Very few bands have had the cultural outreach and sustainability as The Beatles. The Fab Four have managed to bridge generations and entertain hundreds of millions of people, even over half a century after their breakup. The nearly universal love and admiration for their music has only been amplified over the past few weeks with an uproar of excitement for their latest and final single, “Now and Then.”
The story of this song dates back to John Lennon circa 1977. Lennon recorded a solo acoustic demo for the song, never to be finished before his untimely murder. In 1994, Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, gave the cassette to former Beatle Paul McCartney; the tape had the words “For Paul” written on it.
The track was originally planned to be completed in 1996 for The Beatles’ “Anthology” series, along with other Lennon demo tapes like “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.” While the latter two were eventually finished and put out on the aforementioned “Anthology” album, “Now and Then” never quite made the cut. Members of the band cited the poor quality of the demo’s cassette tape.
Following the track’s abandonment, the original demo was put into storage by McCartney and largely forgotten about for the next 20 years. It wasn’t until 2023 that McCartney, joined by Ringo Starr, would revisit and complete the song. The quality of the original demo was greatly improved using AI restoration. As it stands, “Now and Then” is the final song to ever feature all four of The Beatles members. To call it the end of an era would be an understatement.
The track is accompanied by a music video made by Peter Jackson, who compiled footage of the band and created the documentary series “Get Back,” released on Disney+ in November 2021. The video features footage from several decades. Clips from several of the band’s music videos are used in tandem with shots of the members. All of the footage used is intertwined to create a retrospective look at the band and its members. The video serves as a tribute to Lennon and George Harrison, as well as a love letter to their fans who have supported them for the past 50 years.
Now, onto the song itself, “Now and Then” is a somber, reflective, psychedelic ballad. Mainly sung by Lennon, with vocals accompaniment by the other three Beatles. It’s an ethereal song that harkens back to previous Beatles releases like “Free as a Bird” or “Eleanor Rigby.” On its own, it’s not a standout track, but that’s not really the point. The spectacle of this release more than makes up for any kind of blemishes that come with this song. The somber nature of the tune and its retrospective music video will cause many to tear up, especially those who are particularly fond of the band.
While this release might not be the greatest Beatles song, it’s an amazing thing to hear. “Now and Then” is bittersweet, but it’s a fantastic sendoff to one of the most influential musical artists of all time.