Donning my Beatle Guy hat for a moment
I think there'd be a robust market for a book called something like "Start to Make it Better: What the Beatles Teach Us About the Creative Process."
I, too, find the new song underwhelming. This is a great explanation of why. But the good news for me is the belated discovery of Hey Dullblog, which I will now race to consume before it someday fades away. And I second Tim Harrod's idea about a book.
I was a bit underwhelmed, too, and I think it was because if George had been involved in the final product, he would have pushed for some kind of recognizable riff on the piano or guitar to open the song. And the guitar solo would have had more life to it. It is a bit haunting in a way. But what if they had tried it more uptempo and bouncy, like “Thank You Girl” or “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You?” Some new Beatles is better than no new Beatles, I guess. But if the song doesn’t grab you as much as even their lesser songs on their studio albums, why mess with the legacy?
The problem with demos is that by definition they are scraps—not finished songs. One of the clear takeaways of Get Back! is that one can see the that the scraps that go into the collective grinder often diverge wildly once they make it into album fodder. I honestly like the melody and idea of Now and Then. I just don’t think there’s quite enough meat in the casing. For that requires the headbanging destructive give and take Northern Songs in particular had been long noted. That dynamic is obviously missing posthumously. But then, folks, after all, McCartney is no longer in his prime, and Ringo is simply too ready steady to rock the boat. Those uncomfortable truths aside, they’re the fucking Beatles, dammit! I’d happily listen to their flatulence without too much complaint.
What did you think of the orchestrated version of Grow Old With Me? It's the only one of his "produced" demos I truely like. Otherwise I prefer them undercooked, as they were.
Great post Mike - as usual, you're not content to repeat some cliché like "ineffable Beatle magic" and leave it at that, instead trying to get at *why* and *how* their music seems magic. I sort of agree and disagree with you at the same time - basically, I disagree on the specific song while agreeing with the broader point. To me, NAT fails because Paul changed the original too *much*. For starters he removed the only truly interesting part of the song, the bridge, with all its beautifully bizzare ahead-of-their-time only-John-could-do-this chord sequences. He also took the wistful melancholia of the feel and grafted his trademark Macca bounce onto it, creating this weird Frankenstein that fails to be satisfyingly happy or sad. It's just sorta there.
Where we're totally in agreement is that the Beatles, together, would have made something really good out of this. They pulled off the happy-and-sad-at-once trick countless times as a team, often implausibly (Misery, You Won't See Me, you already mentioned Getting Better). And if they'd tried out NAT in a room together, John would've insisted on keeping the weird chords and Paul would have insisted on making the thing cohere and move more, and you would have gotten another I Am the Walrus. Well OK, the song was never gonna be that good, but you know what I mean.
How many times have I heard Maybe I'm Amazed and thought 'This would be as famous as Let It Be if it had been produced properly, taken slower and Ringo had played drums?' Imagine how good Gimme Some Truth would be if the bassline and general arrangement had some of that Macca bite to it...think how much more some of the overrated ATMP woulda popped with George Martin overseeing the songs and J&P providing harmonies...
Ah well. They gave what they gave, and it was beautiful.
P. S. She Said She Said is the honorable exception to the 'If it ain't got Paul on it don't bother' rule - and even then I bet he helped arrange it before storming out 🙂
I heard the song and saw the video Peter Jackson made for it this morning. In all honesty, the song is mediocre schmaltz that sounds more like an ELO demo. The weirdness of the video is downright disturbing. It looked like it was trying to appeal to Adderall addicted GenZers as ghosts of the John and George are mixed with their youthful selves to nonsensically jump around the elderly Ringo and Paul. The overall effect makes it painfully obvious that this is a move of desperation to cash in on the tattered remnants of the past.
My reaction on hearing this song was Beatles's songs never ended up sounding like their demos, and the starting point for "Now and Then" is essentially a demo, the vocal of which ain't never gonna change and the piano accompaniment is an exact copy (according to what I've read anyway) of the demo. It may be by 4 Beatles but (for me) by no stretch of the imagination is this a "Beatles" song.
Correct. Soup to nuts correct. Impressed.
Well put. Also, I think I owe you a belated thank you to introducing me to "The Rutles" in the post about mockumentaries several weeks (months?) back. I was always aware of the movie, but for some reason never sought it out until I read that post (despite being a big Beatles fan since at least high school.) If I only knew what I had been missing
Anytime I can hear the four of them playing together (even with AI help), it's a win for me.
Weren't there hours and hours of unreleased material just from the Let it Be sessions alone? Instead of trying to create some new thing with AI, couldn't somebody just clean some of that stuff up and release it? I know that much of that has already happened, but I'm sure there's always more...