Now and Then

Now and Then

105 days ago

So, the Beatles are number 1 again. Despite being too young to remember them as an active, going concern of a group, the Beatles were the first band I truly loved. Sometime in the 1970s, when I was at Primary School, the BBC showed a series of Beatles films at Christmas, and I was hooked. My older cousin Neil taped the Red and Blue compilation albums for me and I devoured everything. I can remember getting stick from a friend at primary school for liking such an old group, in comparison to his favourite band, the oh-so-current Electric Light Orchestra (who, to be fair, I liked too). The irony that ELO’s sound was so profoundly influenced by the Beatles was lost on both of us at the time.

The Red and Blue compilations are currently being re-released, on the back of ‘Now and Then’, which (as everyone knows by now) was created from a John Lennon solo demo, with contributions from Paul and Ringo, plus guitar parts by George from the 1995 ‘Free As a Bird’ sessions (a thought: if that iteration of the band was dubbed ‘The Threetles’, does that make the current incarnation ‘The Twotles’?).

I’ve seen a lot of different reactions to ‘Now and Then’. Some critics have dismissed it, others have lapped it up. A few people have asked why, if it’s any good, it was passed over during the Threetle sessions. Apparently, the answer is technological: it wasn’t possible then to get a good enough separation of Lennon’s vocal and piano parts, but now it is. I heard someone observe that it sounds more like a Lennon solo track, with the others playing on it, rather than a bona fide Beatles song – it lacks the classic combination of John, Paul and George’s vocals, for one thing. For what it’s worth, I much prefer ‘Now and Then’ to ‘Free As a Bird’, or ‘Real Love’, the 1995 offerings.

I quite like it as a track. It falls a long way short of their best work (which, given the staggering quality of so much of their output, is hardly a damning criticism), but there are plenty of other Beatles tracks from back in the day that I’d choose it ahead of. The Peter Jackson video elevates it, adding a poignancy to the lyrics and presenting it as a love song to each other, a celebration of old friends and a precious shared past. Fittingly, given the nature of the track’s recording process, the video intercuts footage of current Paul and Ringo with all four Fabs from throughout their careers, often in the same frame. I enjoyed the juxtaposition, particularly when the different eras are made to apparently engage with each other – present-day Paul smiling in response to mid-60s John clowning around with the modern orchestra, for example. Overall, it’s a playful video showing the band having fun through the years – it’s a sequence of happy memories set to music.

Is it essential Beatles? No, but I’m glad it’s out there in the world. The lyrical message of enduring companionship, of gratitude and love for one another seems an appropriate final offering from the band who taught us that all you need is love (until someone finds another demo tape, obviously).

Comments
Gore edwards.

I remember Lennon getting shot. It was unreal.it was supposed to be elder brothers or dad's music. I was a addict spent a summer in a bowl haircut. Suede jacket. I was 11 . I loved the rubber soul era. The magic 45s.double a sides. It was later I got white album and abbey road.late teens. When indie bands had to do a cover of it. I say Beatles are the back bone of my music .all the twist turns leads back to them. It finished in 1971. We should cherish what they did in that short time.

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