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Thoughts about The Beatles "Now and Then"

And the Short Film that Explains It

By Paul LevinsonPublished about a month ago Updated 23 days ago 3 min read

The Beatles "Now and Then" was released today, the last of three John Lennon demos Yoko gave the Beatles after John was murdered. The first two were "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love". I've always loved "Real Love", and as many of you know, it inspired my short story "It's Real Life".

How does "Now and Then" compare to those two songs, brought back to life by Paul, George, and Ringo, with Jeff Lynne producing, in 1995 (released in 1996). Well, "Now and Then" is heartbreaking beautiful --- as was "Real Love" -- but "Now and Then" is clearly in a class of its own. As the 12-minute The Beatles - Now And Then - The Last Beatles Song (Short Film) makes clear, "Now and Then" is the product of three ages: John Lennon after The Beatles break-up, in NYC in the 1970s; Paul, George, and Ringo in Paul's studio recording "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" in 1995 (and working on but not finishing "Now and Then"); and Paul and Ringo singing and playing "Now and Then" 2022, and talking to us about it in 2023.

Indeed, this crucial little film actually shows us John; and then Paul, George, and Ringo; and then Paul and Ringo, in all three times. All three of these times in their and our lives. And this brings home how unique -- and uniquely heartbreaking and beautiful -- "Now and Then" truly is. This little movie is itself unique and wonderful. Every moment in the movie tells us something profound, at the core of our being and our knowledge of history, beginning with the newsreel ambience at the start of the short film, which reminded me of the spinning newsreel segueing into "Edelweiss" at the start of The Man in the High Castle series on Amazon Prime Video. It's the story of beauty then horror to the soul, which the loss of John Lennon will always be for every Beatles fan who lived through it.

So The Beatles - Now And Then - The Last Beatles Song (Short Film) is an indispensable companion to the "Now and Then" recording, which is indeed the last Beatles song. But I've seen a lot a people saying "Now and Then" is our chance to say goodbye to The Beatles. And that's the opposite of the way I feel. The recording is a chance to love The Beatles again. And in a way in which we can't exactly say we love any of the other Beatles recordings, because we know them so well. That's a very different kind of love than loving something for the first time.

"Now and Then" opens up a new part of The Beatles universe, which was and is nearly infinite, in the way it commands our rapt attention. The new recording does bring the pain of making us think, once again, what the world and our lives would have been like if John had not been murdered. But wondering about that, well that happens every time I hear a Beatles song, whenever it was recorded, anyway. And the joy that "Now and Then" brings vastly outweighs the pain.

The short movie explains that the recording is a combination of Peter Jackson's advanced technology which enabled him to make The Beatles: Get Back documentary, which also changed the world for the better, and Paul McCartney's perseverance in hearing something in the murky demo that was so keenly worth making in this record. We all and the world of music owe both of them a world of thanks. And Ringo, too.


Read "It's Real Life" here on Vocal. Also my reviews of Peter Jackson's The Beatles: Get Back.

60s music

About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan, translated into 15 languages. Details here. My Twitter. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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  • Rick Henry Christopher about a month ago

    Excellent writeup as always Paul. I always expect quality work from you. Let me preface my comment with the fact that I am a huge Beatles fan and have been since 1974 when I was 14 years old - yes I meant 1974.. I was only four in '64. That being said "Now and Then" is a beautiful song. The musicianship is sublime and I love the guitars. But surprisingly John's vocals bother me. This is surprising to me because John is my favorite Beatle. I love, love his voice. But on this song at times it doesn't even sound like him. They put too much auto-tune or whatever it is they did to his voice they overdid it. But I understand that probably the source tapes may not have been in the best quality. I am going to listen to the song a few more times hopefully I will change my view on this. But for right now I am lukewarm to the song I don't love love it but I do love it. Because it's the Beatles and it's John Lennon and I'm going to love it no matter what. But I don't absolutely love it.

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