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- The Beatles’ final song “Now and Then” was released in November 2023.
- George Harrison disliked and stopped working on “Now and Then” in 1995.
- The completion and release of “Now and Then” was made possible by Peter Jackson’s collaboration with The Beatles and innovative AI software.
Music legends The Beatles released their final song, “Now and Then”, in November 2023 to critical and commercial success. Marketed as the last project that all four Beatles contributed to, “Now and Then” evoked a range of emotions among fans both young and old.
Originally a demo John Lennon recorded in the late 1970s, surviving Beatles members first came together to work on the track in 1995 for their Anthology series of albums. During the sessions, George Harrison took a particular dislike to the track for a unique reason. Harrison’s influence caused the remaining Beatles to stop working on it.
Why Did George Harrison Dislike And Stop “Now And Then” From Getting Released In 1995?
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In the mid-1990s, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr came together to oversee an Anthology series of albums, which would feature their beloved Beatles catalog. Before working on the series, the remaining members of the Beatles gained access to demos Lennon recorded during the 1970s, according to the Los Angeles Times. Yoko Ono, his widow, gave a cassette tape with the demos to McCartney. A majority of the demos were previously unreleased.
While preparing for the Anthology series, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr decided to complete some of Lennon’s demos as new Beatles tracks, releasing one on each Anthology album. Two of the songs Lennon had demoed, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”, were finished by the remaining Beatles and released in 1995 and 1996 respectively. They began to work on a third demo, which later became “Now and Then”, for the third Anthology album.
Unfortunately, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr did not get far with the “Now and Then” demo, due to Harrison’s reluctance to complete it. McCartney explained more about the process in a Q interview:
“It didn’t have a very good title, it needed a bit of reworking, but it had a beautiful verse and it had John singing it. George didn’t like it. The Beatles being a democracy, we didn’t do it.”
According to Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison, George Harrison disliked the original “Now and Then” demo mainly due to technology hurdles. “Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard”, she shared.
The demo, which was recorded on a low-quality tape recorder, was rough and raw. Furthermore, technology was not good enough back in 1995 to clean it up. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Harrison called the demo “rubbish.” While Harrison did complete some new guitar work for the song, he pushed the other remaining Beatles to shelve “Now and Then” and move on.
Why Did Paul McCartney And Ringo Starr Choose To Finish “Now and Then” After George Harrison’s Passing?
It was The Beatles’ collaboration with acclaimed film director Peter Jackson that ultimately resulted in “Now and Then”‘s completion and release, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2021, Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back documentary series was released on Disney+. While working on the documentary series, Jackson and his team developed innovative artificial intelligence software to enhance the audio and footage they were given access to.
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This revolutionary technology was able to isolate vocal tracks, which was needed to remove Lennon’s voice from the rough in-home piano demo of “Now and Then.” There was an inevitable hissing on the demo that needed to be removed as well. Furthermore, the technology was able to enhance Lennon’s vocal track and make it “crystal clear”, according to McCartney. While some fans have questioned the use of AI in completing “Now and Then”, McCartney and Starr have ensured fans that AI was not used to recreate Lennon’s voice. The technology was only used to isolate Lennon’s vocal track and make it more crisp.
Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono both approved the completion of “Now and Then.” Harrison believes her husband would have approved of its completion due to advances in technology and finally being able to do it justice.
“If he were here today, Dhani and I know he would have wholeheartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of ‘Now and Then'”
McCarney had long wanted to complete “Now and Then”, according to the Los Angeles Times. With the technology developed for The Beatles: Get Back, he was finally able to get his wish while respecting Harrison’s desire to release a high quality version of the song. The 2023 completed version of the song features the guitar work Harrison recorded in 1995 before he requested to shelve the track.
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The Beatles heavily marketed “Now and Then” and made its release a global event. McCartney announced the song’s completion in June 2023, according to NBC News. “We just finished it up and it’ll be released this year”, McCarney said in a BBC Radio 4 interview. Prior to its release on November 2nd, The Beatles released a short documentary about the song’s production on November 1st. A music video directed by Peter Jackson followed a day after its release.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about “Now and Then” is that maybe Lennon himself envisioned the track to be completed by his former bandmates. The tape cassette that Ono gave McCartney with Lennon’s demos reportedly said “For Paul” on it. While this cannot be confirmed, it is comforting to think that Lennon would have approved of McCartney’s steadfast desire to release “Now and Then.” The song, which eventually reached the No.1 position on the U.K. charts, is a monumental conclusion to The Beatles’ incredible story.