November 2, 2023

The Beatles - "Now and Then"

The "last" Beatles song is more than just a cash-grab for nostalgia, it's a really nice song, but it's also far from being a masterpiece.

It's strange that in 2023 a "new" Beatles song doesn't actually feel like that much of a mind-blowing thing. After the Anthologies delivered two "new" songs back in the '90s and the phenomenal Get Back documentary gave us so many new insights and experiences with the band, an actual unreleased song feels almost expected. No one needs me to tell them the backstory on the Beatles (but I'd be happy to if you're interested) and you are probably not reading this blog without already knowing plenty on the band and their impact on pop culture (the later mostly because you're a human being on planet Earth and it's rather impossible to not know things about the Beatles at this point). Still, the fact that I have the ability to write about a "new" song by a band I've long established as my own personal favorite (how unique of me, I know) is something I will relish for a while to come and an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

There's plenty to say about a "new" song from a band that hasn't existed in over fifty years, let alone one that also features two members who have been dead for between twenty and forty years, and it'd be incredibly easy to chalk this up as yet another instant cash-grab from a classic rock act who could be doing more to tarnish their reputation than add to it. You could definitely argue that "Now and Then," the new song in question by The Beatles, is easily yet another way to get Boomers to fork over their money for something no one really knew existed let alone one they wanted to hear (give us "Carnival of Light" for crying out loud!) and this is sure to be hit with the full spectrum of comments from people who will declare it a masterpiece and others who will call it a dud. While I am not naive enough to make the claim that "Now and Then" is The Beatles' grand curtain call or an unearthed gem that adds to their already global status as the world's greatest band, but I will say that it is better than I could've expected.

When the short documentary premiered and gave the full backstory on the songs creation (Yoko Ono held on to a cassette tape John Lennon recorded back in the '70s, gave it to Paul for the Anthologies in the '90s, but due to technology couldn't be used during the sessions that produced "Free as a Bird," until Peter Jackson developed a technology to isolate Lennon's vocals from the piano mix which allowed Ringo and McCartney to add their parts along with old George's guitar work), I'll admit that I got chills. Hearing John's voice floating along without any disruption, free of music, and crystal clear, was rather stunning. The rest of the track isn't far off either. There are strings that recall "Eleanor Rigby" and the "ahhhs" almost seem lifted straight from "Because," giving the song the wholistic feel of a Beatles track and the harmonies between the band are enough to evoke all kinds of emotions, something music is great at in general, but feels even more special coming from the Fab Four. Then there are the lyrics which have a supernatural feel as Lennon sings about the future he never saw, the reunion opportunities he was denied, and the imagination of what could've been. It all feels so strange and it's hard to not get carried away by the overpowering sense of wonder that comes with it. There's something even extra special about hearing John's melancholy delivery of lines like "I miss you" and wanting to start again. It's a lot and it's really lovely.

The fact that the song exists and was able to be recorded and fully realized by Paul and Ringo is a miracle and deserves celebration, but to call this anything else is a bit trite. From a band that truly changed music and the world itself, we're not owed anything as fans since they've already given so much. What we can be is thankful for one more piece of music that may not add to their remarkable body of work, but it far from tarnishes their legacy and that makes me grateful. I'll happily take this as another addition to their incredible catalogue and while I don't expect to have it on repeat, I'm happy it's here and happy that it makes me go back to re-listen to a band I've listened to more than any other. That's the power of music and nostalgia, but really, it's the power of The Beatles.

"Now and Then" is out now.

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