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Talon

veritas exquirere

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Listening with Lindsay: ‘Now and Then’

The last Beatles song
Listening with Lindsay: ‘Now and Then’

Welcome to the inaugural edition of my new column, “Listening with Lindsay.” This column is devoted to my exploration of the world of music, from new album drops to movie soundtracks and even Broadway cast recordings. “Listening with Lindsay” serves as a platform where I can merge my passions for music and journalism, and I am thrilled to embark on this new project. 

On Nov. 2, Beatlemania was reborn with the release of “Now and Then.” Featuring all four band members, the Beatles’ final song moves fans full circle as the message within the lyrics perfectly encapsulates their legacy. Over 40 years in the making, the story behind this final goodbye is truly remarkable.

In 1994, Yoko Ono discovered John Lennon’s lost demos, tapes of unfinished lyrics and melodies he recorded before his death in 1980. The remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, would later transform these recordings into “Free as a Bird,” “Real Love” and most recently, “Now and Then.”

“To hear John’s voice, that’s a thing we should cherish,” Harrison said. “I’m sure he would have really enjoyed that opportunity to be with us again.”

The original cassette tape was simple: Lennon’s voice and a gentle piano. Knowing they had little to work with, the reunited bandmates went to the studio. Yet, challenges arose that would pull the plug on the entire project. While the group could record new vocals and instrumental additions, they found Lennon’s tape hard to work with.

“When we started ‘Now and Then,’ it was very difficult because John was sort of hidden in a way,” McCartney said. “In John’s demo tape, the piano was a little hard to hear and in those days, of course, we didn’t have the technology to do the separation.”

So, the project was tabled and filed away in hopes that one day it would be finished. The band seemed to run out of steam, and “Now and Then” remained incomplete. Then, in 2001, the world lost George Harrison to his fight against cancer.

“[Losing George] kinda took the wind out of our sails,” McCartney said. “It took almost a quarter of a century for us to wait until the right moment to tackle ‘Now and Then,’ again.”

With the technology Peter Jackson utilized during the “Get Back” documentary in 2022, a solution to their original roadblock was found. Starr and McCartney could now separate the instruments and the vocals into isolated tracks, allowing them to lift Lennon’s voice from the muddled piano of the original demo.

“My dad would have loved that because he was never shy to experiment with recording technology,” Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, said. “I think it’s really beautiful.”

“Now and Then” incorporates a powerful string accompaniment, paying homage to favorites such as “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus.” With Lennon’s original vocals, Harrison’s guitar recordings from the original studio sessions in 1995 and Starr and McCartney’s added elements from 2022, “Now and Then” is a genuine Beatles recording.

The song features an emotional chorus; together Lennon and McCartney sing, “I know it’s true/ It’s all because of you” and “Now and then/ I miss you.” The lyrics illustrate a haunting double meaning: Lennon’s initial message to a lost lover and a conversation between bandmates turned brothers, having to continue life without each other.

McCartney recorded a slide guitar solo in “George’s style,” paying tribute to Harrison and his lasting impact on the music industry as a guitar player. Additionally, the single lifts Harrison’s backing vocals from “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Because” to create the harmonies. 

“All of those memories come flooding back,” McCartney said. “My God, how lucky was I to have those men in my life and to work with those men so intimately? To still be working on Beatles music in 2023? Wow.”

As a member of Gen Z, I could have never anticipated being a witness to the unveiling of a new Beatles song. “Now and Then” is the flawless conclusion to the Beatles anthology, giving  fans and the band the closure they deserve. While the Fab Four take their final bow, their legacy continues to live on in the hearts of millions. 

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Lindsay Gould, Editor-in-Chief
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