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Review: “Now and Then,” the “last Beatles song,” generally delivers

Fifty four years after they broke up in 1970, The Beatles are releasing a new song, “Now and Then.” The song features all four Beatles , Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, despite Lennon and Harrison being deceased.

“Now and Then” shot to number one in the UK and on streaming. It is the Beatles’ first number one since “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in 1969, 54 years ago. In the UK, that’s the longest gap between number one hits of any artist.

The recording is based on a demo by Lennon from the late 1970s. Lennon, who was murdered in 1980, contributed vocals to the final recording. The piano from the original recording was redone by McCartney in 2022.

McCartney, Harrison, and Starr first worked on “Now and Then” in 1995 for The Beatles Anthology project. The song was shelved due to the low quality of Lennon’s voice and piano, and the inability to remove a buzzing sound that spanned the whole song. The Beatles ended up recording two other Lennon demos for the Anthology project that did get released, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love.”

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The song stayed shelved until 2022, when AI was used to separate Lennon’s vocals and piano, as well as eliminate the buzzing sound that caused the recording to be shelved in the first place. Harrison, who died in 2001, had contributed guitar and backing vocals to the song during the 1995 sessions.

Of the two remaining Beatles, Starr provided backing vocals and drums, and McCartney played guitars, bass, piano, electric harpsichord, and shaker. A slide guitar solo from McCartney and a string section was added, and “Now and Then” was released on November 2, 2023.

After listening to it a dozen-plus times, “Now and Then” isn’t a top ten Beatles song, but it didn’t have to be. It would be unreasonable to expect a timeless masterpiece from this. It just had to be a respectable finale for one of the greatest musical acts ever.

The first complaint is that the original recording by Lennon had a sort of pre-chorus, “I don’t wanna lose you…” This is completely missing from the final song. There is no real explanation for this, and the song feels slightly disconnected without it. The song also sounds overproduced at points, as well as too modern in comparison with their 1960s recordings and the original demo.

Starr’s drums are way too up front, and the strings, while they do add to the recording, are too much at points. Strings used on earlier Beatles recordings, like “Yesterday,” added to the recording without being too noticeable. The original, raw recording, while the quality was poor, had a charm to it that is somewhat lost in the final song.

Released along with “Now and Then,” is a new version of the Beatles first big hit, “Love Me Do.” It would have been nice to get the original, unedited Lennon recording from the late 1970s. “Love Me Do” is fine, it’s just not very exciting.

A final complaint is the final note of “Now and Then.” The final note is the strings fading out, and it sounds fine, but if this is the “last Beatles song,” as it has been advertised, the final note of Beatles history should be played by a Beatle, not a group of hired musicians.

“Now and Then,” though, isn’t a poor song. In general, it’s captivating to listen to. The slide guitar solo by McCartney is fantastic, and the song is excellent lyrically too. So yes, it’s a good thing that this was released and the world gets to hear it. Every critique mentioned here is fairly minor and doesn’t keep the song from being great.

The fact that the world is getting a new Beatles song in 2023 makes it special. It’s almost unfair to compare it to “Eleanor Rigby” or “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It was made across a 45-year period from a demo made in an apartment in New York City by Lennon.

William Kluttz has been playing guitar for five years and has listened to the Beatles for six.

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About the Contributor
William Kluttz, staff writer
William Kluttz is a Junior in his second year writing for The County Chronicle. He enjoys doing Man-on-the-street articles and sports pieces.

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