‘He Would Have Loved That’: Paul McCartney Reflects on Bringing John Lennon’s Vocals to Life on The Beatles’ ‘Now And Then’

The release of a new Beatles record, a band that officially split in 1970, is rare as hen’s teeth, and a legitimate cause for celebration.

That time has almost come, with “Now And Then” set to drop Thursday (Nov. 2) at 10am ET, followed 24-hours later by the release of an official music video, directed by Lord of the Rings mastermind Peter Jackson, marking the Oscar-winner’s first foray into the short format.

Described as the “last Beatles song,” “Now And Then” began life as a demo written and sung by John Lennon, was later developed and worked on by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and now finally finished by Paul and Ringo, the surviving members of The Beatles, more than 40 years after the group began work on it.

No Beatles project is complete without a deep-dive, multi-channel exploration, which is what the band provides with a new 12-minute documentary, a companion piece to the song and video.

Directed by Oliver Murray and featuring input from McCartney, Starr, the late Harrison, Jackson, and Sean Ono Lennon, Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song is an origin story, tracing the tale of a bold project undertaken in February 1995 by Paul, George and Ringo, a studio mission that would get the old band back together.

“Real Love” and “Free as a Bird” both arrived, fresh, in 1995, as part of the Beatles Anthology project. But “Now And Then” remained unfinished — “languishing in a cupboard,” is how McCartney describes it — partly due to the technological limitations of the time.

The late Lennon’s vocals were recorded to tape in the 1970s, and remained there until Jackson found a solution. The New Zealander and his team developed a technology for the three-part documentary series Get Back, which paved the path for Lennon’s vocals to be uncoupled from his piano part.

Game on.

“He was always making demos,” Sean says of his dad in the short film, now streaming on YouTube, “and I do remember him recording into these tape cassette recorders. Mum had these handful of songs that my dad hadn’t finished. And she gave them to the other Beatles.”

Recounting the first attempts at converting Lennon’s rough cut into a Beatles diamond, McCartney says, “we listened to the track. There’s John in his apartment in New York City, banging away at his piano, doing a little demo. Is it something we shouldn’t do? Every time I thought, like that, I thought ‘wait a minute.’ Let’s say I had a chance to ask John. ‘Hey John, would you like us to finish this last song of yours?’ I’m telling you, I know the answer would have been ‘yeah.’ He would have loved that.”

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

“Now And Then” has been named as Radio 1’s Hottest Record, and will be issued as a double A-side single with “Love Me Do,” through Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.

Watch The Beatles – Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song below.

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