I don’t often do music reviews in this space nor offer many opinions on new releases, but in lieu of the Beatles first single released in 28 years (and probably the last, at least without “AI” intervention), I thought it would be appropriate to make an exception for this week.
(ATVN video customers can hear the music of the Beatles and also the solo career hits of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr on several “Music Choice” channels available – most often heard on channels 1932 and 1933.)
As a lifelong Beatles fan, I was excited to hear what was actually going to be released with the group’s “new” single. There are many varying opinions about this song, “Now and Then,” written by Lennon in the late 1970s. A “demo” he recorded on cassette tape was released in the early 80s, but the remaining three Beatles briefly toyed with the idea in the mid-1990s of making it into a completed song before Harrison decided to abandon the project.
Now, 28 years after that attempt and 52 years since the band members were in the same recording session together, comes their “final” song.
While it won’t make many Beatles’ fans list of their top 10 songs ever produced by the “Fab Four,” I did believe there are several strong points that make this a significant contribution to the band’s legacy.
Here’s an objective listing of my thoughts – good and not-so-good – on the release of this song:
- The fact that McCartney didn’t try to “overwhelm” the song with his tradition pop tools that he’s utilized very efficiently over the last half century and still tried to keep it similar to a “John song” (although both would wildly vary in their styles throughout their careers)
- The inclusion of the band’s legendary producer George Martin’s son, Giles, in the recording, with a very classy symphonic string arrangement that would have made his dad proud, and is very reminiscent of many classic Beatles songs
- Thanks to modern recording techniques, Lennon’s voice was “freed” from the track coupled with his upright piano recording and a low “hum” that was on the original tape, making his voice crystal clear. This was a refreshing change from the muffled voice and subsequent “tricks” that spoiled the release of previous posthumous Lennon solo songs that were made into the “Beatle” catalog like “Free As A Bird,” and, to a lesser extent, “Real Love”
- The inclusion of snippets of previous Beatles songs like “Because,” “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Elenor Rigby”, all of which include Harrison in the vocals
- Double-tracking John’s voice (something the singer asked for in many of his songs) and the subtle variances in the rhythm sections during the verses and percussion auditions near the end of the song. Also, Paul’s backing with a top harmony is very reminiscent of many great Beatles songs and is even something that John often ask Paul to do with his songs according to the “Beatles Anthology”
- The irony of a song sung by Lennon (in 1979) and by McCartney (in 2023) WITHOUT the use of AI, in effect singing about (to?) each other through the former’s tragic death AND the fact that this group’s last song is about each other and “making it through,” together
- Paul’s counting at the beginning is reminiscent of the first ever Beatles hit song in America, “I Saw Her Standing There,” but in a much softer tone, which provides an appropriate bookend to the groups first and last number one U.S. single
- The “Now and Then” demo cassette was simply labeled “For Paul,” indicates he was writing about his former bandmate and the fact that the two got to sing “together” and provides an appropriate final chapter to the relationship between these two musical giants
NOT SO MUCH
- The fact that Harrison didn’t care for the song when he was alive and refused to do more than provide a brief rhythm guitar bit and a side guitar contribution (which is present but enhanced by McCartney). His estate (his wife and son) gave their consent to include his work in the production, but it’s somewhat difficult to imagine that Harrison would give his “ok” had he not succumbed to throat cancer in 2004. (The fact that Harrison HATED technology interfering with songs also suggests that he would not have approve of this release)
- Although they tried to include Harrison by taking snippets of previous Beatles songs that included his vocals, the song still is missing the “magic” of the group–and it’s not hard to believe his creative absence (either instrumental or vocal) is part of that reason…which is why some die-hard fans don’t even consider this a “Beatles” song and, instead, refer to it as one of the better Lennon solo efforts further enhanced by McCartney and Starr.
- The exclusion of both of the “I don’t want to lose you” refrains that was on the original demo recording. Already, there’s people producing “alternate” versions of the song (a few quite good) that took the new officially released song and mixed it with the original bridges. One could argue the song was “tighter” without it, but again, with two members of the group no longer with us to give their input, listeners are left to wonder their opinions…and what could have been
What are your thoughts on the new release? Should they even call it a “Beatles” song? With emerging technology, I’m sure there will be many “new” songs (or different versions) of their work…but should there be?
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.