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Musical Resurrection: ‘Now and Then,’ The Last Beatles Song, Emerges Decades Later, A Melodic Journey Through More Than 40 Years 2024-04-17 05:10:16

The final chapter of the Beatles’ illustrious catalog is set to unfold with the release of what is being touted as their last song, "Now and Then." Scheduled to hit streaming platforms on November 2 at 10 a.m. EDT, this double A-side single, coupled with "Love Me Do," will also see physical releases in the form of vinyl variants and cassettes on November 3.

Adding to the anticipation, a 12-minute film directed by British filmmaker Oliver Murray, delving into the making of "Now and Then," will premiere on The Beatles’ YouTube channel at 3:30 p.m. EDT on November 1. The genesis of "Now and Then" dates back to the late 1970s, originating from a vocal and piano demo by John Lennon recorded at his New York home in the Dakota Building. It emerges as part of the reissue package for The Beatles’ iconic albums, "1962-1966" (aka "The Red Album") and "1967-1970" (aka "The Blue Album"). The UK single version of "Love Me Do," the band’s inaugural 1962 single, marks the opening track on the 2023 edition of "1962-1966," while the newly crafted "Now and Then" finds its place on "1967-1970."

In a move to enhance the listening experience, both collections’ tracklists have been expanded, featuring mixes in stereo and Dolby Atmos. Additionally, the "Red" and "Blue" releases will be available as comprehensive 4-CD and 6-LP sets, catering to the varied preferences of Beatles enthusiasts.

Earlier discussions sparked controversy when Paul McCartney revealed that artificial intelligence was employed to extract John Lennon’s voice from the original recording and separate it from the piano on the demo. This revelation, made during the creation of Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary "The Beatles: Get Back," generated some backlash, with concerns that AI was used to replicate Lennon’s voice. However, Ringo Starr clarified that the track does not feature artificially created vocals of Lennon, assuring fans that the band would never resort to using AI to simulate Lennon’s voice. Furthermore, vocals from lead guitarist George Harrison, recorded prior to his passing in 2001, are set to appear on this farewell record.

"It’s the final track yoúll ever hear with the four lads. And that’s a fact," Starr declared, solidifying the historical significance of "Now and Then" as a poignant conclusion to the Beatles’ extraordinary musical legacy.

The intricate process of bringing "Now and Then" to life involved cutting-edge technology, mirroring the innovative approach taken during the creation of the "Get Back" documentary’s soundtrack. Jackson’s sound team utilized similar techniques, isolating instruments and voices to enhance the clarity of the band’s conversations, providing an immersive auditory experience.

The origins of "Now and Then" trace back to a demo recorded by John Lennon in the late 1970s, a piece of musical history handed to Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in 1994. Alongside this demo, Ono shared Lennon’s recordings of "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love," both of which underwent completion and release in 1995 and 1996 as part of "The Beatles Anthology."

In the ‘90s, attempts were made by the surviving band members and producer Jeff Lynne to reimagine "Now and Then," but technological limitations hindered the process. Fast forward to the present, the finished version of "Now and Then" incorporates contributions from Harrison, including guitars recorded in 1995, additional drums from Starr, and a multi-instrumental ensemble featuring McCartney on bass, piano, and guitar, with a slide guitar solo inspired by Harrison.

Moreover, McCartney took charge of a recording session at Capitol Records, collaborating with Giles Martin, the son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, and orchestral arranger Ben Foster. Together, they crafted a string arrangement that enriches the musical tapestry of "Now and Then."

For keen-eared Beatles aficionados, the song holds a special treat — elements of backing vocals from classics like "Here, There and Everywhere," "Eleanor Rigby," and "Because" are seamlessly woven into "Now and Then." This intricate musical interplay pays homage to the band’s rich legacy and echoes the stylistic approach seen in "Love," the Beatles’ celebrated Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas and its accompanying soundtrack.

The collaborative effort and attention to detail in the creation of "Now and Then" reflect not only a dedication to preserving the band’s essence but also a commitment to pushing the boundaries of musical artistry.

In conclusion, the resurrection of "Now and Then" stands as a testament to the technological ingenuity and artistic dedication that have defined the Beatles’ legacy. The meticulous process, leveraging advanced techniques similar to those employed in the creation of the "Get Back" documentary’s soundtrack, speaks to a commitment to delivering an immersive and authentic auditory experience for fans.

The song’s origins, dating back to a demo gifted by Yoko Ono in 1994, reveal a rich history intertwined with the band’s past attempts to revisit the piece. Technological limitations in the ‘90s thwarted those efforts, making the present realization of "Now and Then" a triumph over past constraints. The finished version beautifully weaves contributions from each surviving band member, incorporating Harrison’s guitars, Starr’s drums, and McCartney’s multifaceted instrumental talents.

Paul McCartney’s leadership in orchestrating a recording session for a string arrangement, in collaboration with Giles Martin and Ben Foster, adds another layer of sophistication to the composition. The incorporation of backing vocals from iconic Beatles tracks further enriches the listening experience, paying homage to the band’s extensive discography.

As "Now and Then" emerges as the final musical chapter of the Beatles, its creation not only preserves the essence of the legendary group but also showcases a forward-thinking approach to musical artistry. This release is not merely a culmination but a continuation of the Beatles’ timeless influence, reminding us that their creative journey endures with innovation and reverence for their unparalleled musical heritage.

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