Dubbed “the last Beatles song”, ‘Now And Then’ has been over 45 years in the making. But how were we able to see the Fab Four come together again for a new song in 2023?
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Beginning its life as a demo, ‘Now And Then’ was written and recorded in the late 1970s by John Lennon at his apartment in The Dakota in New York City. Its lyrics were archetypal of the apologetic love songs written by Lennon during the latter half of his career, but the song was left unfinished and unreleased at the time of his death in December 1980.
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In 1994, his widow, Yoko Ono, gave Paul McCartney two cassettes (which she had previously mentioned to George Harrison), that contained unreleased and incomplete tracks of Lennon’s – including his working demos of ‘Free as a Bird’, ‘Real Love’, ‘Grow Old with Me’ and ‘Now And Then’. The then three remaining Beatles members (McCartney, Harrison and Starr) began to work on ‘Now And Then’ in March 1995 with the intention of releasing the song as part of their retrospective project, The Beatles Anthology, recording a rough backing track that was to be used as an overdub. However, after a few days of recording, the song was abandoned – largely due to Harrison’s dislike of the song, as the audio recording was of such poor quality.
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With Harrison passing away in 2001, it seemed even more unlikely that ‘Now And Then’ would be completed, but its production had a pivotal shift this decade thanks to technological advancement. When producing his 2021 documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, (a documentary about the making of the Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be), director Peter Jackson was able to use AI software to isolate instruments, vocals, and individual conversations from archival footage and recordings. Using this commissioned audio restoration technology, Lennon’s voice could be extracted from the cassette demo, separating it from the piano and providing clear vocals. This gave Paul and Ringo the chance to mix and finally finish ‘Now And Then’, keeping Harrison’s rhythm guitar sections that were recorded during the 1995 sessions.
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Since its release, ‘Now And Then’ has received critical acclaim from critics, topping charts and reaching number one on the UK Official Singles Chart in the band’s home country.
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