How The Beatles put together their last song ... in 2023
Sixty years after Beatlemania first took hold of fans — a frenzy that only intensified as the Liverpool band made their U.S. debut on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ — The Beatles are releasing their last song
Sixty years after Beatlemania first took hold of fans — a frenzy that only intensified as the Liverpool band made their U.S. debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” — The Beatles are releasing their last song.
Every single Beatle — including the late John Lennon and George Harrison — can be heard on the track “Now and Then,” which will be released Thursday.
Here’s a look at how it all came together.
The history of the Beatles song ‘Now and Then’
“Now and Then” stems from a 1970s demo of Lennon’s. It was one of a few unfinished songs Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, gave to the remaining Beatles when the group was working on its “Anthology” project in the 1990s, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr initially tried to bring “Now and Then” to life for “Anthology,” but the track was too muddied, with Lennon’s voice and the melody too hard to tease out from the piano at times.
McCartney has said in the past that Harrison didn’t like the song, but in a recent statement from Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison, she attributed the disdain at the time to “technical issues.”
“Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard,” Harrison said in a statement, per the Los Angeles Times. “If he were here today, (son) Dhani and I know he would have wholeheartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of ‘Now and Then.’”
Now, thanks to artificial intelligence and “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, “Now and Then” will serve as a final parting gift of sorts to Beatles fans throughout the world.
How ‘Now and Then’ came to life
In 2021, Jackson directed the documentary series “The Beatles: Get Back,” which used assistance from AI to minimize background noise from several hours of 1969 footage so viewers could get a better glimpse of the process behind creating the album “Let it Be.”
The director again applied AI technology to “Now and Then,” using it to separate Lennon’s voice from the demo, The Guardian reported.
“A few seconds later … there it was. John’s voice, crystal clear,” McCartney says in the short documentary, “Now and Then — The Last Beatles Song,” which hit Disney+ on Wednesday, per Variety. “Peter took John off and gave him his own track. It’s like John’s there, you know — it’s far out.”
They still had Harrison’s rhythm guitar parts from that 1995 recording session. So last year, McCartney and Starr recorded new bass and drum parts for the song. McCartney also added in some slide guitar as a tribute to Harrison, according to Variety.
“And then we started mixing it,” McCartney says in the new documentary, per Variety. “Wow. This is it. Now it’s a Beatle record.”
A celebration of The Beatles
It’s been over 40 years since Lennon’s murder, and more than 20 years since Harrison’s death. While “Now and Then” has largely been unknown to Beatles fans over the years, it’s something that has long weighed on McCartney’s mind.
Finishing it, he believes, is a fitting tribute and worthwhile end to all they accomplished.
“How lucky was I to have those men in my life and to work with those men so intimately and to come up with such a body of music, to still be working on Beatles music in 2023,” McCartney says in the “Now and Then” documentary, according to Variety. “Wow. We’re actually messing around with state-of-the-art technology, which is something the Beatles would have been very interested in. ‘Now and Then,’ it’s probably like the last Beatles song. And we’ve all played on it, so it is a genuine Beatle recording.”
“Now and Then” will be released Thursday, available for streaming on services including Amazon Prime Music, Spotify and Apple Music. A special music video directed by Jackson will follow the release on Friday.