The Beatles Release Their Final Song, “Now and Then”: Hear the Song & Watch the Music Video Directed by Peter Jackson

The aver­age music fan of the nine­teen-six­ties would sure­ly have found it hard to believe that the Rolling Stones would put out a new album in 2023, let alone an album includ­ing a per­for­mance by Paul McCart­ney. Here in the twen­ty-twen­ties, of course, we’ve long since known that the “rival­ry” between the young Stones and Bea­t­les was ginned up by music media. Still, not to be out­done more than half a cen­tu­ry after their breakup, the lat­ter have put out the new­ly com­plet­ed “Now and Then,” the last song fea­tur­ing all the Fab Four that will ever be released.

“Now and Then,” or at least its title, will ring a bell in the minds of seri­ous Bea­t­les enthu­si­asts. For decades, it has been known as one of sev­er­al promis­ing songs John Lennon record­ed with­out fin­ish­ing. Oth­ers include “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” which McCart­ney, George Har­ri­son, and Ringo Starr built upon in the stu­dio and released in the mid-nineties to accom­pa­ny the doc­u­men­tary The Bea­t­les Anthol­o­gy. At that time, Lennon’s home demo of “Now and Then” proved trick­i­er to work with: “the piano was a lit­tle hard to hear,” says McCart­ney in its short mak­ing-of film, “and in those days, of course, we did­n’t have the tech­nol­o­gy to do the sep­a­ra­tion” of one instru­ment or voice from the oth­ers.

Enter Peter Jack­son, a Beat­le­ma­ni­ac pos­sessed of uncom­mon resources and tech­no­log­i­cal know-how. It turns out that the arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence-based sys­tem devel­oped to sep­a­rate out the audio tracks for the Get Back doc­u­men­tary project, which he direct­ed, could also be used to sal­vage the mud­dy “Now and Then.” At last, McCart­ney says, “we could mix it and make a prop­er record of it,” a task that also includ­ed his lay­ing down a new bass part and Starr doing the same for the drums. Each ele­ment led to anoth­er: “I’d been vague­ly think­ing, ‘Strings might be a good thing.’ The Bea­t­les did lots of strings, you know?” This was a job for none oth­er than Giles Mar­tin, son of George. (See the mak­ing-of video below.)

As luck would have it, Har­ri­son, who died in 2001, also record­ed a gui­tar part back in 1995, which inspired McCart­ney to add a slide gui­tar solo in the same style. The New York Times Jon Par­e­les also notes “back­ing vocals from ‘Here, There and Every­where,’ ‘Eleanor Rig­by’ and ‘Because’: ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ in har­mo­ny.” The result is a gen­uine Bea­t­les song as well as a gen­uine Bea­t­les record­ing, not just in per­son­nel but also in spir­it. No soon­er did the band get famous, remem­ber, than they began incor­po­rat­ing into their work every advanced stu­dio device and tech­nique at their com­mand. If high tech­nol­o­gy was a vital fac­tor in their music then, it’s even more of one now.

Note: The offi­cial music video above was direct­ed by Peter Jack­son.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Mak­ing of the Last Bea­t­les Song, “Now and Then”: A Short Film

How Peter Jack­son Used Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence to Restore the Video & Audio Fea­tured in The Bea­t­les: Get Back

Watch Paul McCart­ney Com­pose The Bea­t­les Clas­sic “Get Back” Out of Thin Air (1969)

A Sneak Peek of Peter Jackson’s New Bea­t­les Doc­u­men­tary Get Back: Watch the New Trail­er

Watch HD Ver­sions of The Bea­t­les’ Pio­neer­ing Music Videos: “Hey Jude,” “Pen­ny Lane,” “Rev­o­lu­tion” & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Douglas says:

    Mediocre at best. Why could­n’t they leave well enough alone? I am not sure what they are try­ing to prove.

    John and George are gone. The Bea­t­les were the great­est. Why reduce their leg­end to this?

    I would bet any­thing that John Lennon would call this video sil­ly.

  • Ab R.C. Dabra says:

    Sounds a lit­tle like the title song of a new James Bond movie: 007 Now and Then!

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