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Listen to the New Beatles Song!

Listen to the New Beatles Song!

The Beatles' rooftop concert, their final live performance. (source: Apple Corps)

Over half a century since their breakup, a new Beatles song was released today. “Now and Then,” an incomplete demo recorded by John Lennon during his solo career, has been finished by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, also incorporating material recorded by George Harrison before his death. A similar project finished Lennon’s “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird” in 1994, but the poor quality of the “Now and Then” recording made it unmixable. New technology pioneered by Peter Jackson and company for the Get Back documentary was able to separate Lennon’s vocals from the accompanying piano, allowing the final Beatles song to be completed.

Lennon recorded the song on a tape recorder in 1977, during his time living at the Dakota in the midst of his semi-retirement. His widow Yoko Ono gave the tapes to the surviving Beatles in the 1990s, but efforts to complete the song were abandoned. With Jackson’s MAL software, which was also used to remix Revolver last year, Lennon’s voice has been isolated and mixed with new material recorded by McCartney and Starr as well as Harrison’s guitar, recorded during the 1994 attempt. Giles Martin, son of producer George Martin, also composed a backing string section, fleshing out a simple home recording into a complete studio-level Beatles track.

The single's cover art

“Now and Then” is a simple ballad, at once calling to mind the forlorn love songs Lennon wrote towards the end of his life and contrasting with the more optimistic pop singles from the early Beatles. Not unexpectedly, the song is not a lost masterpiece restored to life, but it is unmistakably a Beatles song, from its opening count-in, McCartney’s thumping base and Starr’s backing drum track. Over forty years after his assassination, Lennon once again has a new song for his fans, both old and young, to listen to.

Accompanying the “Now and Then” release is a short documentary on the song and a music video directed by Jackson, to be released on November 3. This music video will include footage of the 1995 reunion of the Beatles, home movies of the different members, and the earliest known footage of the Beatles performing. With the release of “Now and Then,” the career of one of the most influential music groups in history comes to its final end over fifty years after their breakup. John Lennon, his life and music cut tragically short, now has one last song added to a long legacy that redefined pop music forever.


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