“Now And Then” will be released worldwide on Thursday, November 2 by Apple Corps as a double A-side with the band’s 1962 debut UK single, “Love Me Do”.
The story of “Now And Then” begins in the late 1970s, when John Lennon recorded a demo with vocals and piano at his home in New York’s Dakota Building. In 1994, Yoko Ono Lennon, gave the recording to Paul, George and Ringo, along with John’s demos for “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” which were both completed as new Beatles songs and released as part of The Beatles Anthology project.
At the same time, Paul, George and Ringo also recorded new parts and completed a rough mix for “Now And Then” with producer Jeff Lynne. However technological limitations prevented John’s vocals and piano from being separated to achieve the clear, unclouded mix needed to finish the song. As George’s widow Olivia Harrison explains: “Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard”. “Now And Then” was shelved, with a hope that one day it would be revisited.
Cut to 2021, and the release of “The Beatles: Get Back” series directed by Peter Jackson. The series utilized cutting edge audio technology to de-mix the film’s mono soundtrack, managing to isolate instruments and vocals, and individual voices within conversations. The remaining Beatles asked Peter Jackson and his sound team, led by Emile de la Rey, to apply the same technique to John’s original home recording of “Now And Then”, preserving the clarity and integrity of his original vocal performance by separating it from the piano.
Fans who attended Paul McCartney‘s recent Got Back Australian tour would have also enjoyed a “virtual duet” with John Lennon of “I’ve Got A Feeling” which utilized the same technology.
In 2022, Paul and Ringo set about completing the song. Besides John’s vocal, “Now And Then” includes electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995 by George, Ringo’s new drum part, and bass, guitar and piano from Paul, which matches John’s original playing. Paul added a slide guitar solo inspired by George; he and Ringo also contributed backing vocals to the chorus.
In Los Angeles, Paul oversaw a Capitol Studios recording session for the song’s wistful, quintessentially Beatles string arrangement, written by Giles Martin, Paul and Ben Foster. Paul and Giles also added one last, wonderfully subtle touch: backing vocals from the original recordings of “Here, There And Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Because,” woven into the new song using the techniques perfected during the making of the LOVE show and album. The finished track was produced by Paul and Giles, and mixed by Spike Stent.
Paul says: “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 says: “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.”
A 12-minute “Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song” documentary film, written and directed by Oliver Murray, will debut on November 1 on The Beatles YouTube channel. This poignant short film tells the story behind the last Beatles song, with exclusive footage and commentary from Paul, Ringo, George, Sean Ono Lennon and Peter Jackson.
This last installment of The Beatles’ recorded history will be followed by new editions of two compilation albums, 1962-1966 (‘The Red Album’) and 1967-1970 (‘The Blue Album’) with “Now And Then” added among additional bonus tracks to the inaccurately titled 1967-1970.