And Then” lies in the ability to isolate John Lennon’s vocals from the original home demo recording. Recorded on a piano, this demo presented a unique challenge. McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison had made an attempt to finish the song in the mid-’90s while working on two other Lennon demos, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” for “The Beatles Anthology.”
However, they faced multiple obstacles, including the tape’s quality, which hindered contemporary technology from adequately separating Lennon’s vocals from the piano. Additionally, it’s rumored that Harrison had reservations about the track.
The Resurgence of “Now And Then”
Inspired by the success of the audio restoration in “The Beatles: Get Back,” McCartney and Starr dedicated the past year to finally completing “Now And Then.” This commitment was clearly outlined in a press release.
The finished track includes John’s unmistakable vocals, electric and acoustic guitar recordings from 1995 by George, Ringo’s new drum part, and contributions from Paul, encompassing bass, guitar, and piano to match John’s original playing. Paul even added a slide guitar solo inspired by George. Both McCartney and Starr lent their voices to the chorus, resulting in a genuine Beatles recording.
A Touch of Nostalgia
In a fitting nod to the Beatles’ past, a Capitol Studios recording session in Los Angeles was supervised by Paul. It led to a wistful and quintessentially Beatles string arrangement, penned by Giles Martin, Paul, and Ben Foster. But the nostalgia didn’t stop there.
Paul and Giles also incorporated backing vocals from the original recordings of “Here, There And Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Because.” These vocals were seamlessly woven into the new song using techniques perfected during the making of the LOVE show and album. The final track was produced by Paul and Giles and mixed by Spike Stent.
The Emotional Impact
McCartney shared his emotional reaction to the project, stating, “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it; it’s a genuine Beatles recording. 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.” Ringo Starr concurred, emphasizing how it felt like John was present in the room during the recording process.
A Time Capsule
Olivia Harrison, George’s widow, also expressed her thoughts on the project. She mentioned that back in 1995, technical challenges with the demo seemed insurmountable for George, leading to the decision to shelve the project. She believes that if George were here today, he would have eagerly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of “Now And Then.”
Even Sean Ono Lennon, John Lennon’s son, provided a heartfelt quote for the release. He described the experience as incredibly touching and emphasized the significance of this track as the last song his father, along with Paul, George, and Ringo, got to make together. It truly feels like a time capsule, a piece of history meant to be.
A Glimpse Behind the Scenes
Before the song’s official release, a 12-minute documentary short directed by Oliver Murray will premiere on November 1 at 3:30 PM EDT. This documentary offers an in-depth look at the making of the last Beatles song, providing fans with a rare glimpse behind the scenes.
In addition to “Now And Then,” fans can look forward to new editions of the Beatles’ iconic compilations, “1962-1966” (also known as “The Red Album”) and “1967-1970” (“The Blue Album”) on November 10. These collections feature expanded tracklists, and all songs have been remixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos, promising an enhanced listening experience for Beatles enthusiasts.
The release of “Now And Then” marks a significant moment in music history, allowing fans to experience the magic of the Beatles one last time. As the song becomes available, it promises to be a heartfelt tribute to the enduring legacy of this legendary band.