Recording "Now And Then"

Mar 20-21, 1995 • For The Beatles

Part of

"The Beatles Anthology" sessions

Feb 11, 1994 - 1996 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Anthology 1

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Now And Then / Love Me Do (Black 7" Vinyl) 7" Single.
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

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Additional recording by George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr is reported to have taken place at Paul’s home studio on 20th and 21st March this year. Further work was started and then quickly shelved on “Now And Then/I Don’t Want To Lose You“.

It would be nice to get it finished. Paul’s up for it. The chorus is great. It would make a great record.

Geoff Emerick

Neil Aspinall later confirmed that the third, unreleased reunion track was indeed Now And Then. He inferred that the song had only been partly recorded “in embryonic form” before it “got put on the back burner, and that’s where it stayed.” Neil claimed the song was never intended to be released, although he didn’t go on to clarify why the Beatles had bothered to record it in the first place.

Paul also confirmed that The Beatles had abandoned work on Now And Then/I Don’t Want To Lose You.

Paul: So we did the two that were the two favorites. We did Free As A Bird and Real Love those two songs of John’s, and that was very exciting, very moving for me and very comfortable having his voice in my headphones in the studio again. And the idea arose that there was a third track, another song we kind of had our eyes on called Now And Then. I don’t know, it didn’t really have a title [sings: “you know/it’s true; it’s up to you…”]. That beginning bit’s great and then it just goes a bit crummy. We all decided that it’s not one of John’s greatest songs. I like the beginning, but we’d have to do a hatchet job on it.

Ringo: Such a blabbermouth that Paul McCartney! It’s the unfinished track. Oh, the myth that will grow around that now. The Hidden Track. We did three tracks but we only finished two.

The next “Threatles” recording session was scheduled for May 15th and 16th, although the group did attend mixing sessions together for the Anthology albums on the 31st March 1995.

Unlike Now And Then, a reworked Grow Old With Me was eventually released. In 1998 George Martin scored and added an orchestral backing to this demo for release on The John Lennon Anthology. Martin has denied rumours that McCartney plays bass on this ‘new’ recording, admitting that he had considered asking him to contribute, but couldn’t bring himself to make the offer considering the nature of the lyrics and Paul’s grief at the then recent loss of his wife Linda.

In 2005 press reports started speculating on the possibility that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (George Harrison died in 2001) may eventually finish off Now And Then/I Don’t Want To Lose You. Highlights from The Washington Post article:

There is one more Beatles song. Not another overlooked ’60s tune from a dusty corner of a vault. Not an outtake, rough rehearsal, or crude early tape made in Paul McCartney’s living room and found in somebody’s shoe box. But neither is it a finished work. A Beatles song in the sense that all four group members are heard on it, it is one of three “virtual reunion songs” worked on in 1995 by McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and producer Jeff Lynne. Two songs, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” were completed and released. The third started with John Lennon’s home tape of his haunting, unreleased ballad “I Don’t Want to Lose You.”

It was left incomplete, but McCartney has said that might change. “When we did ‘Free as a Bird’ and “Real Love,’ ” McCartney said in a 2002 MSN Internet chat, “there was another track under consideration for us to work on but we didn’t get around to it, so I wonder if there will be a chance in the future. I wouldn’t mind doing it.”

In fact, though, he, Harrison and Starr did “get around” to the song. It was worked on, according to one report, in 1994 and 1995 at McCartney’s Mill Studio in Sussex. Yoko Ono, who in 1994 chose the song, as well as “Bird” and “Real Love,” for the remaining group members to turn into full-fledged Beatles tunes, says she does not oppose having it finished today. “I sent those songs to them when the situation was quite different,” she said from her home in New York. “Now that George is gone, I don’t know if the same would apply. I will consider the possibility, that is, when I get the call.”

“I Don’t Want to Lose You,” originally intended for the third “Anthology” CD package, was put aside, reportedly because it was not falling together easily and required more writing. The song was ultimately abandoned after critical notices for the first two reunion songs left the trio, especially Harrison, reluctant to venture a third.

If completed, the song would acquire an extra layer of meaning, what with Harrison’s loss. Should it be finished? McCartney, Lynne and Emerick are on the record in the affirmative. And so, at least with qualifications, are several Beatles specialists, including Mark Hudson, Starr’s close friend and writing and producing partner of his last five albums. “I’d love to see it happen! Are you kidding?” said Hudson, reached in Los Angeles. “if anybody is going to be capable of making an addition to a John Lennon song, it definitely would be Paul McCartney. And I think he would write it like a Lennon-McCartney song, I really do. I don’t think he would make it too McCartney.”

Bill King, editor and publisher of Beatlefan, the oldest Beatles fan publication in the United States, said “naturally I’d like to see it completed” — though not necessarily as an official Beatles song.

“Whether I’d like it to be released under the name the Beatles depends on the degree of collaboration,” said King. “If George played or sang on it and his contributions are kept in the finished version, and if both Ringo and Paul are involved in finishing it up, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it being a ‘Beatles’ release. If it’s just Paul finishing it off (and Harrison and/or Ringo are absent), it shouldn’t be called the Beatles.”

Chris Carter, host of “Breakfast With the Beatles” on KLSX-FM in Los Angeles and a widely recognized authority on the group, had other Beatles priorities. “I would value any song, especially if it was great, performed by John, Paul, George and Ringo, no matter how or when it was recorded,” he said. “If Capitol is really looking for some ‘new/old’ Beatle product to release, they can always release the Beatles’ Christmas discs on CD. We’ve only been waiting for that since 1971!”

The Beatles recorded annual Christmas messages on flexible discs mailed exclusively to members of their fan club. They were compiled in “The Beatles Christmas Album,” on the Apple label, which was pressed only for fan club members in 1971.

For now, “I Don’t Want to Lose You” has found life as one of three “new” songs Ono presented to “Lennon — The Musical,” which opened last week at the Broadhurst Theater in New York. (The others are a demo of “Cookin’ in the Kitchen of Love,” which was recorded by Starr in 1978, and a 1980 demo of a breezy, lyrical 1968 ballad titled, “India, India.”) Said Don Scardino, writer and director of “Lennon,” in a recent interview: ” ‘I Don’t Want to Lose You’ may be the saddest, most poignant love song he ever wrote.”

Songs recorded


Now And Then

Written by John Lennon


Going further

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.

We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!

Shop on Amazon

Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium

We owe a lot to Chip Madinger and Mark Easter for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details!

Eight Arms To Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium is the ultimate look at the careers of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr beyond the Beatles. Every aspect of their professional careers as solo artists is explored, from recording sessions, record releases and tours, to television, film and music videos, including everything in between. From their early film soundtrack work to the officially released retrospectives, all solo efforts by the four men are exhaustively examined.

As the paperback version is out of print, you can buy a PDF version on the authors' website

Shop on Amazon


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