The new Beatles single. The Beatles’ last song. Last in order of release, but also the last remaining song, the only one that was still hidden and that we hadn’t listened to yet. Is called Now And Then and it is the song that, last Thursday, November 2nd, at 3pm, made the world stop. Yes, it feels like a song can still make the world stop. And it is incredible that, in 2023, we are talking about one new Beatles song. Technology today also allows this. But it is also the heart that makes it possible. A documentary was released around the song, Now And Then – The Last Beatle Songdirected by Oliver Murray which tells the making of the song, and also a very significant video of Peter Jackson: Now And Then – Music Video.
It was he, with a great work, who brought us back to the times of the Beatles’ last work, Let It Be (last in order of release, because the last one made was Abbey Road), con The Beatles: Get Back. And Jackson actually had a hand in the making of the song Now And Then. Find the documentary and video of Now And Then on YouTube, on the official Beatles channel, and also on Disney+.
Now And Then: l’ultima canzone dei Beatles
The song, first of all. AND a classic Beatles ballad, or, if you like, Lennon-esque: Starts softly and vocally, like so many classic Lennon songs. In fact it comes from some recordings that John Lennon did, voice and piano, in 1977. Lennon’s magical voice is the one that gives life to the song, immediately evoking the songs of the author of Imagine and some Fab Four classics. The instruments of the other Beatles are inserted on this track: the electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995 by George, a new drum part by Ringo and the bass, guitar and piano by Paul, which matches John’s original playing. Paul added a George-inspired slide guitar solo; he and Ringo also contributed backing vocals in the chorus. As the song rises, the strings enter, arranged by Giles Martin (son of George Martin who was the producer, the alchemist of the Beatles’ unique sound), Paul and Ben Foster. Paul and Giles have also added a final, wonderful touch: backing vocals from the original recordings of Here, There And Everywhere, Eleanor Rigby e Becausewoven into the new song using techniques perfected during the making of the show and album LOVE. Now And Then it’s really a Beatles song. All four Beatles play on the songand the song manages to create that alchemy that only those four personalities merged together could create.
Now And Then – The Last Beatle Song: il documentario
“Making music in a band is about good chemistry” he actually says Paul McCartney in the documentary Now And Then – The Last Beatle Song. Now And Then has a very particular history, which is its own Oliver Murray’s documentary reconstructs to make us understand how it was possible to give birth to this song. The story begins with Sean Lennon’s voice and memories of him as a child, and continues with that of Paul McCartney. Now And Then it was a simple demo: a cassette, like the ones we recorded on as kids. It wasn’t a studio recording, on a four-track or anything like that. A simple, single tape on which there were John Lennon’s voice and the piano. Thus the two elements could not be separated. Now And Then had already been passed from Yoko Ono to the other three Beatles, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, along with the auditions that would become Free As A Bird e Real Loveand the three had already tried to work on it on the occasion of The Beatles Anthology. But precisely because the voice could not be separated from the piano, they were forced to give up this piece. Just a new technology used by Peter Jackson for the film Get Back, an Artificial Intelligence, was able to finally separate that voice from the piano. And so to have the clean, clear, crystalline voice of John Lennon. The moment we hear it, alone, is exciting. And so the two remaining Beatles were able to complete the work: Paul’s bass, Ringo’s drums. And then we thought about the strings, which the Beatles had used several times on their records: Strawberry Fields, Yesterday, I Am The Walrus. Listening to the slide guitar that George had tested for the song in 1995, Paul played a guitar solo in his style.
Oliver Murray’s documentary proceeds on three temporal planes
Oliver Murray’s documentary is like those films that proceed on three staggered temporal planes, and go back and forth in time to create a complete story: 1977, 1994-95, 2023. Murray tells the story simply, evoking the magic of the quartet with iconic images, like those of Sgt. Pepper e Yellow Submarine, featuring images from Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back. And with those of the Dakota Building, Lennon’s New York residence, where he wrote this song, and of Lennon in New York. “My father would have been happy because he always loved experimenting with recording technologies” says Sean Lennon in the documentary.”All our memories came back” reflects Paul McCartney. “And I thought how lucky I was to have had these men beside me. It’s the last Beatles song: we’ve all played it. And it’s a genuine Beatles recording“
Now And Then: il video di Peter Jackson
And it is once again Peter Jackson, deus ex machina of this operation, who closes it and gives it meaning. Because if the technology and studio work of McCartney and Starr brought together the voices of the four from Liverpool, Jackson’s editing also brings their bodies back together, obviously made of images. A cassette enters the player. The instruments are tuned. The three Beatles play together, in 1995, when they reunited for The Beatles Anthology. John Lennon appears looking at the horizon, where the Beatles are in costume. Let’s see John Lennon, in the past. And then Ringo and Paul, those of the present day, singing together. But, thanks to Peter Jackson’s editing, John and George also materialize in that recording studio, on the sides of Ringo and Paul, in line. The Fab Four are together again, all four. That performance where they are next to each other, the living and the dead, is like that final scene in Return of the Jedi, where Luke, Han and Leia are next to the knights who have passed, Obi Wan and Anakin. It’s the magic of cinema. And the magic of Peter Jackson, a Back to the Future unprecedented and moving. The images travel backwards, to the Beatles with bob hair, to those of Hamburg. It all ends with a bow, and the four fading out.
Now And Then: Peter Jackson e il tempo
With his Now And Then Peter Jackson still plays with time, manipulates it. Like in that film They Shall Not Grow Old, in which she took old photos and films from the First World War, animated them and colored them to update them and make them more impactful. As in Get Back, which took us back to 1969, to the Beatles’ studios, but with its editing rewrote the story we thought we knew from that film, released in 1970, Let It Be. Peter Jackson here not only does he perform the miracle of reuniting The Beatles after over 50 years. But also to rewrite the ending of the story, which was made up of spite and controversy, and to bring them back to the pinnacle of their alchemy. Peter Jackson chose those very playful images from Lennon and Harrison’s past, put them on stage with their Sixties costumes, made them move and joke, happy. And somehow he made Macca and Ringo talk to themselves as young people. In this way he wanted to give us, for the last time, the creative, happy, brilliant Beatles. The dead next to the living, like in a Tim Burton film, or a day of the Dead Mexican (is it a coincidence that the video was released on November 2nd?). Our deceased loved ones, as we who are here in our transient world would like to know them: serene and happy.