Following its debut online yesterday, the Beatles have released the accompanying music video for “Now and Then,” billed as “The Last Beatles Song” and created using new technology to marry new work by surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr with an old demo recorded by John Lennon, plus recordings by the late George Harrison from the period of The Beatles Anthology in the 1990s. Paul, George, and Ringo had previously attempted to finish “Now and Then” but at that time it was determined that the original demo was too rough to use.

Decades later, a software pioneered by Peter Jackson and his team while making the documentary series The Beatles: Get Back was employed to isolate Lennon’s vocal track on the demo, and to clean it up to the point that it could work. Fittingly, Jackson then directed the music video for the finished “Now and Then.”

Appropriately, I suppose, given the way the song was only possible through technology, various digital tricks were used to combine new footage of Paul and Ringo with archival images of John and George, plus old footage of all the members. At least in concept, it is the visual equivalent of the song. In execution, well, see for yourself...

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In a statement, Jackson said he was initially “reluctant” to make the video, in part because “just thinking about the responsibility of having to make a music video worthy of the last song The Beatles will ever release produced a collection of anxieties almost too overwhelming to deal with.”

He added:

I told Apple how the lack of suitable footage worried me. We’d need to use a lot of rare and unseen film, but there’s very little … Nothing at all seemed to exist showing Paul, George and Ringo working on Now And Then in 1995 … There’s not much footage of John in the mid-seventies when he wrote the demo … I grizzled about the lack of unseen Beatles footage from the ’60s … And they didn’t even shoot any footage showing Paul and Ringo working on the song last year.A Beatles music video must have great Beatles footage at its core.

Jackson says he never technically said yes, but he also never said no, and soon was “swept along as they quickly addressed my concerns.” McCartney and Starr recorded themselves performing the song, while Apple found 14 hours of “long forgotten film” of the 1995 Beatles Anthology sessions, including footage of Paul, George, and Ringo working together on “Now and Then.” And ... here we are.

What do you think? Again, I understand the concept and think it does work on that level with the song. In practice, just as I am when people do this trick in movies, images of dead people being inserted into new footage always strikes me as a little ... creepy. Maybe that’s just me...

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