The song was finally announced on 26 October 2023 as “the last Beatles song”. It was released worldwide on streaming services on 2 November, with a physical release the following day.
Also known as ‘I Don’t Want To Lose You’ and ‘Miss You’, ‘Now And Then’ was recorded by Lennon at his home at the Dakota Building in New York City.
In January 1994 Yoko Ono gave Paul McCartney two cassettes of John Lennon’s home recordings, which included a number of incomplete and previously unreleased songs. They included ‘Free As A Bird’, ‘Real Love’, ‘Grow Old With Me’, and ‘Now And Then’.
On 20 and 21 March 1995 the three surviving former Beatles began constructing a backing track to be added to Lennon’s demo of ‘Now And Then’. However, during the second day work on the song ended.
According to McCartney, George Harrison “didn’t want to do it,” possibly because the song needed to be extensively rewritten before it could be released. Another factor was a humming sound on Lennon’s demo which proved hard to mask.
It was one day – one afternoon, really – messing with it. The song had a chorus but is almost totally lacking in verses. We did the backing track, a rough go that we really didn’t finish.
‘Now And Then’ had been considered as a third reunion single in 1996. It was replaced on Anthology 3 by the orchestral track ‘A Beginning’, recorded in 1968 as an unused introduction for ‘Don’t Pass Me By’.
Since 2006 there was speculation that McCartney intended to complete ‘Now And Then’, with new verses and a drum track recorded by Ringo Starr.
There was one more that we didn’t do, which was a pity. It didn’t have a very good title, it needed a bit of reworking, but it had a beautiful verse and it had John singing it. But George didn’t wanna do it.
Q magazine, November 2006
In June 2023, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today, McCartney said AI had been used to complete “the last Beatles record”, then believed to be ‘Now And Then’.
Well it’s a very interesting thing, you know. It’s something we’re all sort of tackling at the moment, you know, and trying to deal with. What’s it mean, you know?
I don’t hear that much [unofficial AI Beatles songs] because I’m not on the internet that much, but people will say to me: ‘Oh yeah, there’s a track where, you know, John is singing one of my songs.’ And it isn’t, it’s just AI, you know?
So all of that is kind of scary, but exciting because it’s the future. And we were able to use that kind of thing when Peter Jackson did the film Get Back, where it was us making the Let It Be album. And he was able to extricate John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette that had John’s voice and a piano. He could separate them with AI.
They tell the machine: ‘That’s a voice, this is a guitar, lose the guitar.’ And he did that. So it has great uses.
So when we came to make what will be the last Beatles record, it was a demo that John had that we worked on and we just finished it up. It’ll be released this year.
We were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI. So then we could mix the record as you would normally do, you know, so it gives you some sort of leeway.
So there’s a good side to it and then a scary side. And we’ll just have to see where that leads.
The artificial intelligence was Peter Jackson’s neural network MAL (machine-assisted learning) AI, named after The Beatles’ road manager Mal Evans. It was first used in the 2021 documentary Get Back.
The string arrangement for ‘Now And Then’ was by McCartney, Giles Martin, and Ben Foster. It was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles on 1 May 2022. The session musicians were unaware that it was for a Beatles recording, believing it was a McCartney solo project.
The song was also issued as a double a-side single on 3 November 2023, with a new ‘true stereo’ remix of ‘Love Me Do’. The single was released on white marble, light blue, clear, and black 7″ vinyl, red 12″ vinyl, black 12″ vinyl, and cassette.
On 1 November 2023, the day before the single dropped, a short film on the making of the song was released. It contained footage from the recording sessions in 1995 and the 21st century, as well as contributions from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Sean Ono Lennon, Peter Jackson, and others involved in its creation. The film was directed by Oliver Murray and produced by Jonathan Clyde and Sophie Hilton.
The music video for ‘Now And Then’ was directed by Peter Jackson, and was released on 3 November 2023.
The video features previously-unseen footage of The Beatles, including brief shots of the band performing in Birkenhead on 10 February 1962. The material was supplied by their former drummer Pete Best.
It is the only known footage of The Beatles performing in their leather stage gear. It was bought by Best’s brother Roag, and cleaned up by Jackson.
The video also contains footage of The Beatles recorded during the 1995 sessions for Anthology, as well as previously-unseen archive material including home movie footage of Harrison, new shots of McCartney and Starr, and archive shots of The Beatles.
“NOW AND THEN” TO BE RELEASED WORLDWIDE
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2 AT 2PM GMT / 10AM EDT / 7AM PDT
THE BEATLES’ 1962-1966 (‘THE RED ALBUM’) AND 1967-1970 (‘THE BLUE ALBUM’) COLLECTIONS EXPANDED, MIXED IN STEREO & DOLBY ATMOS FOR 2023 EDITION RELEASES OUT NOVEMBER 10
London – October 26, 2023 – Together and apart, The Beatles have always had a talent for the unexpected. And now, 2023 brings one of the most anticipated releases of their long and endlessly eventful history. “Now And Then” is the last Beatles song – written and sung by John Lennon, developed and worked on by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and now finally finished by Paul and Ringo over four decades later.
“Now And Then” will be released worldwide at 2pm GMT / 10am EDT / 7am PDT on Thursday, November 2 by Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe. The double A-side single pairs the last Beatles song with the first: the band’s 1962 debut UK single, “Love Me Do,” a truly fitting full-circle counterpart to “Now And Then.” Both songs are mixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos, and the release features original cover art by renowned artist Ed Ruscha. The new music video for “Now And Then” will debut on Friday, November 3. More details including global premiere plans will be announced.
A 12-minute “Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song” documentary film, written and directed by Oliver Murray, will debut on November 1. The film’s global online premiere will be hosted on The Beatles’ YouTube channel at 7:30pm GMT / 3:30pm EDT / 12:30pm PDT. This poignant short film tells the story behind the last Beatles song, with exclusive footage and commentary from Paul, Ringo, George, Sean Ono Lennon and Peter Jackson.