Now then, now then, now then
The last time all the four Beatles were in a studio together was at Abbey Road in August 1969, when they wrapped up the album of the same name.
I was a day shy of being eight weeks old, and until our move to Clapham was finalised we were living with my paternal grandparents in West Hampstead, two miles from the famous studios by the even more iconic zebra crossing.
Though you won’t find John Lennon listed anywhere on that track as he’d already left the band.
In one I Me Mine take on Anthology 3, George jokingly acknowledges John’s absence: “You all will have read that Dave Dee is no longer with us. But Mickey and Titch and I would just like to carry on the good work that’s always gone down in [Abbey Road Studio] No. 2.”
As the youngest member of the band started by John, it took some time before Harrison got the respect he deserved from the Lennon-McCartney alliance. Indeed, if you watch Let It Be, a moment between John and George stands out. While Hazza introduces I Me Mine to the band, John Lennon takes the opportunity to dance a waltz with Yoko Ono. (Ouch, ouch and triple ouch.)
So when the “Threetles” got together to finish the track the following year no one was surprised John didn’t show. In fact, skipping George’s songs wasn’t anything new for John. He didn’t play on three of George’s four White Album tracks and didn’t turn up on Here Comes The Sun, off Abbey Road either.
Anyway, my point is that I Me Mine still listed as a Beatles recording, just as the one premiered today is — “the last new Beatles single there will ever be” (allegedly) was also concocted without Lennon being present, extracted from a scratchy and, it has to be said rather twee, 1978 Dakota demo – and a weight Macca’s been carrying around for three decades, chasing a dream, itching to complete.
My initial thoughts? Despite there not being much of a song to begin with, the augmentation is thoughtful and considerate, not grandiose or over-produced, and the restructuring to remove an incomplete, sketchy second verse that removes any reference to a relationship with a female (the prototype Woman, basically) and makes the song all the more poignant and concise; a reflection on friendship past and present.
But don‘t take my word for it.
I like it a lot more than the other two Frankenstein creations, Free As A Bird and Real Love, though how they can cunningly slip Now And Then on the Blue album (and make a mockery of the actual official title 1967-1970) is a weird one.
Also, at the time of their release in 1973, the Red (1962-1966) and Blue two compilations, denied a chart-topping position by David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, included every Beatles single issued in the UK.
50 years later, the updated versions, despite being loaded with extra tracks, do not. Free As A Bird and Real Love are conspicuous by their absence. Should we look forward to Now And Then being similarly sidelined for future compilations?
I would have thought they would have MALadjusted all three tracks and stick them on an EP together, united in provenance, instead of ripping off collectors by the same one B-side on every format, even goosing for the gander twelve-inch singles which “boast” the same running time as the 7”. Ker-ching!
Anyway, there are still purple patches among the blatant retconning.
If I can paraphrase Annie Lennox:
It’s cute and it’s glamorous and sleek by design, you know it’s jealous by nature, false and unkind.
It’s hard and restrained and it’s totally cool, it touches and it teases as they stumble in the debris.
And in the end, it’s all over now, Baby Blue.
UPDATE: the official video aired 24 hours later and the song makes so much more sense now…