The Beatles just released "Now and Then," the last song the four of them will ever have created together.
How the song came about is the subject of a short film: John wrote and recorded vocals in the 1970s, George contributed guitar in 1995, and Paul and Ringo now added their bass (and guitar and piano) and drums. The song was produced by Giles Martin, the son of George Martin, the Beatles' original producer.
The song is now available for streaming (link to options here). CD, vinyl and cassette copies will be available tomorrow. Here it is on YouTube:
It's an absolutely beautiful song, and it seems to have been written for the very purpose of being the last Beatles song, even though that must have been the furthest thing from John's mind when he sang it into a tape recorder almost half a century ago. Just as it seemed a miracle that we were able to be a fly on the wall for the production of the Let It Be album, in the amazing documentary "Get Back," it's miraculous that we are able to hear a genuine, and truly great, new Beatles song in 2023.
I think the technology used to put this together is so expertly and tastefully applied, it really amplifies the power of the song. It feels like you get to hear these guys in the same room again, making incredible new music.
Rolling Stone agrees:
'Now and Then' is a real Beatles song. Hearing John and Paul sing the first chorus together, as they lock into the line "Now and then I miss you"—it's intensely powerful, to say the least. Their voices join for a soulful confession of adult yearning, over George's guitar, while Ringo plays the drums. Never maudlin, but deeply touching, like the Get Back movie. Depite the "A.I." hysteria, there's nothing faked, added, or changed in his vocal—just the clear sound of what he sang that day, at his piano in the Dakota. As Ringo says, "It was the closest we'll ever come to having him back in the room."
The song is released as a double A-side single, along with their first hit "Love Me Do," although I'm not sure what that means in the long-post 45 era. On November 10, the song will also be included as the final track in a new remastered and expanded edition of the Beatles' Red and Blue albums.
I've seen the video for the song, directed by Peter Jackson and to be released tomorrow at 10am ET, and it's a wonderful visual representation of what the song is: the use of technology to reach across time and experience the Beatles of different eras interact and play music together.
Boy, the song hits very hard. The first time I heard it, I was moved to tears. And I feel that the emotional impact of the song has actually increased as I become familiar with it and take it into my heart.