Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

OPINION: ‘Now and Then’ should not be called a Beatles song

Replacing original members’ voices with AI is ruining the legacy of the band
“Abbey Road,” the eleventh studio album released by The Beatles in 1969.

Despite breaking up 53 years ago, and half of the band being dead, The Beatles released the original single “Now and Then” on Nov. 2 with contributions from each member of the quartet. 

This production, only possible with the use of AI, boasts being the final song of the famed group, however, all it did was cheapen the Beatles’ legacy.

The demo tapes were given to Paul McCartney by Yoko Ono, and it was through these tapes that Lennon’s piece of “Now and Then” was found. It wasn’t until the introduction of AI that this recording finally became usable. 

This experiment is terribly similar in concept to “The Beatles Anthology” of the mid-90s using an old John Lennon demo, now without George Harrison, who sadly passed in 2001, this time.

“The Anthology” trio made up of McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr attempted to record a version of this song back in the 90s but it didn’t work out because of Harrison’s repeated and relentless objections. Harrison felt that this tape’s quality was so corrupt that it could not become a Beatles song. Technology has evolved significantly in 28 years, but that recording did not change one bit until they used AI. 

In a simultaneously released documentary under the same title, “Now and Then,” a sentiment is shared that this is the closest anyone will ever come to seeing The Beatles again. However, this is not The Beatles, this is one member pulling pieces of a band that broke up 53 years ago to create one final song. 

I don’t object to the idea of a new Beatles song, and I understand the impossibility of the group performing together, but in creating this new song they have sacrificed an intangible quality, and the authenticity of the Beatles is gone. 

The song feels heavily produced, and to be fair, it does need to be in order to exist but calling it a Beatles song reduces The Beatles other members legacy in the bands final moments. Though the lyrics are written by Lennon, the production feels like a McCartney vanity project. This production is just one final great adventure as a Beatle for him. 

There is a liveness and spirit found in the Beatles music, and that virtue is taken from Lennon’s voice and McCartney can’t just replace that with production and nostalgia.  

There is a legacy that comes with attaching the Beatles’ name to something, and to say that this is the last Beatles song cheapens that legacy. The last Beatles album “Let It Be” is mired in similar controversy related to its authenticity mainly because the production was finished by an outside producer Phil Spector. Lennon himself was outspoken with his disdain for what Spector did to their tapes and felt that The Beatles’ best work was behind them. There is no question in my mind that if Lennon was against Spector’s touch he definitely would be against using AI. 

Another reason to object to “Now and Then” is the minimal contribution from Harrison, and as someone whose favorite band member on most days is Harrison, I’m let down. They use old recordings of Harrison for the song’s rhythm guitar, however, his limited contribution makes for a disappointing Beatles finale..  

Even the cover art of the single is disappointing and adds nothing to the Beatles’ already iconic catalog of album art. The title of the single just sits there slanted against a blue background. If this is the very last album art of The Beatles it is impossibly boring. I am not asking for something as iconic as “Abbey Road,” nor as artistic as “Revolver,” but the Beatles made a white album iconic and “Now and Then” just evokes nothing. I look at the cover art and want to feel something, but the emotion it invokes apathy. 

The Beatles’ dissolution didn’t end the members’ contribution to the music scene. Each member was able to find significant success in post-Beatles solo careers. Even Ringo had a number-one hit. McCartney even released another solo album in 2020, and despite having died 43 years ago Lennon’s solo career has stayed relevant. “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” went viral just two years ago. I have faith that all their legacy together as a band and individual musicians can stand without this final amalgamation of a song. 

As a project for McCartney and Starr, “Now and Then” is an inoffensive act. However, attaching it to the Beatles is just too much. I worry how the Beatles’ legacy will be handled after all the members are gone.

View Comments (5)
More to Discover

Comments (5)

All The Suffolk Journal Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • R

    RichieNov 14, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    Okay, so what about the classic Beatle songs which doesn’t have all the members present on the recordings? Should we just dismiss them also. smh

  • A

    ArloNov 11, 2023 at 11:43 am

    It seems like you kind of misinterpreted their use of AI, it’s honestly only controversial because they call it an AI. No one’s voice is being recreated or anything, they have simply developed a better way to separate vocal tracks through new technology. It’s the exact same process that the Beatles employed in the Anthology sessions, just able to be completed in the current time. Paul, George, and Ringo were always planning to finish Now and Then, just at a later date when they did have the technology.

  • B

    Beatle MikeNov 10, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Do you consider “The Ballad of John and Yoko” a Beatles song, despite it being recorded by two members of the group without input from the others?

    Your concerns about A.I. are overblown. It was being used as nothing more than a noise reduction tool, variations of which have been available for decades and have been used on many Beatles reissues over the years.

    “Now and Then” placing at #1 in the U.K. charts for the first time in 54 years demonstrates that most Beatles and music fans do not agree with your concerns. This is a moment of joy and happiness for most fans of the band.

    • J

      JackNov 15, 2023 at 2:57 pm

      I would consider “The Ballad of John and Yoko” a Beatles song despite only being recorded by two members. I am certain though that you see the difference between the way that song was created and the process to create this song.

      I can agree my concerns about A.I. are a little overblown but I still think the production is awful. This song just doesn’t feel necessary nor is it up to par with prior releases.

      Can I ask do you think this song is good?

      I just don’t think this song was needed, and it will leave no lasting legacy becoming mostly forgotten within a year.

  • T

    TomNov 9, 2023 at 10:53 pm

    I appreciate your concern over how many releases like this may occur in the future and dampen their legacy a bit. It’s the same reason/logic why I wish Pixar didn’t make Toy Story movies past number three.

    At the same time, I feel like this is going to be the very last Beatles song that contains brand new parts recorded from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. In that sense, I think it’s a significant release. It’s also the last Beatles recording that Ringo will get to sing on. I was also moved by the video they put out for it, edited by Peter Jackson.

    In that sense, your article comes off to me as a bit criticizing just for the sake of being critical. But hey, it’s just an article and you’re just doing your job; I won’t take it any more seriously than this. So, with that, have a nice weekend.