Tag Archives: John Lennon

Now and Then… Redux

Shortly after posting my thoughts on The Beatles release of “Now and Then”, I came across this curious article by Russell Root and published on Salon.com:

“Now and Then” is a beautiful Fab Four reunion. Too bad it’s not a Beatles song

The crux of Mr. Root’s argument is…

…the song lacks the real-time collaboration that defined the Beatles’ style, despite the deliberate attempt to include all four members on the track. The drive to finish this song seems to have been spearheaded by McCartney.


Sonically, the song bears much more resemblance to recent Paul McCartney works than to other pieces from the Beatles’ repertoire. The song’s jaunty rhythm, guided by heavy piano and acoustic guitar, would fit much better on McCartney’s 2018 “Egypt Station” than on any Beatles album.

Mr. Root then compares “Now and Then” with “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird”, the previous two songs McCartney/Harrison/Starr finished up from Lennon’s demos:

Unlike “Now and Then,” however, the studio versions of (“Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”) stay truer to both the original demos and the Beatles’ own sound. Neither “Free as a Bird” nor “Real Love” tamper with the structure of Lennon’s original compositions, as the only real changes to the songs themselves are finishing touches to some incomplete lyrics in the chorus of “Free as a Bird.”


I have to admit, I’m rather confused by Mr. Root’s argument. He’s saying that because “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” remained closer to Lennon’s demo they are therefore more like “real” Beatles songs? Further, the fact that Paul McCartney seemed to be the force behind the release of “Now and Then” and obviously worked on it more than the other two songs therefore it’s more of a… I don’t know? More of a McCartney song (modern vintage) versus a Beatles song?

Of the three demos given to McCartney by Yoko Ono to work on, clearly “Now and Then” was the one that was in the “roughest” shape. Had it not been, I strongly suspect it would have appeared on one of the Anthology Albums, where it was originally intended to go. As it was, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were the songs that technology allowed at the time for the then three remaining Beatles to work on and finish up while “Now and Then” had to be put aside.

In listening to the John Lennon demo (which can be found on YouTube though I believe it is being knocked out wherever found) I very much hear a “rougher” version of the “Now and Then” we eventually got, for good or ill. Yes, there are flourishes in it that weren’t in the demo and I know at this point in time, with both Lennon and Harrison having passed, it was very likely worked on more by McCartney than anyone else but, again, it was a very rough work and someone had to do that. My understanding is that Ringo had to be convinced to come in and do some drum work, so clearly of the two Beatles left things had to fall more to McCartney.

In the demo, Lennon at times sings gibberish words, an obvious placeholder for later on when he would try to come up with “proper” lyrics. Obviously he never got to that point and unless this song was released with the gibberish placeholder lyrics and/or a seance managed to get Lennon and Harrison to work on it from the beyond, someone had to be there to fix it up, no? And why not McCartney?

Which brings us to Mr. Root’s complaint that this is more of a Paul McCartney work.

I don’t know Mr. Root’s age. I don’t know how much he knows about The Beatles so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here: The Beatles worked both as a collaborative band as well as individual artists on their songs.

For example, one of The Beatles most famous songs, “Yesterday” was created and recorded entirely by Paul McCartney. No other member of the band was involved in its making or recording… perhaps other than sitting around while it was being made. There are no Ringo drums nor any Lennon or Harrison guitars. McCartney plays the acoustic guitar and an Orchestra -led by producer George Martin, I suspect- backs him up.

Similarly, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” was recorded solely with Lennon and McCartney present. Neither George Harrison nor Ringo Starr were involved in that song. It, like “Yesterday” is still listed as a Beatles song even though not every Beatle was involved.

And get this: The most streamed Beatles song ever, the George Harrison composition “Here Comes The Sun”, perhaps the pinnacle of Harrison’s musical output (though one could argue “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps” is damn near) was recorded without John Lennon’s participation.

Yes kids, “Here Comes The Sun” featured George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr but, because he was recovering from a car crash, no John Lennon.

Yet it too, like the others I mention above, is very much a Beatles song.

I’ve written a lot here and I’m wondering why at this point.

If you don’t feel “Now and Then” is a “proper” Beatles song, so be it… but at least come up with a reason that doesn’t feel like you’re upset because there’s too much –gasp!– McCartney in the song -as if he’s somehow not a “real” Beatles bandmate- and not enough of everyone else.

To me, all three post-breakup Beatles songs taken from Lennon’s demos are interesting curios. I don’t feel any of them are as “strong” as the best of the Beatles stuff but neither do I feel they are failures.

It’s incredibly hard to go back to your most successful era of creativity and knock out stuff that sounds like that but neither do I feel the remaining Beatles did themselves a disservice going back to these Lennon demos and “finishing them up”.

Or, to put it another way… lighten up, my man!

Now and Then and The Beatles…

Officially released a few days ago, the song “Now and Then” is reportedly the last Beatles song…

The song is a melancholy affair and the video, depending on the version you see, is either filled with footage from all Beatles eras or a more Pepper-esq piece.

It’s been interesting seeing/reading the reactions from people, most of which consists of tears and nostalgia as well as a realization that this song’s release is both a monumental accomplishment… and a final one.

While the song started as a John Lennon rough demo created in 1977, well after The Beatles split up, back when the three Anthology albums were released, an attempt was made to make it a proper song not unlike “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”. Those two songs were also demos John Lennon created but wasn’t able to fashion into a “complete” work and were given to the remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, to complete.

But “Now and Then”, at least back then, was simply in too rough a shape to make into a proper release. Supposedly George Harrison ultimately refused to continue working on it and it was rejected and that was that…

…until years later and thanks to A.I. programming used by Peter Jackson to take all the Get Back footage and fix it up to make it usable.

Welp, that same program allowed Jackson to isolate John Lennon’s voice in the “Now and Then” demo and that, in turn, allowed the remaining Beatles, McCartney and Starr, to finally finish off the song. I believe there is some Harrison work in this new song, but I’ve also heard that Paul McCartney emulated Harrison’s style of guitar playing so I don’t know how much of Harrison is there in the end (no pun intended).

There’s a further interesting bit of history here: It has been reported, many years before McCartney would receive this demo, that the last time he saw John Lennon the very last thing he said to him was “Think of me every now and then, old friend.


So, yeah, there’s considerable emotional baggage tied into this song and it spills over to the fans and… it’s a wonderful thing, in my opinion.

Paul McCartney is 81 years old now. Ringo Starr is 83.

We won’t have these icons of music around much longer and it’s wonderful to get another sample of their genius, even if it is via a project that was not originally created as a Beatles work.

Beware…politics…and Beatles music?

I’m deeply invested in politics as the people who will run our government represent the future of this country.  Yet I also feel political opinions are too easily spread out there and it is best sometimes to listen rather than “talk”.

This is why I’m always hesitant to get into political topics here.  Considering all the things I’ve expressed opinions on these last few years, I shouldn’t be, but political options, and politics in general, have a different impact than my opinion on, say, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Which isn’t to say I don’t dip my toe into this topic from time to time, which is what I intend to do now.  So, if you’re not interested in “talking” politics, turn away.  There’s plenty of other good stuff to read around these parts…

Anyway, yesterday the Vice Presidential candidates took to the stage to have a debate and, from what I’ve heard (you couldn’t pay me to watch this one), Republican VP candidate Mike Pence acquitted himself far better than Donald Trump did in his disastrous debate against Hillary Clinton.

And the Donald, from reports out there, wasn’t all that happy:

Report: Donald Trump mad at Pence for being better than him at debate

While I suppose it should surprise me, it doesn’t.  Mr. Trump has always struck me as a classic narcissist and woe be to anyone/anything that takes away from his limelight.

Yet on the other hand, and again based on what I heard, it appeared Mr. Pence didn’t exactly go to bat for his candidate, so there could be more complex emotions going on here.

What I find the most fascinating so far with this race is that apart from being a narcissist, Mr. Trump constantly engages in what psychologists have called “projection”, which is defined as:

The unconscious transfer of one’s own desires or emotions to another person.

Many years ago and shortly after the disbanding of The Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney (and George Harrison to a lesser degree) took shots at each other via their songs.  Paul McCartney’s “Too Many People”, for example, is widely considered a song which takes aim at Mr. Lennon:

Included in the song are these lines:

You took your lucky break and broke it in two.
Now what can be done for you?
You broke it in two.

John Lennon shot right back with “How Do You Sleep”…

What was most fascinating to me was that in the Imagine film, Mr. Lennon talks about that song and says this about it:

(How Do You Sleep) is not about Paul, it’s about me. I’m really attacking myself. But I regret the association, well, what’s to regret? He lived through it. The only thing that matters is how he and I feel about these things and not what the writer or commentator thinks about it. Him and me are okay.

By the point of this quote many years had passed and the raw/negative feelings the two had for each other subsided but I nonetheless find Mr. Lennon’s statement incredibly interesting.

Sure, on the surface of the song he was going after Paul McCartney and now regretted it.  However, I suspect Mr. Lennon was very much on to something with that quote and had realized the song, while appearing to be a full on attack on Mr. McCartney, was also more than a little self-loathing as well.

Check this song lyric from “How Do You Sleep”:

The only thing you done was yesterday
And since you’ve gone it’s just another day

Once again and on the surface it is clear Mr. Lennon is referring to the famous Beatles song “Yesterday”, which everyone who knows their Beatles trivia knows Paul McCartney composed and recorded pretty much completely on his own, and comparing it -unfavorably- to Paul McCartney’s post Beatles solo song “Another Day”…

Now, in light of John Lennon’s statement, one can (ahem) imagine he realizes much of his criticism is indeed projection and that the negative statements he makes against McCartney are about him.

John Lennon was known to be very self-critical and at times displayed levels of self-loathing.  I recall reading one interview where he dismissed the entire Beatles catalogue and said if he had to do it again, he would do every song completely differently, implying all those songs they released were not all that good.

There were also interviews where Mr. Lennon expressed equal parts admiration for and jealousy of the song “Yesterday.”  It is arguably the single best known Beatles song yet, as noted above, it is entirely Paul McCartney’s work and John Lennon had nothing at all to do with it.

The success of “Yesterday” made Mr. Lennon (and the other Beatles, of course) a ton of money yet it irritated Mr. Lennon.  A confidant of his stated:

“Yesterday drove him crazy,” veteran New York journo/broadcaster Howard Smith told MOJO. “People would say, ‘Thank you for writing Yesterday, I got married to it, what a beautiful song…’ He was always civil. But it drove him nuts.”  (The full article can be found here: John Lennon was Haunted by Yesterday)

So if we are to believe Mr. Lennon in that later interview and consider the song “How Do You Sleep” as being a projection of and ultimately about Mr. Lennon, the line “The only thing you done was yesterday” takes on a completely different meaning.

Mr. Lennon is making what amounts to an incredible self-loathing statement: “The only thing I -John Lennon- am known for is the song “Yesterday”, and I didn’t even have anything to do with it!”

Perhaps this is indeed the case and Mr. Lennon had an uncanny insight into his own psyche.

Something, sadly, I don’t think Mr. Trump is capable of.