It is 2023. Who would have guessed that the most iconic band from the 60s would still release music 53 years after their break up in 1970? The Beatles, comprised of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, is widely regarded as the most influential and greatest band of all time. They continue to act as a band, as their newest song was just released on Nov. 2, 2023. This song, titled “Now and Then,” has an incredibly long and interesting history that makes it very special to fans.
In order to explain how a true Beatles song was produced and released in 2023, we must go back to 1994. John Lennon was killed in 1980. But, fourteen years later, his wife, Yoko Ono, found tapes of unreleased and unfinished songs that Lennon had been working on. Ono gave these tapes to Paul McCartney, who had asked the other remaining members to help finish the songs.
There were three previously unreleased demos that Lennon had written and recorded in 1977: “Real Love,” “Free as a Bird,” and “Now and Then.” In 1995, The Beatles released “The Anthology Sessions,” which included more music and recording session outtakes, a documentary, and interviews with the three remaining members. With the three unreleased songs that Lennon had recorded, the three bandmates attempted to finish the lyrics and add Starr’s drumming, McCartney’s bass, and Harrison’s Guitar. “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were released in 1995 with the Anthology Albums; however, “Now and Then” had piano parts and vocals that were muffled with bad sound quality.
But in 2022, during the production of the documentary “Get Back,” McCartney and Starr were introduced to AI technology that could isolate specific sounds in recorded songs. They used this technology to separate the piano and vocals in the “Now and Then” recording and clean up the background sounds, explaining why they could not release the finished song until 2023. After they cleaned up the sound of the recording, McCartney and Starr used the guitar instrumental that the late George Harrison had recorded back in 1994 and added new bass and drums to finish the song.
Before he died, Lennon had written “For Paul” on the cassette of the “Now and Then” demo, making it incredibly special for McCartney to work on, given the significance of the song’s lyrics. Lennon sings, “It’s all because of you, and if I make it through, it’s all because of you. And now and then, if we must start again, well, we will know for sure that I will love you. Now and then, I miss you.” These lyrics are especially fitting for their last song.
Many Beatles fans who weren’t alive during the 60s, or even for the anthology albums released in the 90s, position themselves as people who missed out on the height and excitement of the Beatles. But, now, they are included in the “Now and Then” of The Beatles’ career. In other words, they get to participate in the excitement of having a new Beatles song released now, in their lifetime, written then.