Last weekend was a big one for fans of The Beatles, with the drop of the legendary band’s very last song featuring all four members, “Now and Then”. In case you missed it, the track was released on November 2 on YouTube, closely followed by the official music video, which has already garnered a whopping 19 million views.
Directed by Peter Jackson, the video takes viewers on a bittersweet walk down memory lane, sharing glimpses of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in their glory days. But what really brings in that extra dose of magic is seeing present day McCartney and Starr sharing screen space with their late band members, generated using AI and footage from the music video of “Hello, Goodbye” (1967). Despite all the years that have gone by, one need only close their eyes to notice that the tune of “Now and Then” carries trademark Beatles harmonies, simultaneously taking the world back to the ’60s, yet somehow carrying a current quality that makes it stick.
Close to 25 years in the making, the story behind “Now and Then” is, perhaps, even more interesting than the song itself. The piece was first recorded as a demo tape by John Lennon in his New York apartment, and was only brought to Paul McCartney’s attention post Lennon’s death, by none other than Yoko Ono. At the time, the three Beatles who still lived attempted to use the cassette to create a final track, but to no avail. Sadly, singling Lennon’s voice out from the piano in the backdrop proved to be beyond the technology available at hand. In McCartney’s words, “‘Now and Then’ just kind of languished” as the band members focused their attention on other projects.
It wasn’t until 2021 that “Now and Then”‘s star finally turned. While working on the docuseries Get Back, which takes us into the world of The Beatles in 1969, director Peter Jackson and his team developed a special type of AI technology that separates all the voices and instruments that work together to create a song. For the first time ever, Lennon’s voice could be enjoyed sans disturbance. You can catch the moment in this heartfelt behind-the-scenes video — jump right over to 7:00 to hear him crystal clear.
“It was like John’s there. It’s far out,” Ringo Starr says in the video, which then shows the development of the track into the masterpiece that’s now taking over the internet like a melodic wildfire. “Now and Then” doesn’t just serve as a reminder of the wonders of technology and the yet-to-be defined limits of AI; It also strikes a chord for anyone who grew up enjoying the wistful tracks of The Beatles, arguably one of the most iconic bands of all time. While it may be doing the rounds today as “the last Beatles song”, this is a piece that promises to open the gateway for countless other musicians to revisit us from the past. After all, what could be more special than one more taste of the good old days?