Taking into consideration everything from its initial home demo offerings and unwieldy recording history (originally tabled for 1995’s The Beatles Anthology, when George Harrison still walked among us), to its AI future-is-now-ism, the “new” Beatles’ single—the previously unheard final original song by all of the Fab Four—“Now and Then” remains an elegantly elegiac moment with all of its familiars intact, no matter what we know of its origin story. Thankfully, the music within is more vivacious than its making-the-sausage backstory, and at least twice as solid as a song than the last two “last” Beatles songs released in 1995, “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird.”
Cobbled together by Peter Jackson’s AI team after similar busywork on the director’s 2021 Get Back documentary series separated instrumental clutter from Beatles voices, John Lennon’s 1970-era vocals—nasal, plaintive—come hauntingly to life, singing a clearly unfinished, piano-driven melody and mantra-like aphorisms like “I know it’s true, it’s all because of you.” If you listen to its naked deconstruction on the “Now and Then” 12-minute promo film, Lennon’s voice sounds ever-so-slightly altered, severely clipped and too clean. Yet once it comes together with previously recorded George Harrison guitars, new bass and drum work from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and co-producer Giles Martin’s arrangement of “Eleanor Rigby”–esque strings, the old track is newly whole.
McCartney’s signature bass flips, Starr’s tom-heavy drums, their gently rendered three-part harmonies to Lennon in its billowy cloudy background vocals, the song’s count-in familiar to so many Beatles classics—they’re all here. If you’re waiting for George’s traditional slide guitar solo, don’t worry: The Cute Beatle replicates one in dear tribute to the Quiet Beatle.
And if you’re wondering whether “Now and Then” fits alongside other Beatles classics, you can decide for yourself next week when the last song featuring all four of the Fabs is integrated into the forthcoming reissues of their 1962-66 and 1967-1970 collections—the Red and Blue albums, respectively—featuring similarly AI-tricked-out remixes of the group’s hit material. Whether or not “Now and Then” holds water against “Help!” or “She’s Leaving Home” or “Helter Skelter” is up to you. But this new, last song is certainly worth its weight in gold—even if that gold is AI generated.