On “Now And Then,” Which Was Nearly the Third Beatles Reunion Track


 
By Danny Abriano
 
All hardcore Beatles fans know that Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr reunited in 1994 and 1995 to record “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” for release on the upcoming Anthology 1 and Anthology 2 albums respectively.
 
What some may not know, is that there was another John Lennon demo the three living Beatles were planning to record for release on Anthology 3.
 
That demo was “Now And Then.”
 
Originally recorded by Lennon at the Dakota in 1979, Now And Then (along with the other Lennon demos) was given to Paul McCartney by Yoko Ono in January of 1994.
 
On March 20th, 1995, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr began working on Now And Then, recording a backing track that was to be used on what would’ve been the finished product. However, after one more day of working on the track, all plans to finish “Now And Then” and have it included on Anthology 3 were scrapped.
 
According to those who were there, there were two reasons why Paul, George, and Ringo stopped working on Now And Then.
 
The first, was that some of the verses and part of the chorus weren’t finished and/or were unintelligible on the demo. Paul, George, and Ringo would’ve had to finish writing those parts for John, which is something Paul later stated George “didn’t want to do.” The original lyrics by John are as follows:
 
I know it’s true, it’s all because of you
And if I make it through, it’s all because of you
And now and then, if we must start again
We will know for sure, that I love you
 
I don’t want to lose you – oh no, no, no
Lose you or abuse you – oh no, no, no, sweet darl’
But if you have to go, away
If you have to go (unintelligible)
 
Now and then, I miss you
Oh now and then, I (unintelligible)
I know return to me
 
I know it’s true, it’s all because of you
And if you go away, I know you (unintelligible)
 
I don’t want to lose you – oh no, no, no
Abuse you or confuse you – oh no, no, no, sweet darl’
But if you had to go
Well I won’t stop you babe
And if you had to go
Well (unintelligible)
 
As can be seen above, there are four spots where John Lennon’s words either trail off, are unintelligible, or both. Those are the verses the remaining Beatles would’ve had to have re-written.
 
The second issue with the track was that the quality of the original Lennon demo contained a technical problem – a humming noise that lingered on the tape throughout.
 
In a bootleg that was released in 2009, the humming noise from the original Lennon demo was removed, meaning that the song could potentially be finished by McCartney and Starr if they so choose.
 
In 2012, McCartney was quoted as saying he would be open to completing Now And Then with Jeff Lynne as the producer.
 
Perhaps the song will eventually be finished by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (also utilizing the backing track that includes George Harrison) and released. Until then, you can listen to John Lennon’s demo and imagine what the finished product might sound like:
 

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13 thoughts on “On “Now And Then,” Which Was Nearly the Third Beatles Reunion Track

  1. I love it,why don’t Ringo and Paul get busy with it, use some George tracks
    and it would be a NEW BEATLES song,fans such as myself think it would
    be fantastic

  2. I’m sure Yoko has a TON of demo tracks of John, why don’t she put it to good
    use,if she’s gonna do it,do it before I’m dead, I’m not getting any younger!!!!!!

  3. This doesn’t seem like a Beatles song to me – I think it’s good as is, without adding more to it. I’d rather hear a mash-up album of John, Paul, George and Ringo solo tracks from 1969-75 similar to the Love project.

  4. As sadly john is no longer with us I feel anything left over in the archives should be shared with the world if for no other reason than to make the life of a diehard fan all the more worth living…god bless you john…x

  5. Upon first hearing, at least some of the ‘unintelligible’ lyrics seem like they indeed are merely unfinished…John apparently sang some of those unfinished passages ad hoc, probably as nonsense syllables trailing after the already-finished ‘real’ word sections. (He’s often singing in his highest register in these places, which makes it difficult to tell for sure.) Singing nonsense syllables in such places is a technique used by many songwriters when the music is finished first—i.e., the partly finished lyrics are sung up to the unfinished (lyric) sections where the writer then improvises ‘dummy’ words from that point forward, the idea being that the act of singing the tune while forming SOME kind of syllables will aid the free-association process and help generate the remaining (actual word) lyrics, if not immediately then eventually, through repetition. (I believe there’s extant Beatles-era video of George Harrison being coached in this very songwriting technique by Lennon & McCartney when he was working on finishing his lyrics for “Something.”?) The technical means for digitally eliminating hum and other undesirable (in this case tape) artifacts is substantial and rather amazing these days, so it should be fairly easy to rectify those kinds of problems with John’s demo and to even improve the quality of his vocal already present on the cassette. There are even technical ways of isolating, to an extent, the sound of John’s voice from the piano accompaniment, so that they can be remixed later as (more) separate elements in a multi-track recording. The remaining considerations are if John’s vocal/piano performance is adaptable for the purposes of a McCartney-Starr ‘finishing’ (perhaps making use of Harrison’s existing work on the song too)—an arranging decision—and then how well, if not easily, the ‘unintelligible’/unfinished lyric passages, finished by Paul and/or Ringo, could be worked BACK into the Lead Vocal using their voices—unless they want to try something more exotic, such as sampling John’s voice in the manner of Yamaha’s Vocaloid software and then having a computer render the (newly completed lyric) passages in John’s voice, and in that way preserve/maintain his vocal sound throughout the entire Lead Vocal part. That kind of systematic sampling is time-consuming, and the final output requires quite a bit of tweaking so that the rendered vocal performance pronunciation sounds natural and not ‘robotic.’ The missing vocal/lyric passages are all fairly short, so it might be possible.

  6. There is a sort of Beatles mash up of their solo songs from a guy who says he went into another dimension where the band is still together and picked up a cassette labeled Everyday Chemistry. You can hear the whole tape on Youtube.com.

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