This past June, Paul McCartney disclosed that he had embarked on a new musical endeavor, crafting what he affectionately termed the Beatles’ ultimate song with the assistance of cutting-edge AI software. He further hinted that this exceptional track would see the light of day sometime within the year. Today, it was shared that the moment is nearly upon us: The Beatles’ final musical offering, aptly titled “Now and Then,” is slated for release on Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. ET, courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.
This musical endeavor will be available in digital format and as a double A-side single, featuring physical editions on 7″ vinyl, 12″ vinyl, and cassette. It comes paired with the band’s inaugural single, “Love Me Do,” dating back to 1962. Moreover, on Nov. 1, a 12-minute documentary chronicling the journey of the creation of “Now and Then” will precede the song’s official launch. You can catch a glimpse of what to expect in the trailer for the short film directed by Oliver Murray below.
The origins of “Now and Then” can be traced back to John Lennon, who penned the song and lent his evocative vocals to the original demo, recorded at his residence in New York’s Dakota building in 1978. The original recording featured just Lennon’s voice and a piano. In 1994, Yoko Ono entrusted the demo to McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, alongside Lennon’s demos for “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.” Collaborating with renowned producer and Electric Light Orchestra mastermind Jeff Lynne, the surviving trio of Beatles undertook the task of augmenting and reimagining “Now and Then.” However, the technological constraints of the era proved insurmountable, preventing them from separating Lennon’s soul-stirring vocals from the accompanying piano in his original demo.
Following decades of shelving “Now and Then,” McCartney and Starr revisited this ambitious project after they collaborated with director Peter Jackson on his Get Back documentary. Jackson and his sound team devised a method that harnessed the power of AI to isolate Lennon’s vocal track from the original tape.
Describing the experience, McCartney expressed, “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. 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 on the verge of unveiling a new song the public hasn’t yet had the privilege to hear, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
Starr chimed in, noting, “It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”
In 2022, McCartney and Starr put the finishing touches on “Now and Then.” This enhanced version features electric and acoustic guitar contributions by Harrison from 1995, a new drum arrangement and backing vocals provided by Starr, and McCartney’s instrumental prowess displayed through bass, guitar, and piano, complete with a slide guitar solo inspired by the late Harrison.
Reflecting on this endeavor, Harrison’s widow, Olivia, revealed, “Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard. If he were here today, Dhani and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of ‘Now and Then.’”
Sean Ono Lennon, the son of John Lennon, shared his touching sentiments, stating, “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.”
Both “Now and Then” and “Love Me Do” have been mixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos, complemented by original cover art designed by Ed Ruscha. In addition to this long-anticipated song, enhanced reissues of “1962-1966” (The Red Album) and “1967-1970” (The Blue Album) are scheduled for release on Nov. 10, featuring updated mixes and the inclusion of “Now and Then.”
Watch the trailer for The Last Beatles Song below.