Earlier this year, a rumor came about that an A.I. Beatles song was in the works, and fans quickly turned to social media to give their two cents about the inauthenticity of the project. Paul McCartney commented in “The Daily Telegraph,” “Even though it’s sort of mechanical trickery, it feels very real.” Now, the long-awaited day for fans to hear the last Beatles song has finally come.
The song “Now and Then” was released on Nov. 2, 2023, with a corresponding music video the next day. The song is a somber reflection that calls for something or someone that has been lost. What once was a bittersweet perspective from John Lennon now serves as the perspective that the remaining Beatles and Beatles fans have had towards George Harrison and Lennon since their passings.
“Now and Then” was initially a demo Lennon developed in 1977 while living in the Dakota in New York City. The demo never progressed onto any of Lennon’s albums and sat forgotten for decades. Fast forward to 1995, fifteen years after Lennon’s passing, when the three remaining Beatles got together to produce the “Anthology” project, which chronicled their story from start to finish. In addition to this book, they also compiled home recordings, demos, and outtakes from their catalog into three double albums.
This project also included two ‘new’ Beatles songs: “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” which were originally Lennon’s demo tapes. Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, presented these demos to McCartney during the “Anthology” project for the remaining Beatles to contribute to and release as official Beatles songs with all four band members on the records.
It was recently revealed that there was a third demo tape from Ono that was scrapped from the project because it suffered under the sonic weight of too much ambient noise. Now, that record will see the light of day thanks to newly pioneered audio technology, courtesy of Peter Jackson. Jackson and his team developed MAL (Machine-Assisted Learning), a machine-learning neural network that was christened in memory of the beloved road manager of the Beatles, Mal Evans. With the use of MAL, Jackson was able to isolate the core components of the record which resulted in Lennon’s vocals from 1977 and Harrison’s guitar from 1995 clear as day. Once Jackson had the desired audio separated, McCartney and Ringo Starr joined their bandmates one final time to add their contributions to the song.
The single “Now and Then” will not only be debuting digitally but also as a special physical version. In the typical fashion of releasing a seven-inch vinyl, there needs to be an A and a B side. For this double, it will contain the band’s first single “Love Me Do” and “Now and Then” acting as the opener and closer tracks for the Beatles, respectively. With over sixty years of difference between the two songs, it is a heavy-hearted perspective to release the two songs together in this format. A cassette version of the double A side is also available with the front cover displaying the handwritten title.
McCartney’s 1982 song “Here Today,” which was written as a conversation he could never have with Lennon, expressed McCartney’s love and appreciation for Lennon’s friendship. Upon listening to “Now and Then,” the song continues that somber feeling with its soft acoustic guitar, heartfelt lyrics, and upward swelling chorus similar to the bridge of “Here Today.” The two songs fulfill both sides of that once-thought-impossible conversation, with Lennon’s reply of love surviving no matter the distance. This sense of loss calls out like a prayer of appreciation and longing for strength.
Overall, this project invokes everything left of the Beatles while in a sense resurrecting those who have been lost. The string arrangement done by Giles Martin evokes his father’s mastery of creating a musical landscape where the Beatles build their story. For any Beatles fan, hearing Lennon and McCartney sing out “I miss you” backed by McCartney’s tribute to Harrison’s illustrious chimey sliding guitar sound is just heartwrenching, to say the least.