I’ve long had a grudging respect for Taylor Swift. After all, few of the artists who were massive stars when I was in first grade are still, 13 years later, releasing popular albums and going on culture-defining tours.
That longevity at the top must take some serious talent. Even The Beatles, the subject of a transatlantic “mania” and often regarded as the most important musical act of all time, only had all four members together for seven years.
Or so we thought.
On Nov. 2, the lads from Liverpool — despite half of them being dead — were somehow together again for the release of “Now and Then.”
Marketed as “the last Beatles song,” it was based on an unfinished demo by John Lennon after the band’s breakup. In 1995, 15 years after Lennon died, the remaining three released two songs based on Lennon's demos with the original vocals. They recorded “Now and Then,” but decided to scrap it, as George Harrison felt Lennon’s audio to be too low quality.
That issue was solved when new technology allowed Lennon’s vocals on the track to be separated from his piano and the annoying background noise.
What resulted was a strikingly poignant track, giving the impression of a conversation reaching across the decades and bridging the chasm of death. Two types of mourning intertwine in the chorus: Lennon mourning their old relationship and McCartney mourning Lennon’s 43 year absence, as they sing together for the final time “Now and then, I miss you / Now and then, I want you to be there for me / Always to return to me.”
Even though the track is sped up to 88 beats per minute, from the 80 or so beats per minute in Lennon’s demo, it still has an eerie melancholy to it. McCartney’s count off at the top of the track fades out much like The Beatles members have: one and two are loud and clear, three is barely whispered, and four is gone.
How could anyone not be touched by this final chapter in the story? Or by the music video, when footage of Harrison and Lennon from the band’s heyday is grafted onto a shot of the aged McCartney and Ringo Starr recording this last hurrah?