John Lennon's "Now and Then" Mystery Song
The Beatles are like what Beethoven and Brahms are to classical music, neverending music icons for rock music. Legions of fans, young and old, pass on their music and no doubt will endure time long after the remaining members are dead.
John Lennon created not only great rock\pop songs while with the band, but even after they broke up in 1969 (although, their last released song was in 1970). Lennon showed he could compose beautiful haunting melodies on his solo records that shared deep meaning in the lyrics.
So, it is not surprising that in 1979-80, Lennon would compose another beautiful love song that he put on a cassette demo tape, Now and Then. On the same cassette were demos of "Real Love", "Free As a Bird", and "Grow Old With Me". The cassette also revealed in John's handwriting, " For Paul". The cassette then was forgotten as John recorded other songs for his last record before he was murdered in late 1980.
As many years passed by, Yoko eventually stumbled on the cassette in a forgotten drawer or box with other items. The year was now 1994. She contacted Paul and gave him the tape of just John on piano singing into a cassette recorder. John often said that he had to memorialize his musical ideas for songs, otherwise, he would forget them. In 1994, Paul and the remaining Beatles were working on their legacy CD, the Anthology series of songs they recorded but never released or alternate versions. The remaining Beatles decided to pay tribute to John by backing two of the songs, "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love", with John's poorly recorded demo. The result was amazingly good and both songs were released and became The Beatles last No.1 song. The sessions would be the last Beatle reunion for George Harrison would die of cancer in 2001.
Paul wanted to also do "Now and Then", a striking song with haunting chord progressions and melody. George absolutely refused to do it without saying why. Perhaps his own mortality was making hard for he had been in treatment. For whatever reason, that was the end of it.
Yet, even today, the words of the song stir a debate. Paul has even done the song a few times during his concerts in recent years on guitar. Like Paul's song, "Yesterday", he wrote in 1965, John's "Now and Then" clearly equals it, if not, surpasses it in its beauty. The debate is over who the song was written for? It was on the cassette marked, "For Paul", yet when you listen to the song, at times the words seem to be clearly for his wife, Yoko. Then again, other parts seem to show John was thinking of Paul. Perhaps, John was thinking of both! The recording was most likely done on the fly with only limited rehearsals and maybe John was creating the lyrics on the fly and clearly he was reminiscing in 1979-80. He had suffered much-lost love in his life: his father, mother, his first wife and son, Yoko, his band.
When Paul has performed this song in recent years, he turns a rock concert into a tear jerker. There is one performance in South America where the whole concert hall is silent except for Paul who struggles in performing it. You can see and feel how there was love was between John and Paul.
Now and Then.