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The long and winding road: How The Beatles reached the top of the music world with “Now and Then”

By Brady Campbell, Assistant Sports Editor

There are few bands that can inspire multiple generations after just eight years of playing together. Even fewer can get back to the top of the charts with music released 53 years after breaking up. If there was ever a band that comes to mind in accomplishing these feats, it is none other than The Beatles. That’s right, even after all of these years, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr still had one more surprise. 

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In June of 2023, Paul McCartney announced that he was working on what he called “the final Beatles record.” It was mostly radio silence until Oct. 26, when McCartney and Ringo Starr made the announcement that the song, titled “Now and Then” would be released on Nov. 2.

The excitement ramped up very quickly around the world as music fans prepared for one final Beatles release. This includes many LIU students, as it was the first time many of them got to witness the release of a Beatles song. 

One of those students was junior music technology major Thomas Leone, who is a lifelong fan of the band. 

“It was a very exciting, emotional and important moment for me, when I heard they were releasing their final song,” Leone said. “This is a big moment for all of us, the young fans and the old fans. It was absolutely amazing to experience it.”

Freshman computer science major Nick Singer was surprised that the Beatles still had another song yet to be released. 

“Initially I was very surprised because I thought that the only two tracks they had of John Lennon’s vocals were ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love’ which were released in 1995 and 1996 respectively,” Singer said.

The song was recorded by John Lennon around 1977 and after his untimely death in 1980, his wife Yoko Ono gave the cassette tapes to McCartney and in 1995, the three remaining members got together to work on the song. However, after several days of recording the band gave up on the song as the original recording had technical issues that were difficult to remove.

Harrison would pass away in 2001, and for a while it appeared that The Beatles’ catalog was complete. However, director Peter Jackson of “Lord of the Rings” fame joined in and created the 2021 Disney Plus documentary “Get Back,” based on footage from the “Let It Be” recording sessions and their famous rooftop concert. 

Using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Jackson was able to separate Lennon’s vocals from the instruments in the recording, thus making it sound cleaner. Without any issues in their way, McCartney and Starr added their parts, along with Harrison’s from 1995 to complete the track. 

The band was of course known for being very experimental while in the studio as it is something that made them stand out from the rest of the pack. However, the idea of using AI in a Beatles song rubbed some people the wrong way. 

Broadcasting alumni Ryan Boettcher does not believe that AI should play a major role in recording music. 

“AI can be good for music in small batches, such as adding certain sounds or vocals, but it takes away any true emotion and originality from music. AI bases itself on learning from the past so there’s never real creative stuff and the music sounds too cluttered,” Boettcher said. 

Of course there are those that feel as though the song has a different feel to it with only two members being left and the band being broken up for 53 years.

“It feels odd to drop a final song in 2023 when two of your band members have been gone for more than 20 years. The song itself fits the vibe of a goodbye so I like the creative focus from Ringo and Paul using it as a farewell,” Boettcher said. 

Leone feels that it was important for the band to finish what they started when they initially set out to make the track. 

“In terms of moving on, it’s difficult,” he said. “This is something that they began in the 1990’s when the remaining three at the time tried to finish the song, but it was not yet ready. We wanted to see it finished and we heard about it and they finally finished it and it felt like a true service to the fans.” 

Along with the song, the band released new versions of the “Red” and “Blue” albums which contain their biggest hits from 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 respectively. Those albums were originally released in 1973 but were remixed and expanded for this year’s reissue. 

Singer believes that it was smart for the band to once again release these albums for marketing purposes. 

“I think that it was a smart decision on the marketing end of The Beatles since they were releasing a new song and if they put out those remasters people are going to feel more inclined to buy it and ride that Beatles wave that has been resurging recently,” he said. “Although, I think that now re-releasing songs is the only way for them to keep reeling in music sales since Paul and Ringo are solo artists.” 

The song and albums immediately soared through the charts, showing that even all of these years later, The Fab Four reign supreme. 

“Now and Then is a legacy track for The Beatles proving how if you can build a respected catalog of music with great fans, your work and art can outlive you,” Boettcher said.

Singer shares the same sentiment, he said, “The Beatles have been through so many different phases which makes them a timeless band. You can listen to them today because they would fit in with the modern music scene to some degree. They didn’t date themselves because they were so ahead of their time and that allows them to resonate with newer listeners.” 

Leone is in agreement, he shared, “At the time many artists died out so quickly and these guys have been broken up for 53 years and we are still talking about them, listening to them, loving them and playing them. We are still wanting to learn their songs on the guitar, drums and bass.” 

The Beatles have been one of the gold standards for musicians to aspire to for 61 years, and it does not look like that will change anytime soon. Who knows, maybe there is still some music of theirs that is locked away for now that may eventually see the light of day. If one thing is for certain, it is that The Beatles got back to where they once belonged, the top of the charts.    

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