For the first time in nearly 30 years, and possibly the last time ever, The Beatles have a new song. On Tuesday, the band released what it is calling the “last” Beatles song, “Now and Then”, which features contributions from John LennonPaul McCartneyGeorge Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

“Now and Then” centers around a demo recording John Lennon made at his piano at The Dakota back in 1977. For nearly 20 years, it collected dust before his widow Yoko Ono brought it to the surviving Beatles in 1994 along with “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”. Paul, George, and Ringo polished the latter two songs in-studio with producer Jeff Lynne and released them in 1995 to widespread fervor, while “Now and Then” was left behind due to a loud hum that plagued the homemade recording.

Fast forward another quarter of a century, and the two remaining Beatles’ work with director Peter Jackson on the ambitious Get Back documentary brought “Now and Then” back into view. The Lord of the Rings director utilized decades of technological advancements to isolate Lennon’s vocals and piano into crystal clear audio, unlocking the key to making “Now and Then” a reality. Like George Martin before him, Jackson acted as something of a fifth (or in this case third) Beatle with his vital in-studio contributions.

Though they had previously worked posthumously on Lennon’s recordings, McCartney still faced moments of self-doubt during this latest 21st-century attempt.

“Is it something we shouldn’t do?” McCartney questioned in a short film accompanying the single. “Every time I thought like that I thought ‘Wait a minute, let’s say I had the chance to ask John: Hey John, would like us to finish this last song of yours?’ I’m telling you, I know the answer would’ve been ‘ Yeah!’ He would’ve loved that.”

The initial rush of Lennon’s pristine vocals is downright chilling at first. With new recordings from Paul and Ringo enmeshed with original audio from John and George, “Now and Then” becomes a retrospective bridging the past and the present just like the accompanying video of new and archival footage. The song serves as a beautiful tear-stained goodbye, and even invokes the final words Lennon said to McCartney, “Think about me every now and then, old friend.” With lush string arrangements by George Martin’s son Giles Martin, “Now and Then” has the proper melancholy befitting of what McCartney surmises is the last Beatles song—and he says it is, indeed a Beatles song.

“‘Now and Then’, it’s probably, like, the last Beatles song,” McCartney said. “And we’ve all played on it, so it is a genuine Beatles recording.”

Peter Jackson also directed a music video for the song which utilizes previously unreleased footage from the 1995 recording sessions and other home movies. Superimposing the archival footage onto new video of Paul and Ringo, the Academy Award-winning director creates a retrospective where the iconic musicians literally look back on their former selves. Even in the face of the inherent morbidity of the partially posthumous recording,  Jackson is able to keep the mood light with jovial footage of Lennon, Harrison, and the rest of the band being their young, goofy selves.

“At their core [The Beatles] were irreverent and funny, and the middle section should capture that spirit,” Jackson said in a statement. “We needed to laugh at The Beatles, and laugh with them. They were always sending themselves up—and the more seriously other people took them, the more they would clown around.

“Luckily we found a collection of unseen outtakes in the vault, where The Beatles are relaxed, funny and rather candid. These become the spine of our middle section, and we wove the humour into some footage shot in 2023. The result is pretty nutty and provided the video with much needed balance between the sad and the funny.”

Listen to The Beatles’ last new song, “Now and Then”, and check out the accompanying short film. The track will also arrive in physical 7-inch and 12-inch formats paired with The Beatles’ 1962 debut single “Love Me Do” in a fitting full-circle release. To purchase, visit the band’s website.

The Beatles – “Now And Then”

The Beatles – Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song (Short Film)