Following his acclaimed documentary Get Back, director Peter Jackson is continuing his relationship with the Beatles by directing his first ever music video for the band’s final song, Now and Then.
It will feature unseen footage of the band, including what Jackson describes as “a few precious seconds of the Beatles performing in their leather suits, the earliest known film of the Beatles and never seen before.”
Now and Then features performances from all four Beatles, including guitar parts recorded by the late George Harrison in 1995, and vocals by John Lennon drawn from a late-70s demo prior to his death in 1980. Jackson was part of the team who used AI-assisted software to isolate Lennon’s vocal from the demo recording, having already used the technology during the making of Get Back to isolate different parts of the recording process for songs that appeared on the Beatles’ final albums Let It Be and Abbey Road.
Jackson has now announced the Now and Then music video, saying the prospect of making it “produced a collection of anxieties almost too overwhelming to deal with. My lifelong love of the Beatles collided into a wall of sheer terror at the thought of letting everyone down. This created intense insecurity in me because I’d never made a music video before, and was not able to imagine how I could even begin to create one for a band that broke up more than 50 years ago, had never actually performed the song, and had half of its members no longer with us. It was going to be far easier to do a runner. I just needed a little time to figure out a good reason for turning the Beatles down.”
In a lengthy statement, Jackson explains that he ended up having plenty of footage to work with, much of it taken in 1995 as Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr attempted to work up a version of Now and Then that was never completed. Lennon’s son Sean and Harrison’s widow Olivia provided “some great unseen home movie footage” while Pete Best, the Beatles’ original drummer, provided the leather-suited performance footage.
Jackson says he listened to Now and Then over and over in search of inspiration that “would somehow float up from the music. And that began to happen. As I kept listening, it felt like the song was creating ideas and images that started forming in my head – without any conscious effort from me.”
He describes finding “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.”
Jackson concludes by saying he has “genuine pride” in the finished video, “and I’ll cherish that for years to come”.
The Jackson-directed Get Back, made up of intimate studio footage as the band work up songs often in real time, was admired on its release in November 2021. Its eight-hour runtime made it a mammoth undertaking for viewers, though, with the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis complaining in a review: “Moments of inspiration and interest are marooned amid acres of desultory chit-chat.”
Now and Then, meanwhile, is hugely anticipated by Beatles fans, who assumed it would never see the light of day. The 1995 sessions produced two new Beatles songs, Free As a Bird and Real Love – both reached the UK Top 10 on release, and were included on the Anthology compilation series. But Harrison became frustrated by the difficulties of completing Now and Then, and attempts to finish that track were aborted.
Announcing the finished version last week, Olivia Harrison said: “Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard. If he were here today, [son] Dhani and I know he would have wholeheartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of Now and Then.”
The video for Now and Then will premiere alongside the song at 2pm GMT on Thursday 2 November. The song is being released as a double A-side single, with Love Me Do, the band’s first single, on the other side. Pop artist Ed Ruscha has created the cover art.
A short making-of film about the song, Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song, is airing on Wednesday 1 November from 7.30pm GMT, live on BBC One and on YouTube.
Now and Then is also being included on a reissue of the Beatles compilation album 1967-1970 (known as the The Blue Album), with 1962-1966 (known as The Red Album) also getting a reissue, both on 10 November.