Now And Then - The Last Beatles Song

Documentary • For The Beatles • Directed by Oliver Murray
Timeline This film has been released in 2023
Release date:
Nov 01, 2023

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Now And Then

2023 • For The Beatles • Directed by Peter Jackson

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Now and Then“, dubbed the last Beatles song, was released on November 2, 2023. To generate excitement for the release, a 12-minute documentary film, which tells the story behind the song, was released on November 1. It features footage from the 1994-1995 Beatles reunion, where the three surviving Beatles attempted to work on “Now and Then,” as well as new videos from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Peter Jackson working on the track in 2023, and historical Beatles videos as well as new 2023 interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Sean Lennon.

The legacy of the Beatles set one of the most important foundations for modern youth culture. It is a great honor to be given the responsibility of telling this story and I think it will conjure up a lot of different emotions for people as we all have a very personal relationship to the band’s work. ‘Now And Then’ is a story of musical archaeology and a brotherly bond between four guys that gave the world some of the most popular entertainment in history.

Oliver Murray – Director – From, November 1, 2023

I think all the best music documentaries, they’re not really about music. They use music to Trojan-horse something else. So I like the idea that, if you watch this for the first time, the way it’s all teed up is that you go along on a journey with John’s tape. The tape moves geographically and through time, and John is therefore the character that is emerging out of it.

Oliver Murray – Director – From, November 1, 2023

People think it was just bots making a fake Beatles record. So it was important to us to have a moment in the film where you hear John’s voice — just his voice—after it was cleaned up by Peter Jackson and his head of machine learning, Emile de la Rey, and it sounds just like it should. Because even once his voice was separated and cleaned up and rebuilt, they placed him in a room, using the sound of the kind of microphone John would have used, really making sure that they got an authentic 1970s sound off of that tape.

Oliver Murray – Director – From, November 1, 2023

I do feel like it’s a big thing, and I will allow myself to think it’s a big deal, because I’m very proud of what we’ve done. I think it’s an important story. That word gets bandied around way too much, but if the last Beatles record isn’t an important milestone in the history of modern music, then I don’t really know what is.

Oliver Murray – Director – From, November 1, 2023

Making good music in a band is all about chemistry. The way our four very different personalities combined in The Beatles was something very special. When we lost John, we knew that it was really over. But in 1994, amazingly, an interesting opportunity arose where we could make more music together.

Paul McCartney – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

George and Ringo came down to my studio. We listened to the track. There’s John in his apartment in New York City, banging away at his piano, doing a little demo. Is it something we shouldn’t do? Every time I thought like that, I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Let’s say I had a chance to ask John, ‘Hey John, would you like us to finish this last song of yours?’ I’m telling you, I know the answer would’ve been: Yeah! he would’ve loved that.

We did ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love,’ and we got a little bit of time left to do ‘Now and Then.’

On John’s demo tape, the piano was a little hard to hear. And in those days, of course, we didn’t have the technology to do the separation.

Every time I want a little bit more of John’s voice, this piano came through and clouded the picture. I think we kind of ran out of steam a bit, and time, and it was like, well, I don’t know — maybe we’ll leave this one.

“Now And Then” just kind of languished in a cupboard. And then in 2001, we lost George, which kind of took the wind out of our sails. It took almost a quarter of a century for us to wait until the right moment to tackle “Now And Then” again.

With the technology that Peter Jackson and his team had worked out during the Get Back movie, he’d been able to separate off certain instruments and voices. We thought, “Well, we’d better send John’s voice to them off the original cassette.

Paul McCartney – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

My dad would have loved that because he was never shy to experiment with recording technology. I think it’s really beautiful.

Sean Lennon – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

They said this is the sound of John’s voice [Paul imitates computer noise]. A few seconds later or however long it took, and there it was: John’s voice, crystal clear. So in the mix, we could lift John’s voice without lifting the piano, which had always been one of the problems. Now we could mix it and make a proper record of it. I pulled it out, had a listen to it, and thought, ‘Oh, I could actually do the bass a bit better. So why don’t I start there?

Paul McCartney – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

Paul called me up and said he’d like to work on “Now And Then”. “What do you think?” I think it’s great. So he put the bass on, he sent the files to me, I put the drums on.

Ringo Starr – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

It really brought it on, you know. And so now we had a track that was really starting to cook.

I’d been vaguely thinking strings might be a good thing. The Beatles did lots of string things, you know: Strawberry Fields, Yesterday, I Am The Walrus… We wanted to go to Capitol Studios because that had been EMI, and it was sort of “Beatley.” Giles worked on an arrangement like Giles’ dad [original Beatles producer George Martin] would’ve done in the old days. We had to put the music out on the stands for the musicians, but we couldn’t tell ’em it was a new Beatles song. It was all a bit hush-hush. We pretended it was just something of mine.

On the new album, there’s a guitar solo. We had kept George’s guitar parts from ’95. And I thought what I’d like to do is do a slide guitar solo in George’s style. It was really a tribute to George.

And then we started mixing it. Wow, this is it. Now it’s a Beatle record.

Paul McCartney – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years my dad had been gone. It’s the last song that my dad and Paul and George and Ringo will get to make together.

Sean Lennon – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

All of those memories come flooding back. My god, how lucky was I to have those men in my life, and to work with those men so intimately, and to come up with such a body of music. To still be working on Beatles’ music in 2023: WOW! We’re actually messing around with state of the art technology, which is something The Beatles would’ve been very interested in. “Now And Then,” it’s probably, like, the last Beatles song, and we’ve all played on it. So it is a genuine Beatle recording.

Paul McCartney – 2023 interview – From the documentary.

From, October 26, 2023:

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.

From The Beatles, October 31, 2023:

Watch the 12-minute documentary film which tells the story behind the last Beatles song, with exclusive footage and commentary from Paul, Ringo, George, Sean Ono Lennon and Peter Jackson.

‘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. The long mythologised John Lennon demo was first worked on in February 1995 by PaulGeorge and Ringo as part of The Beatles Anthology project but it remained unfinished, partly because of the impossible technological challenges involved in working with the vocal John had recorded on tape in the 1970s.

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.

The short-film tells the story of the original recording being brought back to life with contributions from all four Beatles – marking the completion of the last recording that JohnPaulGeorge and Ringo will get to make together.

“Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song” documentary filmwritten 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.

The Film Premieres Around the Globe

The film is also being shown on TV around the globe on the following channels – but check local listings to confirm schedule and channel.

Territory of BroadcastBroadcaster / ChannelTime and Date of Broadcast
Australia + Territories detailed belowABC /ABC & ABC NewsNovember 1st 7:30pm GMT
Belgium, FlandersVRT / Canvas & VRT Max (online)November 1st 7:30pm GMT
Belgium, Wallinder RTBF / La TroisNovember 3rd 10pm CET
Canada CBC /CBC TV & CBC NEWS NETWORKNovember 1st 7:30pm GMT 
Columbia Canal/ Canal 13November 4th 10pm local time
Costa RicaRock N Wine / 1018pm local time on Nov 3rd 2023 
DenmarkDRTV/ DR1 & DR2November 1st 8:30pm CET/ 7:30pm GMT
El SalvadorPop 12 / Canal 12 5pm local time on 3 Nov 2023 
FinlandYLE/ YLE TV2 & YLE TeemaNovember 1st 7:30pm GMT
France Mainland, Overseas departments, Monaco and AndorraFrance TV / France 4 & Culture BoxNovember 1st 7:30pm GMT
Germany ZDF / ZDF Mediathek[TBC]
Guatemala Más Música TV / Channel 78[TBC] local time on Nov 3rd 2023 
Honduras Canal 11 / Canall 1110am local time on [Nov 3rd] 2023 
Hong KongViuTV / ViuTV99November 2nd 12:30pm local time
Hong KongPCCW/ Now True On Demand [TBC]
Israel YES DBS / Yes DocuNovember 1st 21:30 pm local time.
Italy RTL / RTL 102.5, RADIO FRECCIA, RADIO ZETA RADIO & Correspomnding Radio TV Channels November 1st 8:30pm CET/ 7:30pm GMT
Japan NTV / [CHANNEL]November 18th [TIME]
MexicoTV Azteca / [CHANNEL]November 1st 7:30pm GMT / 1:30PM MEXICO CITY TIME
Nicaragua Megabox / Canal 54pm local time on [Nov 3rd] 2023 
Panama Oye TV / Canal 71pm local time on Nov 8 2023 
Poland TVN/ TVN 24 (News) 
Spain and AndorraTelefonica/Movistar Plus + & Música por Movistar y& Documentales por MovistarNovember 1st after 7:30pm GMT / 8:30PM CET
SwitzerlandSRG SSR / SRF 1November 2nd, 18:35 CET
Switzerland and Lichtenstein Blue TV/ Blue ZoomNovember 3rd 18:30 CET
UKBBC / BBC 1November 1st 7:20pm GMT
US + Territories detailed belowPBS/ All StationsNovember 14th (across 1 week) 

Interview with director Oliver Murray – Creative Bloq, December 11, 2023:

Talk me through the creative process. What were the most important considerations?

First of all, the most important thing for me was that it felt fresh and contemporary, so we started out by recording new audio interviews with the surviving members of the band, Sean Ono Lennon and Peter Jackson. It was important to record only audio because that’s my favourite way of getting intimate and conversational interview content.

I took these interviews into the edit and made a kind of podcast cut of the story, which became our foundation for the timeline. Then I started looking at The Beatles’ incredible archive of films and archived interviews from the past. I started to think how this material could be reinterpreted to tell a story and to create a structural device that allowed us to move backwards and forwards in time.

Then we started to weave the imagery and interviews together with music, and that is where it came alive. Of course, a real gift was having stems of the music track and access to the original ‘Now and Then’ demo because I was able to show John emerging out of the scratchy cassette tape and have his voice appear fully formed and solo’d in the mix.

It was important to me that once we had the story of this track communicated, that we were able to broaden out the film to consider the whole legacy of the Beatles and what it means to people. This project clearly meant a lot to Paul and Ringo, and The Beatles mean a hell of a lot to many people all over the world so the release of the final Beatles song felt like a truly global cultural moment and that’s what the film explores in the final third.

How did you work with Paul, Ringo, Sean and Peter Jackson? Did you fit their words to the film or the other way round?

Interviews are always a big part of my process, and are where I start because more often than not the answers that you get to questions lead you somewhere you didn’t expect and change the course of the project, so I like to do those early. It’s always useful to start with audio because it’s also the most malleable and it’s possible to go back for pick up interviews. Archive footage or access (with a camera) to the people you’re talking to actually doing what they’re talking about is much harder to acquire. You need to come up with lots of creative solutions to make the imagery work for the story. 

I often describe the process of what comes first as being like running laps of a running track. We start with audio interviews, move on to visuals, come full circle back to doing more audio interviews, and then adjust the visuals again. Then you repeat this process over and over until you get it right, factoring in composed music, graphics, archive restoration and script amends as you go.

What challenges did you come across when creating the film?

Taking on any Beatles story is quite a pressurised situation because they are so beloved all over the world and I wanted to make something that the fans like. Having said that you also want to make something that introduces a new audience to the music, in this case it was important we made something that appeals to younger people. So getting that balance right was a challenge.

How did you ensure the film would satisfy Beatles aficionados as well as more casual viewers?

I don’t think Beatles aficionados mind if the storytelling is designed to include people that don’t necessarily know everything there is to know about the Beatles, so it was important to explain the context adequately for someone discovering this story for the first time. 

The details are important so we make sure we didn’t take any liberties when it came to what archive we used and wherever possible I made sure we showcased some rarely seen film material that even the hardcore fans hadn’t seen. I was very lucky that the Beatles regularly work with Peter Jackson’s post production company Park Road post. All the material that we used went down to New Zealand to be lovingly restored and we produced a 4K picture with an Atmos sound mix that looks absolute fantastic. This gave the fans something really exciting to look forward to and also the more casual viewers got to enjoy the kind of cinematic experience that they’ve come to expect nowadays. […]

Tell me about the graphics used in the film

We needed to go back and forth in time in the film, so I knew I wanted a date scroll very early on and it was in the original script that I wrote. I think my favourite use of The Beatles archive was the yellow submarine – in itself a time traveling device – as part of the date scroll. It fits so perfectly.

The look of The Beatles animation is amazingly contemporary given that it was made in the ’60s, so I enjoyed using that as a graphical component. There is also a very specific brand identity to The Beatles that meant new graphic components are quite hard to include, so a few early ideas to make new imagery fell by the wayside very quickly.

How was VFX used in the film?

Some VFX work is very obvious – like the creation of a CGI alien in a blockbuster film – but there’s a whole other side of VFX that was in play on this project that was completely invisible in the finished film. The material we used to tell the story was sourced from many different countries – all of which film and store material at different frame rates and aspect ratios.

We had to create a 4K master that ran at 24 frames a second and this required very nuanced and surgical work that is ultimately invisible in the finished piece. In some instances film reels were damaged and needed frame-by-frame colour restoration, and in other instances reels needed to be completely rescanned and a new master created.

What is your favourite part of the finished film?

The emotional climax of the film is definitely the moment where we get to hear John’s isolated vocal for the first time. It’s quite an emotional moment to hear him emerge from that scratchy demo.

How does it feel to have played a part in something as iconic/groundbreaking as a new Beatles record?

It was an amazing experience. As you might imagine The Beatles just weren’t even on my list of people I wanted to work with because I thought that the chance had passed. To have been involved with such a one-of-a-kind bunch of creatives was very special and I hope I get to do it again soon.

How did you get the gig to make Now and Then?

I’m very thankful to have a good relationship with Universal Music and I’ve worked with some high profile musicians in the past like The Rolling Stones and Quincy Jones so that’s how I made the shortlist I guess. Then I pitched a script to Apple Corps, which is the business entity behind the Beatles, they liked it, and we went from there.

Which part of the process did you enjoy most?

Obviously getting to meet and work with Paul McCartney was a trip! But because the whole way through production I felt a lot of pressure to get the film right, I think the part that I enjoyed the most was seeing the film connect with broadcasters and streamers the way it did. Their enthusiasm settled my nerves when it came to guessing how an audience was going to take it. It actually went live with 26 broadcasters and five streamers around the world, which was amazing to see.

Interview with director Oliver Murray – Creative Bloq, December 11, 2023

From Movistar Plus+ on X: “.@PaulMcCartney tiene un mensaje que darnos. 🫶🏼👀 ‘Now and Then – La última canción de The Beatles’ llega hoy a las 20.30h a Movistar Plus+. ¡No os lo perdáis!” / X (

Last updated on December 16, 2023


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