Now And Then
There are quite a few strange Beatles connections running throughout my life. One of them is a song I wrote back in 2001 called "Now And Then" which appeared on my 2006 album 'One Way Ticket'. I had no idea then John Lennon had also written a song with this title back in 1978. Only "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" were known to the general public in 2001, there was no social media and the internet was still in its infancy so not as easy as these days to find information like that. Unless you were a total Beatles nut collecting bootlegs you wouldn't have been aware of "Now And Then", as I wasn't.
I think I first heard about the song probably around 2009, a few years after the release of 'One Way Ticket'. In this post, its John's song I'm going to discuss. Or more accurately the public reaction to it.
First of all, my take on the song... I had heard the demo a few times over the years but wasn't overly familiar with it. So hearing this new release I was at first impressed with how it started and hearing John's voice so clearly but it soon became apparent to me that the production was too modern. It didn't sound like The Beatles to me and it was all a bit understated and safe, which is not in the spirit of The Beatles. Still, a beautiful track and if anybody else had put this out I'd think it was one of the best things I've heard for a while.
What I can't understand is why they removed the lovely bridge section that John had in his demo - "I don't wanna lose you...". It's a very Beatlesque part and would have been perfect for them to decorate with their harmonies. Some have said it's because John's vocal is a bit shaky at that point and the lyrics are unfinished but they had the same issue in "Free As A Bird" and Paul simply filled it in. I don't know why they chose not to do that on this recording.
What I really wanted to talk about in this post was not so much the Beatles release itself but the way people are reacting to it in these times. Its so different to past releases of this kind. As I remember in the 90s when the other two unreleased tracks came out nobody was analysing them to such a painstaking degree within hours of their release. What prompted me to write this post was seeing a video someone uploaded to YouTube where they had edited in the missing bridge section complete with the same production treatment as the rest of the official release, letting people hear what the song could've sounded like had that section remained.
As much as I have questioned the decision to remove it myself, at the end of the day, you have to respect the artistic decisions of the artist. We live in such strange times that people feel its ok to take it upon themselves to pick apart and rebuild another artists work, adjusting things they don't like to suit their taste. That is not art. The whole point of art is an expression of the soul. An individual is making a unique statement and you must take it whole as it is, good, bad or indifferent. Art should be challenging at times, there should be parts you aren't sure about, bits you like, bits you don't like, some things you love completely, other things you don't yet you can still find them interesting. Chopping and changing other people's art to suit your immediate tastes is another symptom of the lazy, sterile, bland times we live in. The cancel culture. Rewriting history. It's all very Orwellian. Part of the enjoyment of art is learning to love certain things that you might not start out being sure about. Sometimes you hear a song years later and you wonder why you didn't like it before.
I remember when The Finn Brothers released 'Everyone Is Here' in 2004. That record had been built up for a few years so anticipation was high. They were working with Tony Visconti which was a fresh move. I was excited as I thought it would have a more raw, less polished sound in comparison to their previous work with Mitchell Froom. They completed with Visconti, at first appearing happy with the sessions, and then some time passed and it was shelved and news came out they were re-recording with Froom. I was disappointed. After the official release, produced by Froom, I got a chance to hear the abandoned Visconti sessions and much preferred the raw, stripped back sound on most songs. Although it's still a good album, the official release sounded too over-produced and over-compressed to me. I would've liked them to have followed through with the Visconti one but at the end of the day, you have to respect the artist's creative decisions. Otherwise move on.
Something is being lost with the ease at which technology is allowing people to edit and reimagine things. It doesn't feel good. There's something unhuman about it. What makes great art is either a bunch of people in a room, together physically, exchanging ideas and working things out over a period of time or an individual striving for something alone over a period of time making real moment to moment and step by step creative decisions and arriving at a place where they have something unique to offer to the world. Not just some random person in their bedroom, far removed from all the creativity that went into the song as it is, deciding on a whim to alter it to suit themselves.