Almost half a century after The Beatles called it quits, the final chapter of their musical history has dropped. “Now and Then,” a previously unreleased track considered to be the last song ever by The Beatles, has become available on streaming services and physical formats.
“Now and Then” was originally written by John Lennon sometime in the late 70s. By then, he was living in the Dakota building in New York City, having withdrawn from the public eye. It was then that he recorded a demo of “Now and Then,” which would later be unearthed in 1994. It was his wife, Yoko Ono, who found an old cassette tape featuring the song, with Lennon having scribbled the title on the cassette label.
The then surviving Beatles—Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the now late George Harrison—were touched by the song, but the recording was so low quality, that they didn't even see room for it in the The Beatles Anthology project, released in the late 90s. Since Lennon had recorded the demo in his living room, even the TV could be heard in the background of the track.
Luckily, McCartney and Giles Martin, producer of “Now and Then” and son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, never gave up on the song. With the help of director Peter Jackson, director of Get Back (2021), they were able to “clean up” the recording using AI, isolating Lennon's vocals and polishing them up. “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” McCartney said. “It’s quite emotional.” With Harrison's parts added posthumously, McCartney and Starr recorded new bits for the song, including a new string arrangement.
“It was important to me that the changes we made were authentic,” Martin told World Cafe. “Paul said, you know, we need to follow George's rhythm. It was really interesting how he worked. It was like, we need to concentrate on The Beatles and what they're doing, like they're in the room.”
Ultimately, this is not only the final song ever released by The Beatles, but it is also a testament to one of the biggest creative collaborations of all time. In the lyrics, Lennon seems to reflect on his relationship with McCartney in his final years. “That was the magic of it,” Martin explains. “It comes from heart and from the right place and [Paul's] desire to collaborate with John, even though he can't. And even the song itself is almost John's love letter to Paul in a way: ‘Now and then, I miss you.' That's how it felt. It felt incredibly special doing it.”
“Now and Then,” a previously unreleased track considered to be the last song ever by The Beatles, has just been released. Listen to it below.