Beatles, ‘Now and Then': Song Review
When the surviving Beatles reunited in the mid-'90s to work on the career-spanning Anthology series, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr assembled three new songs to add to the trio of albums tied into the multimedia project. Two of them - "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" - were released.
The third track assembled using tapes of solo John Lennon demos from the late '70s was shelved, but, nearly three decades after it was tentatively scheduled for release before Harrison dismissed it as "fucking rubbish," the song has finally surfaced.
"Now and Then" is being billed as the "last Beatles song," with McCartney and Starr incorporating Lennon's original demo and a guitar track recorded by Harrison, who died in 2001, with their contributions. Signs of the song's mid-'90s origins remain: Jeff Lynne, who co-produced "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" with Harrison, McCartney and Starr, receives an "additional production" credit alongside co-producers McCartney and Giles Martin, and his distinctive stamp can be heard at times.
But mostly "Now and Then" sounds like what it is: a song, like its two predecessors, put together in the studio using bits and pieces of material recorded over several decades. It's somewhat cold and clinical, a byproduct of its stitched-together history. But there's also an undeniable bittersweet charm.
READ MORE: Every Beatles Song Ranked
Because it was originally a Lennon song, "Now and Then" recalls his late-period solo work, from the restrained vocal to the plaintive melody that guides it. "Eleanor Rigby" strings, McCartney's harmonies, Starr's steady drumming and Harrison's guitar and backing vocals make it a "Beatles song," but there's no escaping its many tangled roots.
The internet is now crammed with AI-generated "What If?" Beatles tracks; this is the closest we're going to get to the real thing. Until the mythical "Carnival of Light" surfaces, this likely will be the last unheard song released by the group. However stitched-together "Now and Then" may be, it's heartwarming hearing all four members on a new recording after all these years.
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Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci