The day has finally arrived: The Beatles' final song "Now and Then" is here, and it's 46 years in the making. The song made history by having its radio debut across iHeartRadio stations nationwide across multiple formats.
In 1977, John Lennon recorded a demo with vocals and piano at his home at the Dakota in New York City. In 1994, his wife Yoko Ono gave the recording to the band's surviving members Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison, along with “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love.” The latter two were completed as new Beatles songs and respectively released as singles in 1995 and 1996, as part of The Beatles Anthology project. The trio also worked on parts for "Now and Then" but technology at the time restricted them from separating Lennon's vocals from the piano, and they were unable to achieve the clear mix they needed to release it.
Fast forward to 2021, and Peter Jackson's team behind The Beatles: Get Back docuseries found a way to de-mix the film's mono soundtrack. They applied the same technology to "Now and Then" and were able to isolate Lennon's vocals. The next year, McCartney and Starr set out to complete the track, which includes electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995 by Harrison, who passed away in 2001; Starr’s new drum part; and bass, guitar and piano from McCartney that matches Lennon’s original playing. McCartney also added a slide guitar solo inspired by Harrison, and he and Starr contributed backing vocals to the chorus.
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional," McCartney said in a statement. "And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. 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.”
“It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out,” Starr added.
George's wife Olivia Harrison spoke about his contributions, saying: "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. If he were here today, Dhani and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of ‘Now And Then.'"
John's son Sean Ono Lennon also spoke about the track, saying: “It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years that Dad had been gone. It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”
"Now and Then" will be released as a double A-side single along with The Beatles' very first single, "Love Me Do," making it a truly full circle moment. It will also be the final track on a new version of The Beatles' anthologies 1962-1966 and 1967-1970, also known as the Red and Blue albums. The latest edition of the anthologies, featuring 75 tracks, will be released on November 10.
Listen to "Now and Then" below.