Now and Then

“I’ve just heard Now and Then…has anyone checked in to see if Roxanne’s OK?”

I must have done something right in life, because when The Beatles released their final song Now and Then at 2pm on November 2nd, 2023, I was moved by how many of you thought of me and sent me messages to see how I was feeling and what I was thinking. You might be surprised to learn that I didn’t listen to it the second it hit the proverbial stands, but rather the following morning when the conditions were as close to “just right” as I could get them to be in my little set of circumstances. I was sat huddled together with my sister, while we looked out onto the ocean, a portable speaker placed carefully in front of us. I felt a very particularly kind of anticipation, bracing myself for a tidal wave of emotions as I watched smaller ones crash upon the shore. 

A week has passed and I am ready to share my thoughts and feelings with you. The question is, are you ready for the most predictable take in the history of music reviews? Brace yourselves: I love Now and Then. It is everything I wanted and hoped it would be. Let’s jump in: One Two Three…

The Beatle-ish count in, the intensity of the first piano chord and the rawness of John Lennon’s voice are all classic elements of Beatles songwriting and recording. There is an immediacy to Now and Then that holds my full attention on the hundredth listen as much as it did on the first. So much of it is instantly familiar – the swooping, lush string arrangement, the steady rhythm guitars, Ringo’s instantly recognisable drumming, George’s weeping solo guitar style – there’s no doubt we are listening to the topper most of the popper most. 

To me, the song’s magic moment is at the end of verse one when John Lennon’s voice falls into that unmistakable Lennon vocal run, guiding the song into its most significant line: “I will love you” and, with a classic Ringo drum fill, into the chorus. What makes this moment all the more poignant is that it is here, on those pivotal lyrics, where Paul’s voice becomes prominent, joining John’s for the words “love you”. 

As any good John Lennon lyric does, Now and Then speaks an effortless, universal truth. At the time when they were written, they may not have been considered one of his most slick or profound lyrics, but therein lies the magic of songwriting and the power of time and perspective. The best of lyrics are prophetic and only reveal their full potential in time, once we know how the story ends.

There is such poignancy in the coming together of Lennon’s young and McCartney’s aged voice – both as beautiful as one another. It gives the song such weight and adds an achingly beautiful layer of meaning to the lyrics:

Now and then I miss you
Now and then I want you to be there for me
Always to return to me

Anyone who has ever experienced a profound loss can relate to this sentiment. Not all of us get to sing those words together with the one we miss.

Restoring is a delicate art and I’m not referring to the brilliant, cutting-edge sound separation technology used to clean up Lennon’s vocals from the original demos. What makes Now and Then a masterpiece is the sensitivity with which it was created. It is the love and respect shown in every single detail that makes this a deserving, final Beatles track. I am so grateful to Paul McCartney and to Ringo for allowing us all to go on a magical mystery tour one last time together. If you listen to Now and Then loudly (and why would you listen to it any other way), you can hear that Ringo has the final word: “Good one!”, he calls out in a typical Scouse tongue and cheek, and I agree.

5 Replies to “Now and Then”

  1. Love and respect is the key. This is a magical song, a masterpiece indeed …without trying to be…
    This piece is so special for us as musicians, a lesson that we must create love before music and passion before fame…. Because those things last forever… Thank you to The Beatles for such an amazing achievement..!

  2. The power of music, the even greater power of great music. I often find messages in songs I can relate to and when I am so immersed in them I believe they are about me or about something I have experienced in my life. That this song was written by a group that means so much to you not just musically but because it has been the soundtrack to your life and quite specifically to your relationship with your late father is just so profound. I hope that as well as being able to add another song to your playlist this song brings you comfort and refreshes the amazing memories you must have of your father.

  3. So beautifully appraised, I felt like it was exactly what I would like to have said, particularly the final paragraph, it’s not just a song but an act of devotion to their collective legacy. And the video for me was the icing on the cake in that regard. I cried seeing such a lovingly crafted work of art that will whisk any beatle lover back to the feeling of being there, the late 60s, when all you need was and still is love.

  4. Wow! What a review!
    Read it with great pleasure.
    So glad you like this song and I feel the same.
    Of course I couldn’t find such beautiful words.

    And maybe for me it was a bit different when I listened to Now and Then for the first time.
    I found it a bit too ‘cool’ and missed the ‘analog warmth’ of John’s demo tape.
    But meanwhile I love the song!

    So thanks again for your review

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