Listening: Now and Then

“The last Beatles song” was anything but. It was the surviving bandmates getting together to finish a song that John Lennon started in the 1970s, and it was a lovely gesture, and the song is nice, but really?

I prefer to think of the last Beatles song as the finale of the last album they recorded in their prime: It was a triumphant and fitting song called, appropriately enough, “The End,” with the cheeky little fragment “Her Majesty” tossed in just to show that they were still the Beatles, because they couldn’t do something that grandiose without a sly wink and a nod.

If you’re going to come as close as you can to a reunion, though, the work they did on “Now and Then” — as well as “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” in 1995 — is pretty cool, and the results do not embarrass the memory of that legendary band. If it were up to me, to tell the truth, I would go back and remix the 1995 songs, armed with the new technology that allowed John Lennon’s voice to ring out clearly from the acoustical depths of a 1970s-era cassette.

When “Free As A Bird” was released at the same time as The Beatles Anthology, a friend remarked how great it was to hear new Beatles music again. During the mid to late 1960s, the release of a new Beatles song was a cultural event surpassed only by the release of a new Beatles album,  and they almost always surprised and delighted.

An echo of that excitement led me to tarry on my way into the day job Thursday, when the radio announcer announced he was going to play the new Beatles song just before the top of the hour. I had been on a trajectory to get to work five minutes earlier, so I took a couple of extra turns. I did enjoy the “new” song, although not as much as the 1995 releases, but the technology that drew out Lennon’s voice is really amazing.

I love anything that reminds us of how great the Beatles were. It’s timeless stuff that holds up well, 60 years later, against any of the recordings that came before or since. 

I do want to point out one little thing, though. Coincidentally, probably the second-biggest rock band of the 1960s put out some new music a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that Hackney Diamonds compares to the best of The Rolling Stones a lot better — a LOT better — than “Now and Then” compares to the best of the Beatles.

Leave a Reply