The Beatles’ ‘Now And Then’ Is Wistful Curiosity, 45 years In The Making


First, let’s address the most obvious criticism: “Now and Then,” which is labeled as The Beatles’ last single, is not good enough to match the likes of “Let It Be,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” or any other Beatles song that you may have as your all-time favorite. The song started out as a simple demo, just John Lennon recording it at home in the late 1970s with a boombox and a TV playing in the background. It has now grown into a respectable full-band production.

Not less fascinating than the music itself is the tale of how it was made. The group started working on “Now and Then” in the middle of the 1990s, during the sessions that finished the “last Beatles songs” (Free As a Bird, 1995; Real Love, 1996). It’s important to remember that George Harrison recorded a guitar part for “Now and Then,” especially considering his passing in 2001.

The issue: Lennon’s demo wasn’t showroom-ready due to the initial recording quality, a lingering hiss, and the TV in the background. The song was shelved because they were unable to sufficiently separate his singing and piano to get them to the desired level of quality.

Artificial intelligence was used in this situation. Artificial intelligence (AI) assisted in separating John Lennon’s voice, his piano, and the unnecessary background noise and hisses that needed to be eliminated. Peter Jackson employed this similar technique to restore the film that comprised his massive 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back. Despite the outcry over The Beatles using artificial intelligence (AI), this isn’t some zombie AI John Lennon composed and performed a song from scratch.

Nevertheless, “Now and Then” never rises above its intended status as an earnest, skillfully presented curiosity. It’s simple to understand how Lennon’s remarks might have more significance for the two Beatles who are still alive: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. They undoubtedly remember their late companions with a mixture of regret and thankfulness.

“Now and then / I miss you / Oh, now and then / I want you to be there for me / Always to return to me.”

But as that passage implies, “Now and Then” isn’t really all that poetically, apart from broad admiration, nostalgia, and intense melancholy. This emotional mash-up is fitting for The Beatles in 2023, when half of the band has passed away far too young and the other half is reflecting on John Lennon’s statements from the perspective of their early 80s.

However, this is hardly a deep analysis, and even with his vocals boosted, Lennon’s performance was undoubtedly not what he would have wanted the song to sound like in the end.

That gives us four uncomplicated, improbable completed minutes of closure. “Now and Then” will never be able to match the caliber of the earlier works. However, it also could never lessen it. It would be best to leave it at that and cherish every Beatles minute we have left.