The “last” song by The Beatles, written and sung by John Lennon, has been released.
Now And Then was developed by the other band members, including George Harrison, and was finished by Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Ringo Starr decades after it was originally recorded.
The track – sourced from a Lennon demo, using technology to extricate and isolate his voice – was released on Thursday, November 2, by Apple Corps, Capitol and Universal Music Enterprises (UMe).
It is available as a double A-side with the band’s 1962 debut single Love Me Do, and cover art by US artist Ed Ruscha.
A 12-minute documentary, written and directed by Oliver Murray, known for My Life As A Rolling Stone, and with commentary from Sir Ringo and Sir Paul, has been released along with the new song.
The demo was recorded by Lennon in the late 1970s at his home in New York’s Dakota Building, and also features piano music.
After his death in 1980 aged 40, Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono gave the recording to the remaining Beatles in 1994 along with Free As A Bird and Real Love, which were released by the band in the same decade.
During this period, Harrison, Sir Paul and Sir Ringo recorded new parts and completed a rough mix for Now And Then with producer and musician Jeff Lynne.
However, the band did not release the song, citing issues extracting Lennon’s vocals and piano in a clear mix due to limited technology at the time.
Harrison died in November 2001 aged 58.
Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back used audio restoration technology that allowed for vocals, music and conservations by the band to be isolated.
This allowed for a new mix of the Revolver album, sourced directly from the four-track master tapes, in 2022, and Jackson and his sound team, led by Emile de la Rey, have now done this for Now And Then, which helped separate the vocal from the piano.
Previously, Sir Paul said: “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional and we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording.
“In 2023, to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
Sir Paul and Sir Ringo finished the song last year, including Harrison’s electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995.
Sir Ringo’s drum part was added alongside bass, guitar, piano and a slide guitar solo by Sir Paul, inspired by Harrison, as the surviving Beatles also put on their backing vocals to the chorus.
Recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, Sir Paul oversaw the track as more backing vocals were added from the original recordings of Here, There And Everywhere, Eleanor Rigby and Because.
Sir Ringo said: “It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”
The finished track was produced by Sir Paul and Giles Martin – who both wrote the string arrangement alongside Ben Foster – and mixed by Spike Stent.
Sean Ono Lennon, son of Lennon and Ono, said: “It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years that dad had been gone.
“It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”
Harrison’s widow Olivia said: “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.
“If he were here today, (our son) Dhani and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of Now And Then.”
On November 10, two compilation albums – 1962-1966, The Red Album, and 1967-1970, The Blue Album – will be re-released featuring 21 newly added tracks.
The documentary Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song premieres at 7.30pm on November 1 on The Beatles’ YouTube channel.
A music video will debut on November 3.
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