Opinion

Now that we’ve had a weekend with the new Beatles song, what do we think?

Last Thursday, The Beatles released “Now and Then,” which is being billed as “the last Beatles song.” If you’ve been off-world for a while and don’t know what’s going on, some AI magic was used to lift a John Lennon vocal from a 1978 cassette demo and combined it with parts created by George Harrison in 1995 and then mated with new contributions by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in 2023.

The reactions have been mixed with quite a bit of polarization. Some say they were driven to tears of joy and wonderment upon hearing the song. Others absolutely hate the song, hate the concept, and hate the sentiment behind it, using words like “abomination.” Some are even apoplectic over the dull artwork accompanying the track (they may have a point there.)

No one asked me, but here’s my take.

  • The Beatles recorded around 250 songs during their time together. Almost all of them have become tightly ingrained in our collective memories over the last sixty years. Any new song has to compete against the emotional and sentimental weight of all that. A high bar, no?
  • You cannot make a snap decision on this track. It requires repeated listening. If you listen just once, you’re going to have an incomplete view of the song. If then you hate it, well, at least you gave it a proper chance.
  • This is the first Beatles song to be created with modern digital techniques like Pro Tools. Yes, it’s going to sound different from the catalogue that was created by tube-powered 2-, 3-, and 4-track mono machines and consoles. It wasn’t until the Abbey Road album that the boffins at the studio deigned to allow the band and George Martin to use a brand-new 3M 8-track machines. It was only after The Beatles decamped to the better-equipped Trident Studios to record “Hey Jude” that they gave in. So yeah, there’s a slickness to this song that sets it apart from the group’s original catalogue.
  • For those who decry messing with The Beatles legacy forget that Apple Corps, EMI, and Abbey Road have been tinkering with Beatles songs since the late 1960s when they issued the awful “re-channeled for stereo” versions of albums that were meant to be heard in mono.
  • Others claim that John would have hated this. I have issues with that opinion. Although we’ll never know what John would have thought, he was definitely a guy who loved studio experimentation. (See “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “A Day in the Life,” and “Revolution 9,” among many others.) Second, Yoko gave Paul the source demo tape, saying that “John would have wanted you to have this.”

Is “Now and Then” destined to become an all-time Beatles classic. No. The track is…just okay. It would have worked on late-period John Lennon solo album or perhaps as a deep album track on Let It Be. However, it’s not, as some would have us believe, an awful travesty. There are elements that are quite lovely (George’s slide guitar, the very Beatle harmonies leading out of the solo, etc.)

The best comment I read was this: “Like any gift, unwrap it, be grateful and say thank you.” And if there’s more stuff like this in the vaults, I’d love to hear it.

Thoughts? I may add to this post as the song continues to percolate in my head.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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9 thoughts on “Now that we’ve had a weekend with the new Beatles song, what do we think?

  • ‘Now and Then’ is an OK track but it is not great. I have no idea what John would think of the finished product but given that passed on finishing it for ‘Double Fantasy’ it seems like he was not super enthusiastic about it. This version has Paul’s fingerprints all over it, but Ringo’s playing on it and given that they had guitar parts that George Harrison recorded for the first time they attempted to finish this song in the 90’s it is truly a Beatles collaboration. It is probably worth it for that alone.

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  • Although it doesn’t quite sound like a Beatles song, I do like it. Quite a bit actually.

    I find the video amusing too.

    Like you say, it’s not destined to be a classic. But I think it’s pretty good.

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  • Okay, so the “new” song does have some virtues but as a Beatle song it is very lacking. But as to the question of whether John would have approved? Depends on who you ask. Paul, of course, tells us that John would have definitely approved. Maybe John would have but not at all as we hear him singing. He was not one who liked the sound of his voice and often went through many tribulations to change his voice sound. On Now And Then what we hear is Johns demo voice. If he had the chance to work on the song his vocal would be the first thing he’d change. There is no way John would have approved with the vocal such as it is. No way.

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  • I think it is a masterpiece. It takes a few listens. This is the first song that has the adult music world exited for many many years . Enough Taylor Swift garbage .

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  • This will be the most played wedding anniversary song. Give it time.

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  • It sounds exactly like a song that would have hit No 1 if they had put it out 50 years ago.

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  • I believe John would be happy to be remembered. Even if it wasn’t his favorite. I would like to believe he knows how much he is loved and missed by so many. I believe life continues after death. That’s just my own opinion?

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  • Now and Then is better than I was expecting. It has a Beatles sound to it (beyond just John’s voice). There is a “cleanness” to it which doesn’t sound how I’m used to, but I imagine younger audiences are used to “remastered versions” anyway. Not bad, not my least favourite Beatles track.

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  • The song is absolutely fantastic. I don’t know how many people know that John said to Paul, not to long before he was killed, “Think of me, Now and Then. But Paul did a great job on this song. I was always a Beatles fan, but this song fits right now in 2023-24. What we’re going through and the wars, and not much love. It’s not a happy song it’s sad but beautiful song, I tip my hat to Ringo, and Paul. And may John and George RIP. On a scale from 1-10 , I give the song a 9, that’s my opinion, Rock On, so glad it’s #1 all over. Take care all and thanks for a great one, love and prayers, JLJ

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