RAMBLIN': Is 'Now and Then' really "The Last Beatles Song"?

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Oct. 29—It's almost here, there and everywhere.

Paul McCartney revealed in June he and Ringo Starr had been working with producer Giles Martin and others for what he called the last Beatles song.

Although McCartney didn't mention the song by name at the time, Beatles sleuths, including myself, zeroed in on the unreleased John Lennon song, "Now and Then" as the most likely candidate.

Turns out we were right. The Beatles website has announced "Now and Then," billed as "The Last Beatles Song," is set for worldwide release on Thursday, Nov. 2, coming at 9 a.m. at Central Daylight Time.

Fittingly the single will be backed by a new stereo mix of The Beatles first UK hit record, "Love Me Do."

That's not all. A 12 minute documentary film titled "Now and Then — The Last Beatles Song" is set to debut on Wednesday, Nov. 1, a day before the official release of the song itself. A short trailer for the film is already available for viewing on The Beatles YouTube channel.

Release of the "Now and Then" single will be followed by the Nov. 10 rerelease of two earlier albums: "The Beatles 1962-1966," also known as "The Red Album" and "The Beatles 1967-1970," aka "The Blue Album."

Each includes additional tracks and new mixes, except for songs that were already remixed over the past few years for other projects.

At the time of the June announcement, McCartney said he had learned how to utilize Artificial Intelligence from Peter Jackson, who directed the acclaimed 2021 documentary "Get Back."

By using AI, McCartney said a previously abandoned track could be enhanced and finally made available for release.

That AI reference caused a furor among some Beatles fans, but I decided to keep an open mind.

After all, The Beatles and their producer George Martin had started to manipulate recording studio technology about midway in The Beatles career, about the time they were working on "Rubber Soul."

No, I wouldn't want AI used to generate a new take of a George Harrison guitar solo, for example, but if it's used to pull up some old submerged vocal tracks to make them more audible and clear, without artificially altering the vocals themselves, I could live with that.

Right after that June announcement regarding the release of "new" song by The Beatles, a few searches revealed I wouldn't have to wait until November to hear the song in its original form.

Not only were audio recordings of Lennon's original demo online, several others had already decided to try and update it themselves, including one group that billed themselves as The Beatles. They weren't.

I did learn that "Now and Then" is a haunting song, and I can't wait to hear the new version, produced by McCartney and Giles Martin, the son of The Beatles' original producer, George Martin.

Ironically, the new press announcement from The Beatles site does not mention AI at all in reference to the new recording of "Now and Then" — instead referring to using technology to make it possible.

McCartney and Starr added bass and drum parts to the new single, with McCartney also adding piano and guitar.

Parts previously recorded by Harrison were used — although not the slide guitar solo that is said to sound remarkably like The Beatles' lead guitarist. Nope, that's McCartney, playing a slide guitar solo "inspired by George Harrison."

That's so much better than using AI to generate a George Harrison soundalike solo.

The saga of "Now and Then" began in the late 1970s, when Lennon recorded a demo of the song with vocals and piano on a cassette tape where he and his wife, Yoko Ono, lived in the Dakota Building in New York City.

After Lennon was tragically assassinated in 1980, Yoko gave the remaining Beatles demos of some of Lennon's songs, including "Free As A Bird," "Real Love" and "Now and Then."

Working with producer Jeff Lynne, of Electric Light Orchestra and Traveling Wilburys fame, McCartney, Harrison and Starr completed the first two songs for inclusion on their project, "The Beatles Anthology," with ""Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" respectively released as singles in 1995 and 1996.

They gave up on "Now and Then," though — with Harrison particularly becoming disenchanted with trying to make a recording up to The Beatles' standards from the cassette recoding.

After Harrison died in 2001, it seemed almost certain there would be no "new" recordings featuring all four Beatles forthcoming.

That started to change though in 2021, after director Peter Jackson used what is now being called "WingNut Films' MAL Technology" to enhance the sound of The Beatles' voices and instruments for his acclaimed documentary film, "Get Back."

Ever the inquisitive sort, McCartney wondered if the new technology could be utilized to finally finish "Now and Then."

Here's how The Beatles announcement describes what happened next.

"Peter Jackson and his sound team, led by Emile de la Ray, applied the same technique to John's original home recording, preserving the clarity of and integrity of his original vocal performance by separating it from the piano."

The new version of "Now and Then" includes acoustic and electric guitar parts previously recorded by Harrison, along with the new instrumentation and backing vocals from McCartney and Starr.

They also added what is called a "wistful, quintessentially Beatles string arrangement" written by Giles Martin, along with McCartney and Ben Foster.

Here's one of the most intriguing parts for me: Martin also intertwined backing vocals from The Beatles recordings of "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Eleanor Rigby" from "Revolver" and "Because" from "Abbey Road" into the new version of "Now and Then."

Not only is that something I can't wait to hear, it's a creative way to get a Harrison vocal onto the track.

What do Paul and Ringo think of it? Here's a couple of quotes, courtesy of their website, beginning with McCartney.

"There it was, John's voice, crystal clear. It's quite emotional. And we all play on it; it's a genuine Beatles recording," McCartney said.

"In 2023, to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven't heard, I think it's an exciting thing."

Starr also spoke of his feelings about adding his drumming and backing vocals to Lennon's lead vocal track.

"It was the closest we'll ever have to having him back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us," Starr said.

With all the attention on "Now and Then," the reissues of "The Beatles 1962-1966" aka "The Red Album " and "The Beatles 1967-1970" aka "The Blue Album" is also sure to garner interest among Beatles fans, with generous inclusions of additional tracks and different mixes than the original 1973 releases.

"The Red Album" already included 26 songs, beginning with "Love Me Do" and extending to "Yellow Submarine."

I counted 12 additional tracks set to be added in the new rerelease, including some of my favorite deep cuts. New additions include:

—"I Saw Her Standing There."

—"Twist and Shout."

—"This Boy."

—"Roll Over Beethoven."

—"You Really Got a Hold On Me."

—"You Can't Do That."

—"If I Needed Someone."


—"Got to Get You Into My Life."

—"I'm Only Sleeping."

—"Here, There and Everywhere."

—Tomorrow Never Knows."

"The Blue Album" will include an additional nine tracks added to the 28 on the original release. They include:

—"Within You Without You."

—"Dear Prudence."

—"Glass Onion."


—"Hey Bulldog"

—"Oh Darling."

—"I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

—"I Me Mine."

And it will end with the new recording of "Now and Then."

I'm not 100% convinced "Now and Then" will really be "The Last Beatles Song." After all, there could be a few more of those cassette demo tapes waiting to be discovered.

Starr offered another thought about participating on the new release.

"It was like John was there, you know," said Starr.

"It's far out."