Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

A rather beautiful farewell to rock’n’roll: The Beatles’ ‘Now and Then’ reviewed

The Beatles' final song is a fine, lachrymose ballad that moistens the eyes a little

Grade: A

The last song the Beatles ever recorded was called, appropriately enough, ‘The End’, on the Abbey Road album. As a consequence of digital sorcery, however, ‘Now and Then’ is the last song we will ever hear from them – a demo passed from John to Paul, dubbed over in the early 1990s by the (then) three surviving members and, more recently, unearthed and remastered. It does not sound very much like the Beatles; it is more akin to a mid-1970s John Lennon solo album song (think ‘#9 Dream’) but overseen by Paul McCartney – which in effect is kind of what it is.

It’s a fine, lachrymose ballad and the notion that it is also a tender love letter from John to his then estranged former bandmate does moisten the eyes a little.

Paul does a good job of imitating George Harrison’s slide guitar, but I suspect Lennon would have preferred the piano to be a little less didactic and might have blanched when the full weight of the strings come in. It shows, too, that in the 1970s Lennon was becoming an ever more nuanced and subtle writer.

It also feels like The End. Not simply of the Beatles, but of the whole shebang which they – and the Rolling Stones – have for decades personified: that upstart cultural phenomenon, rock’n’roll.

Nothing the genre has produced in the past 30 years has come close to the excitement and invention of rock’n’ roll in its adolescent years, from 1964 to 1976. It has become a lovely (if at times overrated) relic, like ragtime or the gavotte. This song is a rather beautiful goodbye from its most talented exponents.