Review of “Now and Then” by The Beatles – Final Track

By: Rachel Mattingly

To preface this article, I would like to say I am not a Beatles expert and I’m sure someone with a wider knowledge of all their albums would have a much more in-depth take on this final song. However, as someone who appreciates the Beatles an average amount, there is a chance that I might have something to offer.

“Now and Then” was released as a final track by the surviving members of the band, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. It includes the vocals of John Lennon and originally existed as a set of unreleased demos given to McCartney following Lennon’s death, according to The Guardian. The other songs released from this demo are “Free as a Bird,” released in 1995, and “Real Love,” released in 1996. “Now and Then” was released so much later because until now it was too difficult to isolate John Lennon’s vocals, according to The Guardian. However, newly available AI technology allowed for this feat, while Starr and McCartney re-recorded their parts. The song also includes George Harrison’s original guitar recording from 1995, as he passed away in 2001.

The song itself is melancholic in tone, with very simple lyrics. I found it incredibly moving, especially in the context of the other two songs released decades earlier. They all follow a similar message of searching and finding some essential part of a relationship. The tone of simultaneous longing and recognition is present in all three songs, perhaps more subtly in the first two, and very clearly in this new release. Of course, the tragedy in all these songs is that what the bandmates found with one another is irrevocably lost. This sentiment is already clear in the title, “Now and Then,” and a sad nostalgia hangs heavy throughout.

As a final track I found the song very tasteful in its sad, mournful simplicity. The emotion is driven by the melody and Lennon’s voice, but the lyrics contribute a great deal. The words “Now and then I miss you” offer no resolution or sense of closure, but just quietly accept reality. I definitely think this was a good choice as the last track, from the unreleased demos. The verses are quite haunting while the chorus is a bit more of a respite from this heady sadness. But again, there is no closure. Only the present and the past. I also think this sense of not ending could relate back to this idea of “timelessness” surrounding the Beatles. They’re revered as one of the greatest bands of all time, and this final track conveys not only the sorrow of the surviving members, but probably gives their many fans a deservedly cathartic sad song as a goodbye.

If you haven’t listened to this song already, I would highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a Beatles fan I’m sure almost every college student can relate to the song’s theme. Anyone going through a transition is likely to get a lot out of listening. Being more than halfway through the semester, I’m sure many people are getting excited to go home for the holidays, and this song might help someone get through the rougher days of homesickness. I, for one, am definitely missing my friends and I love finding songs like this that give me a few minutes to sit in that feeling. I think that’s a lot of people’s goal with finding new music. Songs give you a certain amount of time and space to feel exactly how you want to, without judgment. The sense of privacy that listening to music can give you is something this song does very well. It’s intimate and personal, despite the wider connection to an internationally renowned band and the story surrounding its members. Without diminishing its meaning, it can still be just for you.