“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it – it’s a genuine Beatles recording”: The final Beatles song, Now and Then, has been released at last – but is it any good?

(from left) Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon perform at the Saville Theatre in London in 1968
(Image credit: Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)

Just shy of 60 years after they forever altered the landscape of popular music with their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and 43 years after the tragic murder of John Lennon, a new song from The Beatles – said to definitively be the last – has been released.

The song, Now and Then, was written by Lennon, and recorded (in demo form) at his apartment in New York City. As part of The Beatles Anthology project, the surviving Beatles – Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr – added new instrumental and vocal parts to Lennon's demo. 

Now and Then was one of three Lennon demos the remaining Beatles worked on – the other two being Free as a Bird and Real Love. Though the latter two were released on the band's mid-'90s-era Anthology 1 and Anthology 2 albums, respectively, the technological limitations of the day prevented Now and Then from being completed to the band's satisfaction.

Now though, Now and Then is finally seeing the light of day. Featuring newly recorded contributions from McCartney and Starr, and guitar work from the late Harrison, the song can be streamed below.

In a recent statement, McCartney said of recording Now and Then, “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. 

“In 2023 to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.“ 

“It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room so it was very emotional for all of us,“ added Starr. “It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.“ 

Guitar World magazine Editor-in-Chief Damian Fanelli has been playing George, John and Paul's guitar parts for the past 39 years with his New York City-based band, the Blue Meanies. Aside from being regular performers at the annual Abbey Road on the River festival in Jeffersonville, Indiana, the Blue Meanies recently played the Beatlesfestivalen in Bergen, Norway, where they shared the bill with former Beatles drummer Pete Best. 

Of Now and Then, Fanelli said, “I think it’s great – thumping and dreamy with an updated nod to that very specific psychedelic sound they helped create all those years ago. The lyrics are definitely weak, but hey, the whole thing is based on an incomplete demo recording.

“Think about the song’s title and how it relates to the band members; we’re hearing John in his 30s, George in his 50s, Paul and Ringo in their 80s and backing vocals from when these guys were in their 20s; it's like this weird dream – but then you wake up and say, 'Wait, this actually happened?!' 

“Hats off to Paul for making Now and Then his white whale, for being its Dr. Frankenstein and bringing it back to life with deluxe parts. Speaking of which, I appreciate Paul’s slide solo, which fills out the song nicely while also honoring George, one of the greatest slide players of all time. 

“If you’re gonna put a bow on your band’s legacy – 53 years after breaking up and after two members have passed away – this is a nice way to do it.“

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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