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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Beatles ‘Come Together’ for ‘Now and Then’

Amanda Riha

The Beatles are the most important band in my life. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr have filled my ears with fantastic musicianship and classics since my junior year of high school.

It’s the only band that consistently makes me feel something. I bawl like a baby when I hear “Blackbird” or “Julia” — songs that represent leaving home and my love for my girlfriend, respectively. I want to sing “Here Comes the Sun” to my children, I’ll gladly belt “Helter Skelter” at the top of my lungs and “Strawberry Fields Forever” is just way out there, man.

I have four of the band’s records on vinyl. “Abbey Road” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” were the first two vinyl records I ever owned.

So that’s why when “Now and Then,” marketed as “the final Beatles song” dropped on Friday, Nov. 3, I was curious. First of all, curious about how the track was even made.

But, the story of its creation is simply amazing.

Lennon originally worked on the vocals in the 1970s following The Beatles’ breakup, and before his death. Then Yoko Ono, his late wife, found the cassette tape and gave it to the surviving Beatles (Harrison, McCartney and Starr) in 1994, from which they added to it.

Harrison added an acoustic guitar — which is in the final version — with McCartney playing the piano, bass and sitar (we’ll get to that later) and Starr featuring on the drums.

The production was at a standstill when the producers and sound engineers couldn’t separate Lennon’s vocals from a piano backing track and a TV in the background. That is, until last year.

Peter Jackson, director of “The Beatles: Get Back,” a six-hour documentary showing the recording sessions of “Let It Be,” created  artificial intelligence technology that could separate Lennon’s vocals from all the background noise. Production on “Now And Then” picked up again.

Upon its release, the song instantly went to No. 1 on Spotify and became the most streamed song in the UK on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Now, here’s what I actually thought about the song:

Some may say that this song wasn’t necessary, to which I agree. It’s not. The Beatles’ catalog is the best of all time, nothing needs to be added to it. I thought “Let It Be” and “The End” off “Abbey Road” were perfect endings. But if anything was to be added to it, this song is it.

It’s a beautifully melancholic final beat in The Beatles’ metaphorical heart. It’s everything fantastic about The Beatles — craftsmanship, emotion and love. Love that started in 1997 when Harrison, McCartney and Starr wanted to make Lennon’s posthumous vocals sound beautiful. Love that was present in every single album the Beatles released, love that was the reason this song ever came to fruition.

On first listen, I’m going to be 100% honest, I thought the song was mid. It didn’t measure up to Beatle classics like “Hey Jude” and “Penny Lane” that I was used to hearing. Bear in mind, I had no headphones and was balancing my attention between the music and NHL 24.

Then I remembered that half the band is dead and the story of the song’s creation.

On second listen — this time with headphones — it amazed me. Lennon’s vocals are clean. The acoustic guitar played by Harrison in 1995 and piano recorded by McCartney pair with his voice well, but don’t overpower the song.

Starr does on percussion what he has done his entire career: complement the music perfectly. His cymbal crashes, bass drum hits and rim shots feel perfectly in time with everything else in the song.

In the instrumental break of the song, McCartney busts out a sitar, and oh man, don’t get me started on that sitar. Well, I guess I have to get started, this is a review after all.

McCartney’s performance on the sitar — a string instrument originating in India — not only is just a beautiful tribute to Harrison, who regularly played sitar on Beatles tracks, but it envelops you right into the other melodies off the track. It engulfs me into the beauty of The Beatles, and the heartbreak of losing your fellow bandmates and your best friends.

Lennon’s simple “Now and then, I miss you / Oh now and then I want you to be there for me” in the chorus will make any Beatles fan cry. It’s an infinite entendre — Lennon could be talking about the fans, Ono, his children, his late mother Julia Lennon, Harrison, Starr or even McCartney.

But it still felt empty.

You can’t replace John Lennon and George Harrison, no matter how hard you try. You can have AI renderings of Lennon and Harrison in the official music video — which admittedly made me cry to see — but they’re gone. And all that’s left is McCartney and Starr.

But in the end, the love that you take is equal to the love that you make. And The Beatles ended their catalog with a lot of love in “Now And Then.”

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Amanda Riha, Design Editor

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  • R

    RGNov 24, 2023 at 10:26 am

    There’s no evidence to corroborate the assertion that Paul played sitar on this track. Nothin shows up on wiki or discogs and no other author references such a claim. Guitar, yes. Lap steel? Maybe. But sitar? Where’d you get that idea from?