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The Beatles "Final" Song
A mix of haunting and WTF.
I came to the Beatles at the perfect age. Anthology aired when I was a young teenager. It was appointment viewing. Before the series, I had only known the Beatles as that group on Ed Sullivan.
Anthology cracked it all open for me. And I fell hard for the group. Throughout my life, I’ve dipped in and out of their music. Sometimes swearing them off for years.
The birth of my son shifted me back into their world. The first music I introduced him to, of course, was The Beatles. And I found myself enjoying them again, hearing the music through his ears.
Peter Jackson's GET BACK sucked me in deeper. The 8-hour docu-series remains a towering achievement. Not only shining a light on their genius but also showing how hard it is to make anything. Watching The Beatles grind through mundanity was inspiring. Even the most beloved band on earth had to churn through the muck.
“Now and Then” has been marketed as "the final Beatles song." It originated from an old Lennon demo that was given to the surviving members sometime in the early 90s. The story goes, that the song was too rough, John’s voice obscured by piano, that they abandoned it.
The original press release proclaimed the song was "rescued by AI.” But this is misleading. This song doesn’t feature AI-generated Lennon vocals. It’s just been cleaned up. A couple of years ago we would have called this process “denoising.” But, now AI serves as a catch-all for all new tech.
But, enough with the preamble. How’s the song? Well. It's haunting to hear Lennon's voice again. Especially on a track that feels like a funeral dirge. The original demo always felt incomplete and this new imagining feels "fuller" of course, but the song is fairly one-note. Still, I found myself moved by it. And the damn thing has been stuck in my head all week.
But, then something happened that muddled the waters for me. One day after the single was released, a music video dropped.
Peter Jackson directed and listen, I’m a fan! But, yikes…the music video is bad. It feels slapped together. As if the record label realized the song was too heavy and needed a light-hearted video to counterbalance.
I could write more, but uh, let me just post this animated gif instead:
Nearly every time CGI John is on screen, he’s mugging for the camera. It’s jarring to witness on such a somber song.
The odd part of watching the video was that I still found the music emotional, despite the goofy CGI. It was a bizarre experience, wanting to tear up one moment, only to be violently appalled the next.
For contrast. Here are the videos for “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love.” The two songs created for the Anthology back in the early 90s.
I guess the question is, why do this? And I suppose it all comes down to Paul, who seems haunted by the song. Something he's mentioned many times in interviews. Knowing this information also makes the song feel heavier.
Watching the accompanying short film, it dawned on me that Paul McCartney was a mortal. One day he wouldn’t be around to tell us a Beatles story. In a way, the song’s release acts as a waking funeral. A way for everyone to say "goodbye" to the Beatles while Paul and Ringo are still alive.
It feels a little weird.
The new song moved me, and it remains stuck in my head. But part of me wishes we "ended" things with Get Back.
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