The Beatles' final song "Now and Then" has been out for a week now, and boy what a release week it was! The single soared to the top of the UK charts, 60 years after the Fab Four secured their first Number One single with 1963's "From Me to You." It also marks 54 years since their last Number One single (1969's "The Ballad of John and Yoko"), which is the longest gap between chart-topping songs.
In addition to the chart accomplishments, "Now and Then" is also the fastest-selling single of the year to date (48,000 units) and the fastest-selling vinyl single of the century so far, selling 19,400 copies.
“It’s mind boggling. It’s blown my socks off,” Paul McCartney of the song's impressive milestones. “It’s also a very emotional moment for me. I love it!”
The story of "Now and Then" began 46 years ago. In 1977, Lennon recorded a demo with vocals and piano at his home at the Dakota in New York City. In 1994, his wife Yoko Ono gave the recording to the band's surviving members McCartney, Starr, and Harrison, along with “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love.” The latter two were completed as new Beatles songs and respectively released as singles in 1995 and 1996, as part of The Beatles Anthology project. The trio also worked on parts for "Now and Then" but technology at the time restricted them from separating Lennon's vocals from the piano, and they were unable to achieve the clear mix they needed to release it.
Fast forward to 2021, and Peter Jackson's team behind The Beatles: Get Back docuseries found a way to de-mix the film's mono soundtrack. They applied the same technology to "Now and Then" and were able to isolate Lennon's vocals. The next year, McCartney and Starr set out to complete the track, which includes electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995 by Harrison, who passed away in 2001; Starr’s new drum part; and bass, guitar and piano from McCartney that matches Lennon’s original playing. McCartney also added a slide guitar solo inspired by Harrison, and he and Starr contributed backing vocals to the chorus.
"Now and Then" will be released as a double A-side single along with The Beatles' very first single, "Love Me Do," making it a truly full circle moment. It will also be the final track on a new version of The Beatles' anthologies 1962-1966 and 1967-1970, also known as the Red and Blue albums. The latest edition of the anthologies, featuring 75 tracks, will be released on November 10.