The Current

Great Music Lives Here ®
Listener-Supported Music
Donate Now

Watch the short film about the Beatles' song, "Now and Then"

The Beatles - Now And Then - The Last Beatles Song (Short Film) The Beatles

November 10, 2023

Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song is a short film written and directed by Oliver Murray that documents a track recorded by John Lennon in his apartment in the 1970s through its production and eventual release as the final song from all four band members. On Friday, Nov. 10, just after 7:30 a.m. Central, Jill Riley will air the radio version of Murray’s documentary.

The song “Now and Then” is the result of decades of conversations and collaborations between the members of the band and with others, as well as the evolution of technology.

In 1994, Yoko Ono, Lennon’s wife, mentioned to George Harrison that she had a tape of her husband recording some original songs. In February 1995, Paul, George and Ringo worked on the Lennon demo as part of The Beatles Anthology and were successful in putting together the songs “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love,” released in the mid-1990s. But “Now and Then” proved to be an insurmountable technical challenge, as John’s vocal was partially obscured by his piano accompaniment. The song lay dormant for decades.

A man plays piano in an apartment
Apple Corps Ltd.

Fast-forward to 2022, when advances in technology made progress on the song possible. A software system developed by Peter Jackson and his team for the documentary series Get Back finally opened the way for the uncoupling of John’s vocal from his piano part. As a result, the original recording could be brought to life, and the newly cleared vocal enabled McCartney and Starr to complete the track last year. The final recording includes John’s original vocal, McCartney’s bass and a slide guitar solo he added as a tribute to George Harrison, drums by Starr, and a guitar part Harrison had recorded nearly three decades ago. With all four band members having contributed their own work to the track, “Now and Then” is indeed the last Beatles song.

This remarkable story of musical archaeology reflects The Beatles’ endless creative curiosity and shared fascination with technology. It marks the completion of the last recording that John, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together, and it celebrates the legacy of the foremost and most influential band in popular music history.