Think of one other track to receive its own promotional film ahead of its release. Cast Do You Remember the First Time to the side. Forget the anecdote. When has a single song ever garnered a trailer, a short film and a continuation of the UK’s objectively finest musical achievement? Never, is the answer to the more specifically tailored question at hand. Now and Then, confirmed as The Beatles’ final track, releases in just a few short hours. After this, the door is shut for good, bar remasters, re-releases and prints of the classic albums which made them a household name and maintain them as such. Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney come together, right now, to answer as much as they can in just twelve minutes on what is, effectively, a culmination of sixty years in music.
Was the interjection and hard work of Peter Jackson the reason for this? Absolutely. He is to credit and blame for whatever happens next. Yoko Ono provided the tapes, those final seconds of The Beatles’ efforts – unrefined until now. Jackson led the charge with Get Back and there is surely more to come from the footage, endless hours of the creative process which captures the minds of billions still to this day. It is effective and encouraging to see Now and Then be as honest as Jackson’s editing process is. Interviews from George Harrison, McCartney and Starr set the scene thoroughly well, and in an expected turn, mourns the loss of their friend John Lennon.
No wonder, like most of The Beatles, Now and Then is about Lennon first, then The Beatles. Should it be any surprise Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song, plays out like an elongated trailer for a track which will surely be no more than four minutes long? Not at all. But this is the stuff The Beatles fans love. They will pour over every second of this, picking it apart for the sake of something to do. Technology has nabbed this from the clutches of nothing, of bootlegs and brash releases from dedicated fans. Now and Then is, like it or not, a clear sign of quality artificial intelligence. How it can be used with great importance. Questions will now rise over whether Harrison has been sidelined, whether there was any need to “bring Lennon back to life,” as criticism of the initial announcement noted. Like it or not, it is coming, and the results will, regardless of quality, be remembered.
Either it tarnishes the legacy or cements it even further. The former is more likely than the latter, but both are fascinating endnotes to The Beatles. Snippets of the song, of Lennon’s voice, tell us nothing. All it shows is, yes, there is music left over to work with. How it will sound is unknowable. It is all hush-hush. Now and Then – A Short Film runs a little more like an advertisement for how great robotics in music will be, though it is not as though The Beatles need showing off at this point. It will be one of the many tracks from The Fab Four to never be played live, and it will certainly remain the final track from The Beatles. The documentary does little more than explain what the minute-long promo teasers did.