Fifty-three years after The Beatles announced their breakup, the Fab Four have one last gift for fans.
Now and Then, a home demo written and performed by John Lennon in 1979, will be expanded into a new full-band Beatles song with contributions by Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Ringo Starr and the late George Harrison.
The new song will be available to Australian listeners on Friday 3 November at 1am AEDT (12am AEST / 12:30am ACDT / 10pm Thursday AWST).
Described by the band as “The Last Beatles Song”, Now and Then is the third track to receive the posthumous Beatles treatment since Lennon’s tragic murder in 1980, and the first since Harrison’s death in 2001 seemingly dashed all hopes of a further reunion.
Two other Lennon solo recordings — Free as a Bird and Real Love — were previously transformed into full-band songs for the 1995 Beatles Anthology project, both under the guidance of legendary producer and E.L.O. frontman Jeff Lynne.
Now and Then was briefly considered at the time as a third new track, with the then-three surviving members recording a quick rough cut for Lynne, but sound quality issues in Lennon’s tape recording prevented plans from progressing far.
However, thanks to audio restoration technology used in Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back, aided by rapid advances in AI-assisted sound separation, it is now possible to isolate Lennon’s vocals and piano into a clean mix.
Sir Paul and Sir Ringo have recorded brand new overdubs for the song, while contributions from Harrison, who passed away in 2001, have been taken from the 1990s Anthology sessions.
The two surviving Beatles recently shared their feelings about reuniting in a press release.
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” recounted Sir Paul.
“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 Ringo described it as “the closest we’ll ever come to having [John] back in the room”.
“It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”
Sir Paul was quick to assure fans that despite the use of AI technology, which has already convincingly simulated the voices of iconic singers (including Lennon), the voice they hear will be 100% John.
“Nothing has been artificially or synthetically created,” he said in a June Twitter update.
“It’s all real and we all play on it. We cleaned up some existing recordings – a process which has gone on for years.”
The families of the two sadly departed Beatles have also given their blessings to the project.
Sean Ono Lennon, son of Lennon and Yoko 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.”
The same technological breakthroughs have also allowed Sir Paul to perform a duet with his old songwriting partner on his current Got Back tour, with the pair harmonising on I’ve Got a Feeing across a gulf of half a century.
“I’m playing guitar and he’s singing in his middle bit ‘everybody had a good year’. And then I join him with ‘I got a feeling’,” said Sir Paul. “Now there’s two of us together. And now I’ve got to actually really keep in with him.”
“And that’s beautiful because that’s like it was when you played live, you know, to be conscious of the other person, and do your part right alongside him. So yeah, it’s very emotional for me. I love it.”