Recording "Now And Then"

2022 ? • For The Beatles

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
Ringo Starr's home studio, Los Angeles, USA

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Now and Then” is an unfinished song by John Lennon, recorded as a solo piano/vocal demo in 1977 at his home in the Dakota Building, New York City.

The Beatles considered the song as a potential third reunion single for their 1995 autobiographical documentary project “The Beatles Anthology“, following “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love“, but it was shelved until 2022 when Paul McCartney decided to complete it with the help of Ringo Starr and producer Giles Martin.

From 2018 to 2021, Peter Jackson worked on the “The Beatles: Get Back” docuseries. As part of this effort, his studio WingNut Films Productions Ltd developed MAL, a de-mixing technology that can separate a track combining various sounds into different tracks. Jackson’s sound team (led by Emile de la Rey) also used MAL to remix the “Revolver” album in 2022 and to create an isolated vocal track from John Lennon on the song “I’ve Got A Feeling,” which Paul McCartney used on his 2022/2023 “Got Back” tour.

Seeing what MAL could do, McCartney sent the tape of “Now And Then” to Jackson’s team, who returned three tracks: John’s vocal, the piano, and everything else in the room. This made it possible to finally work on the song.

When filmmaker Peter Jackson put together the docuseries The Beatles: Get Back in 2021, his WingNut Films company developed a proprietary stem-separation technology, MAL, to demix the raw documentary footage’s mono audio into usable, multi-stem recordings, allowing hitherto unheard voices and sounds buried in the raw tapes to be clear and audible in the film’s final mix. With that project completed, Jackson and his audio team, led by Emile de la Ray, were enlisted to apply MAL to the garbled cassette audio of Lennon playing “Now and Then.” The team sent back three stems—the piano, everything else in the room, and Lennon’s vocal, which had been extracted as a strong, solid voice with nary a trace of the ghostly wavering so prevalent in “Free Like A Bird” and “Real Love.”

From Building The Last Beatles Song – Mixonline, October 26, 2023

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.

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 – From documentary “Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song“, 2023

As far as the technology that’s been talked about, is the Peter Jackson technology that was developed truly what was needed to finally make this happen? Would there have been any way to do it earlier?

I don’t think so. It’s so key for a project like this that you have John being John. And in the song itself, it sounds like John singing, and it is John singing, and then you can make the track sound good, and like the Beatles… I think that’s why George reacted (dismissively) when they were doing it all those years ago. Iit’s not because he didn’t like the song, because the song is good; it’s because it sounded crap with the vocal on it. Honestly, you’ve got to have the right material, and we wouldn’t have had the right material without the technology.

Giles Martin – From, November 2, 2023

In 2022, Paul McCartney convinced Ringo Starr and producer Giles Martin, who had remixed the Beatles catalog in recent years, to work on “Now and Then.” In addition to John’s vocals, the song includes electric and acoustic guitar recorded by George in 1995, a new drum part from Ringo, and bass, guitar, and piano from Paul, which matches John’s original playing.

In 2022, McCartney and Starr began working on completing the song with the help of Giles Martin, the go-to immersive mixer for Beatles projects in recent years, not to mention son of Beatles’ producer George Martin. There was plenty of material to work with—in addition to the newly retrieved stems, there were various acoustic and electric guitar parts by Harrison available from the 1990s session. Building on those foundational elements, Starr played a new drum part while McCartney augmented things further with bass, guitar, piano, electric harpsichord and shaker, as well as a Harrison-esque slide guitar solo.

From Building The Last Beatles Song – Mixonline, October 26, 2023

It was Paul’s initiative to finish the song, as is the case with most Beatles things — even with my dad back in those days. Paul dipped in on his tour when he wanted to use John’s singing [onstage]. He worked with Peter Jackson for that. And then he sent Peter the tape [of “Now and Then”], which Peter worked on. Paul also started working on the track and played me what he had. Then we talked about it and that’s how I got involved.

Giles Martin – From The Beatles Announce New Song ‘Now and Then’ (Exclusive) (, October 26, 2023

Why revive it now? “I don’t know. Paul must’ve had a slow day,” [Ringo] Starr quipped. “He says, ‘You know that track we did? Do you want to work on that?’” Starr did, so McCartney sent him the files, “I drummed on it and I sang on it,” and then Giles Martin flew to L.A. with McCartney to put strings on it. “It is moving, because the four of us are there, and there won’t be ever again.

From Variety, July 7, 2023

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 – From documentary “Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song“, 2023

After all you’ve done with the Beatles’ catalog over so many years in the realm of compiling and remixing, did it feel like any kind of heavier weight to you that you were actually going to have your name on a Beatles track — the final new one — as a producer?

Yes, it did, in a way. At the same time, you can’t be (overindulge) this thought process, because otherwise you’d end up just being too nervous to make decisions. You’d end up thinking, “I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” It’s making a speech, where if suddenly you’re thinking about what you’re going to say every time you open your mouth, whatever comes out of your mouth is going to be terrible.  But then by the time you start working on the song, you end up thinking, OK, how do we do the best job we can? And this is very much Paul and Ringo, this isn’t just me. Paul brought the project to me, and kind of worked on the most of the song before I even got to it. So I had the protection of a very good maestro. My fall wasn’t going to be huge because I had Paul to catch me, or disagree with me if I got things wrong.

Giles Martin – From, November 2, 2023

Paul’s trust in you is something that’s been not handed down exactly, but earned, over the course of everything you’ve done. That has got to be a great, great feeling, when he comes to you repeatedly, and now especially on “Now and Then,” and says, “Work with me on this.”

Yeah, and I love him. I’ve known him all my life, and he’s always been consistently kind to me, Paul. He knows I love him. And he knows that I don’t do this so I can go to the cocktail bar and tell people I’m doing it. I do this because I want it to be good, and there’s a sense of protection within it. But I’m consistently surprised by and don’t take for granted his trust. It’s funny, when someone trusts you, it does add pressure.

Giles Martin – From, November 2, 2023

The songwriting didn’t seem quite complete in the demo John did that many people have heard. They would say it starts off strong and then loses something along the way. Compositonally, was it Paul’s job to bring it across the finish line?

Completely Paul’s job, as it should be. He wanted to finish this track, and his collaboration with John is, let’s face it, the most successful songwriting collaboration of all time. … What’s interesting is: Someone said, “Paul didn’t really write a middle-eight to it.” And I said, well, he put the guitar solo in [where a bridge might go] as a tribute to George, really. There’s no point in Paul writing a middle section just for the sake of it, so he could write a middle section, which he could have done easily. So that was purely down to him.

When you went back to what was done in the studio in the mid-‘90s, even though the time they spent working on the song then was short, was there enough of George on there that you were really able to use something of George’s?

More than something of George’s. George was playing acoustic and electric guitar on it. What was really interesting is what Paul would say to me [in the process of] doing the strings and then going through the arrangement. The strings are quite rhythmical, as you heard, the sort of chuggy “Eleanor Rigby” style kind of strings I’ve got in there. And Paul was very deliberate in saying to me, “Listen carefully — isolate George. Play it to me. We need to make sure that we are empathetic to the rhythm that George is trying to lay down here.” Because that’s what he was good at. That’s what I learned from Paul. You know, (George is) not here to say he doesn’t like the string arrangement. So let’s make damn sure that we respect his rhythm playing on the electric guitar when he’s playing it.

As far as placing Paul’s vocal in there, was there much conversation about how prominently to feature him versus John, and in which parts?

No, it’s just what feels right, really. You know, I’ve been answering questions recently on ethical choices behind mixing. It’s like, there’s enough ethical problems in the world without really thinking about doing them while you’re mixing, right now! And so, no, honestly, one just does what feels the right thing to do as far as vocal balance goes. It’s not like, “OK, Paul needs to be louder, John needs to be quieter on this bit.” It’s just like, what sounds right for the song, which is exactly how it should be. You know, people shouldn’t listen to technology, and they shouldn’t listen to the thought process. They should listen to the song. It’s the same thing we talk about when we do the (catalog remixes). It’s not like I want someone to go and re-listen to a mix. A lot of people do — but I want people to listen to the song.

Giles Martin – From, November 2, 2023

Paul also added a slide guitar solo inspired by George, and he and Ringo also contributed backing vocals to the chorus.

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 – From documentary “Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song“, 2023

It obviously struck you right, though, Paul’s idea to have a George-like slide guitar solo as the ultimate tribute, instead of a middle-eight, and that it would be right for the song as well, as have this emotional resonance for people.

I mean, if it was Paul answering… I’d do some stuff where Paul was like, “You shouldn’t be just doing it because it’s a Beatles track.” I think obviously in the style of the solo, Paul is giving a nod to George. But I think the solo’s there because it’s the right thing for the song, and not because George needs a tribute. Otherwise it would just be a bit corny. And I don’t think it is; I think it lifts it.

We recorded the string section in Capitol Studios, and I worked with a guy called Ben Foster, who Paul and I have worked with for a long time, a conductor-arranger. We got in quite a big string section, a much bigger string section than Beatles would normally have had. And I did pretty much realize, even though it seemed like a waste of money — and I know my dad would roll over in his grave… On the bulk of the song, we didn’t use all the strings, because it sounded too posh to be Beatles. It sounded too schmaltzy. But then you get to the (slide guitar) solo section, and I switched to using the full string section for that bit, because it sounds to me a bit like “Golden Slumbers.” You know, if you’re gonna refer to the Beatles in a song, do it on a Beatles song. But the Beatles themselves — my dad always said it — never liked to do the same thing. They never liked to refer to themselves in their own work.

Giles Martin – From, November 2, 2023

On April 30, 2022, some string overdubs were also added, as well as backing vocals from the original recordings of “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Because.”

In Los Angeles, Paul oversaw a Capitol Studios recording session for the song’s wistful, quintessentially Beatles string arrangement, written by Giles Martin, Paul and Ben Foster. Paul and Giles also added one last, wonderfully subtle touch: backing vocals from the original recordings of “Here, There And Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Because,” woven into the new song using the techniques perfected during the making of the LOVE show and album. The finished track was produced by Paul and Giles, and mixed by Spike Stent.

From, October 26, 2023

Paul arranged it completely. But when Paul gave it to me, he’d changed the song structure and written the song, and done the guitar solo and pretty much done the vocals and guitars, and I just basically added some extra bits along with him.

Giles Martin – From, October 26, 2023

I just thought if the Beatles were around, they’d probably sing harmonies at a certain point in the song. And if there were backing vocals, it was important to have all the Beatles on it. So it’s taking just small elements from ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ ‘Here, There and Everywhere,’ and a bit of ‘Because.’ Obviously it wouldn’t be as good as the Beatles singing it live — but it is them singing live in the studio. That was important. There’s only four Beatles, and you might as well have them on a Beatles record.

Giles Martin – From, October 26, 2023

There is a backing group vocal track that was announced that people are wondering about. In the pre-release materials, it was compared to an outgrowth of something you did for the Las Vegas “Love” soundtrack, where you were able to use backing vocals done for one song on another track. But with what you did here with backing vocals, is there a way in which that counts as AI — the bogeyman that people bring up now? Or how would you describe it?

No, it’s not artificial or intelligent. No, it’s the same process that I used, as you say so rightly, in “Love.” And Paul was nervous about this, actually… My thought was this: that I really thought this needs to sound like the Beatles. And I have Paul, and he’s definitely the producer of this track, and I’m producing it with him. The band would have probably sang “ahhhhs” in those things, but they’re not around anymore. So I’m not using AI to recreate their voices in any way. I’m literally taking the multitrack tapes of “Eleanor Rigby,” some stuff from “Because” and “Here, There, and Everywhere,” just in the same way the Beatles are splicing that in.

So, no AI, no. It might have been easier if I used AI, but I didn’t. And it’s funny, because it gives a different quality. I was listening to the song today, and the backing vocals have a sort of tape feel to them, like they’re on tape. They feel like they’re from the Beatles, and they are from the Beatles. I think if they were from some machine learning program, they wouldn’t sound right.

Giles Martin – From, November 2, 2023

Last updated on November 3, 2023

Songs recorded


Now And Then

Written by John Lennon



Musicians on "Now And Then"

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Shaker, Piano, Electric harpsichord, Backing vocals, Vocals, Guitars
Ringo Starr:
Backing vocals, Tambourine, Drums, Shaker

Production staff

Paul McCartney:
Giles Martin:
Keith Smith:
Recording engineer
Bruce Sugar:
Recording engineer
Steve Orchard:
Recording engineer
Mark 'Spike' Stent:
Mixing engineer

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


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