In 1995, the surviving Beatles – Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – took two cassette demos from John Lennon’s archive and created two masterpieces that appeared on Anthology 1 and 2. It took a lot of work – the demos were in bad shape – but with the help of ELO frontman Jeff Lynne at the production helm, the two singles turned out well, quickly becoming two of my favorite Beatle songs.
But what about Anthology 3?
Curiously enough, there was a third Lennon demo that the three began work on – a snippet of a song called “Now and Then.” It was written while Lennon lived in the Dakota apartment in New York around 1979. Found on an old cassette marked for Paul, it contained that demo and rehearsal of the eerily-named “Grow Old with Me” – a song that would eventually make it on the John Lennon Anthology.
The song was in rough shape. While “Real Love” had an annoying 60-cycle hum throughout the song, it was salvageable. But the hum on “Now and Then” was even louder, making it even harder to remove. The Threetles began work on the song by recording a rough backing track that was going to be used as an overdub. However, work suddenly ceased after only two days – apparently the group thought too much work would have to be done on the song. Lennon half-finished lyrics, and according to Paul, George, a reluctant participant to begin with, didn’t want to do it because those verses would have to be finished – and it would be impossible to guess what John wanted to say.
“It was one day – one afternoon, really – messing with it. The song had a chorus but is almost totally lacking in verses. We did the backing track, a rough go that we really didn’t finish,” Jeff Lynne said.
Someone eventually released a bootleg that removed the 60-cycle hum, reviving hopes that the then-two surviving members (Harrison died in 2001) would finish the song. In 2012, McCartney was quoted as saying he was interested in completing “Now And Then” with Jeff Lynne as the producer.
We can only hope. There may be work that Harrison did on it, and Starr could lend a drum track. McCartney could work his magic, getting in Lennon’s head, finishing the lyrics and supplying the bridge that Lennon never seemed to be able to find in his music.
That would indeed be the last Beatles single; no other Lennon demos have surfaced that haven’t already been released, and with McCartney approaching 75, he may want to go out with his bandmates with one final encore.