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Sceen capture from "Now and Then" audio video on YouTube.

Now and Then I Get the Rolling Stone Blues

Written by
Ted Lindsay
and
and
December 5, 2023

This is an edited version of an article which was originally published on the music site Ted Tocks Covers on November 5th, 2023.

Now and Then I Get the Rolling Stone Blues
Sceen capture from "Now and Then" audio video on YouTube.

“Now and Then” has been called the last Beatles song. 

I have watched the twelve-minute video that captures the making of "Now and Then" several times and I listened to it on a loop for about a week following that. 

John Lennon wrote and recorded the skeleton of “Now and Then” in 1977.  It was during the period where he was ostensibly raising his young son, Sean. Footage in the video, taken by Yoko shows John playing the piano and spending time with Sean. Hanging out at the Dakota. Just being "Dad." 

Here is Sean’s recollection of the period from a recent interview:

“I do remember living at the Dakota with Dad and Mum. There’s this impression that my Dad stopped doing music for a while to raise me, which I think is partially true in terms of him not touring and not fulfilling any major record label obligations. But he was always playing music around the house. He was always making demos and I do remember him recording into these tape cassette recorders. Mom had these handful of songs that my Dad hadn’t finished and she gave them to the other Beatles.”

This exchange occurred at the Beatles’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1994. Yoko had mentioned to George Harrison that the tapes existed, and on that special evening she handed the recordings over to Paul. 

Imagine!

I mean, just think what this tape represented at the time and fast forward to what it means today.

One of the most recognized musicians of the 20th century. The moments have now been shared with all of us, to enjoy. Preserved. For millions of Beatles fans the world over they will become as cherished as the many reels we have etched in our mind. 

As the video moves on we are treated to George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr working on “Now and Then” with producer Jeff Lynne. The recording session that was captured day back in March of 1995. 

As Lynne recalled, it all happened in.“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." 

It is interesting to note that the early impressions of The Beatles was that the recording was “fucking rubbish.” These were George’s words and Paul and Ringo had to agree. It was a reference to the quality of the actual recording, definitely not the content. 

Based on this sentiment and the Beatle democracy, work on “Now and Then” was set aside. 

When George died in 2001, discussion about this project subsided, but in the years following Paul and Ringo would occasionally tease the possibility of new material. Paul suggested that he was writing new verses to a track and Ringo had laid down some of his trademark drum parts. 

This quote, from a Jeff Lynne documentary on BBC Four, really got people talking. In an interview Paul McCartney casually mentioned; “There was another one that we started working on, but George went off it... that one's still lingering around, so I'm going to nick in with Jeff and do it. Finish it, one of these days."

But it was not until over a decade later that McCartney created a real buzz when he told the world that work was finished on a new song where they had extracted John Lennon’s voice from an old demo and through the assistance of AI they managed to enhance the recording to acceptable standards. 

In order to dispel any cynicism McCartney clarified the authenticity by stating;“Nothing has been artificially or synthetically created. It's all real and we all play on it. We cleaned up some existing recordings – a process which has gone on for years."

And the world waited. 

This is what we received. 

The documentary video was written and directed by Oliver Murray.

The music video shared at the outset was directed by Peter Jackson and to add to this musical gift to the world. It includes some never-before-seen footage of the Beatles. Some is provided by Pete Best, and of course excerpts of George, Paul and Ringo in the studio in 1995. 

I don’t know about you but when I saw images of George, I got a lump in my throat and then seconds later John’s voice breaks through and I was a blubbering mess. 

And then Paul McCartney unleashes a slide solo that he has openly stated is a tribute to George, and the strings. 

McCartney brilliance, the likes we will never see or hear again. 

Man!

This is what I mean. At a time where the world is a complete and utter shit show The Beatles come around on this little Mystery Tour of Magic and say pause awhile and listen to this.

Maybe we can imagine all the people living life in peace?

For at least 4:35 anyway. 

In less than 24 hours “Now and Then” had over 33 million page views. 

From an analytical standpoint “Now and Then” exists as a conflicted love song in the same vein as several others John wrote in his post Beatles career. True to the Lennon/McCartney songwriting style, additional lyrics were added by Paul that helped to enhance the sentiment John was hoping to share. 

Much like the litany of hits this song writing tandem offered, they seemed capable of entering each other’s mind in the moment, and pull out the perfect word or phrase. In the industry this is often referred to as the hook, but when it comes to bridging 60 years of what seemingly exists as a mythical relationship this becomes something more. This stems from the relatability of the piece. 

We all live with regret. On occasion, we don’t treat people who matter most to us with the respect or love they deserve. We take their presence for granted. Now and then we look back and recognize the mistakes that were mad. While we can’t erase the past, every day represents a new beginning. From this perspective we can make it better than the day before. This is only possible because of "YOU."

Every listener has someone different in mind when they listen to this open admission, and because of that, the song works. 

Looking at the current news cycle and the atrocities that are playing out the world over it is hard not to agree that this song could not have come at a better time. 

If only more of us were truly listening. 

In order to tie the significance together here is a timely anecdote. My friend Brian shared a fantastic comic by Graeme Keyes that shows a couple of friends hanging out in front of a record store. The display in the window says “Out Now! Rolling Stones #1 ALBUM – The Beatles #1 SINGLE.”

One of the pair remarks“WOW! Just how far did the clocks go back to.”

Graeme Keyes, 2023

Right there an idea struck me. 

From Liverpool we head to London and visit Mick, Keith, Ronnie and friends and their homage to the man who gave The Rolling Stones their name. 

First, here is the original Muddy Waters song known as Rolling Stone Blues, or “Catfish Blues” (see “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)")

On October 20, The Rolling Stones released “Hackney Diamonds” — their first album since Bigger Bang in 2005.

As a band, The Rolling Stones have never forgotten where they came from. Case in point; the closing track is “Rolling Stone Blues.” 

Tell me again…How old are these guys? This is fantastic. Listen to Mick! And the guitar work? Stupendous! 

Just incredible!

The recording was deliberately handled in a way that harkened back to their early days. It was the only recording on the album recorded straight to tape. As you listen you can almost picture a couple of scraggly adolescents on a train. 

One notices the other is carrying a record.

It is The Best of Muddy Waters.

They begin a conversation. Well over 60 years later they are still talking. “Through the past darkly” we know this friendship has endured the worst of everything two people can take, but even when things seemed to be irrecoverable the music held them together. It was the glue. An eternal bond. 

It all started with Muddy Waters. 

They were going to be Rolling Stones, and a Rolling Stone they would forever remain. 

Since this album was released just over one month ago it has done some noteworthy things. The Rolling Stones are the first act with Billboard 200 Top 10 Albums each decade since the 1960s. For context, the only artist who can match this feat in the near future is Barbra Streisand. 

Hackney Diamonds debuted at #3. Ironically Bigger Bang also debuted at #3, eighteen years ago. The album includes several of their good friends. Here is just a sample of the guest list:

Elton John, Steve Jordan, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Bill Wyman, Benmont Tench and yes…Sir Paul McCartney.

To further emphasize the eternal greatness of the names I have brought up here, the artists with the most Top 10s overall are The Rolling Stones with 38, followed by Barbra Streisand with 34, then Frank Sinatra and the Beatles at 32. 

Among this list of Top 10s are nine #1 albums. 

This includes: Out of Our Heads, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock and Roll, Black and Blue, Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You.

All of this brings me back to the eternal question famously raised in song, as part of Metric's 2009 hit “Gimme Sympathy

Who would you rather be?

Your answer doesn’t matter. 

From where I sit, just sitting around contemplating the question is a pleasant distraction. 

Over sixty years have passed since The Beatles first hit the charts and set a course for what became famously known as the British invasion. It has been exactly sixty years since The Beatles gave The Rolling Stones their first U.K. Top 20 hit. 

As legend has it, the song was written by Paul McCartney in a London pub, with John Lennon’s input, while the pair were hanging out with their new friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. 

As Mick Jagger remembers, “we knew [The Beatles] by then and we were rehearsing and Andrew brought Paul and John down to the rehearsal."

“They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then. I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great; 'Hey Mick, we've got this great song'. So they played it and we thought it sounded pretty commercial, which is what we were looking for, so we did it like Elmore James or something. I haven't heard it for ages but it must be pretty freaky 'cause nobody really produced it. It was completely crackers, but it was a hit and sounded great onstage.”

It still sounds great sixty years later. 

Every "Now and Then" we need to go back. 

Who says nostalgia is not a good thing?

You can follow Ted Tocks Covers:

Website – https://tedtockscovers.wordpress.com

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