After The Beatles broke up John Lennon recorded several songs on cassette in the mid-1970s. After his death in 1980, his widow Yoko Ono gave these tapes to Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. The surviving trio recorded and released two of the songs, “Real Love” and “Free As a Bird”, but held off on the third song “Now And Then” because of technical issues. It languished for many decades until it was finally released on November 2, 2023.
“Now and Then”s eventful journey to fruition took place over five decades and is the product of conversations and collaborations between the four Beatles that go on to this day.
Both McCartney and Starr explained how they used Lennon’s framework to build each song, but this one was more difficult than the others to make Lennon’s voice heard.
“When we started ‘Now and Then,’ it was very difficult because John was sort of hidden in a way,” said Starr…They put together some of the song’s building blocks, including having Harrison record guitar parts for the song. But they couldn’t properly isolate Lennon’s vocals from his piano. So “‘Now and Then’ just kind of languished in a cupboard,” McCartney said.
Luckily, technology saved the day and Peter Jackson was able to use machine learning to separate Lennon’s vocals from the piano.
For years it looked like the song could never be completed. But in 2022 there was a stroke of serendipity. A software system developed by Peter Jackson and his team, used throughout the production of 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 worked on anew with contributions from all four Beatles.
Apple unearthed over 14 hours of long forgotten film shot during the 1995 recording sessions, including several hours of Paul, George and Ringo working on Now And Then, and gave all that to me. …Watching this footage completely changed the situation – I could see how a music video could be made. Actually, I found it far easier if I thought of it as making a short movie, so that’s what I did… My lack of confidence with music videos didn’t matter anymore if I wasn’t making one.
Here’s a short film about the whole process.