By Tirthankar Mitra
Arguably, the most influential music band, The Beatles used their platform to spread love and peace in a troubled time. The last song of The Beatles remind the audience why the audience fell in love with the mop-topped boys from Liverpool.
It is “Now and Then”. It is a moot question whether the last two Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr should have gone ahead sans consent from their late band mates, John Lennon and George Harrison to release a brand new song.
The band broke up 53 years ago. Yet there has always been the faintest sense that there was still more to come. Nothing really does. At least not in the era that has seen ABBA’s return to live music after 40 years and the exhumation of Francis Crane, Carrie Bradshaw and Luke Skywalker.
“Now and Then” was written and demoed on tape in 1978:by John Lennon. It was drafted as a Beatles track in the 1990s by three surviving members but it was scrapped due to poor audio quality on the original recording. It was brought back to life by Peter Jackson’s AI technology. Setting aside purists’ anxieties all four members of the band have sung or played in “Now and Then”.
Like Paul McCartney recoding a guiter solo in the style of George Harrison as a tribute. Producer Giles Martin (son of legendary Beatles collaborator, George Martin) pulling snippets of vocals from older Beatles tracks to create their four part harmonies.
If it was greeted with scepticism, given its present trajectory “Now and Then” is well on its way to becoming a chart topper. It has been embraced by fans and there is no denying the fact that the last Beatles song is a hit.
“Now and Then” billed the final Beatles single, can’t live up to “Let it Be”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” or whichever is one’s personal favourite Beatles song. It began as a modest demonstration and has been blown out into a credible full-band production. It is a heartfelt, lovingly rendered song which is high on curiosity value. And the present generation does not ask for more.
Perhaps McCartney and Starr, both above 80, are trying to ensure that that the Beatles stay relevant six decades after this foursome band came together to make music history. Nothing wrong in that as the famous want to retain their fame long after they and their works have become a part of history.
One cannot dismiss as doubting Thomases those who ask where exactly the track fits into the Beatles’ vast influential body of work. It is certainly not an irrelevant question which wonders whether this a mere commercial project, a venture designed to cash in on most storied names of pop music? It is all of this and something more. It is an offering from McCartney and Starr to Lennon and Harrison as well as the Beatles fans, old and new.
Defining “Now and Then” is not a difficult job. Perhaps it cannot be spoken of in the same breath as done other Beatles song but it is certainly lovely and wispy that would take away some of one’s blues on a chilly evening.
It is a surprising and welcome exhibition of emotions from the living members of the Beatles. After all, they are not known wearing their heart on their sleeves. “Now and Then” is a marker of time that feels both non-committal and a little self protective. The strongest thrust of emotion in this song is the baggage that it brings to listeners.
The apocryphal tale goes that the last words spoken by John to Paul were “Think of me every now and then, old friend.” A few months later John was shot dead in New York City, McCartney was brought to tears after hearing the phrase, coincidentally a song the musician Carl Perkins had written.
A decade later, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono gifted the Beatles that would become “Now and Then”. Those parting words of Lennon haunted McCartney once again. We the Beatles fans share Paul’s feelings. Owing to our empathy with Paul, we are enjoying “Now and Then” all the more. (IPA Service)