So when the official high-tech sentimental journey dropped on Friday morning (Nov. 3), you could almost hear the nostalgic global sigh at Jackson’s contribution to the final chapter in rock’s most epic tale. The four-and-a-half minute video opens with some guitar tuning and footage of a cassette being pushed into a tape machine as drummer Ringo Starr takes his place behind the kit and bassist/singer Paul McCartney readies his pick.
Once an unseen hand presses play, viewers are magically transported back to the final Beatles recording session in 1995, where McCartney, Starr and guitarist/singer George Harrison began the process of rediscovering a decades-old song demo’d by late bandmate John Lennon. As Lennon’s keening vocals rise up, Jackson juxtaposes a profile shot of Lennon staring out at the sunset with a floating image of the young Beatles goofing around in their prime.
In a release describing the video prior to release, Jackson promised that it would take fans on a “poignant and humorous” journey that invited viewers to celebrate the band’s timeless and enduring love for one another.
Conjuring an image Beatles fans could only dream of, Jackson does that that by sliding a shot of a current-day McCartney in the studio laying down his backing vocals into frame, as he appears to stare across the universe at the ghostly Lennon shadow. The video then cycles through a series of then-and-now pictures and videos of the band in their salad days and a sure-to-be-talked-about sequence in which archival shots of Lennon and Harrison are spliced in aside present-day McCartney and Starr in a recording session.
“Now and Then” is the final song written by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr, and it was finished by living members McCartney and Starr more than 40 years after the group began work on it.
A master of studio tech, the Lord of the Rings director aims to recapture the energy, love and spirit of the group by placing a young Macca next to the now-octogenarian rock icon watching a string section lay down their parts, as a young Harrison goofs around over his left shoulder. Starr plays drums alongside his youthful self and a number of shots find Lennon doing silly dances in a variety of scenarios amid a cascade of previously unseen photos and videos of the band members as children and at the peak of their global pop powers.
In his statement before the video’s release, Jackson described worrying that there was no footage of Lennon’s original late 1970’s home recording of the song’s demon with just voice and piano (and a TV blaring the the background) and none of living members finishing the song last year. Jackson said he was ready to walk away before McCartney and Starr sent him footage of their sessions, with the Beatles’ Apple Corps then stepping in to provide more than 14 hours of long-forgotten film shot during a 1995 session featuring the pair, and late guitarist/singer Harrison in the studio working on the song; Lennon was killed by a deranged fan in 1980 outside his New York apartment building — where the song was demo’d — and Harrison died in 2001.
Jackson also got help from Lennon’s son, singer Sean Ono Lennon, and Harrison’s widow, Olivia, and son, Dhani, who found some unseen home video to add to the project. The band’s original drummer, Pete Best, also offered up some of the earliest film of the band performing in their leather suits that had never been seen before.
With that footage in hand, Jackson — who was also behind the acclaimed 2021 The Beatles: Get Back miniseries — set out to make a project that would “bring a few tears to the eye. The video is complimented by a 12-minute Now and Then — The Last Beatles Song documentary written by Oliver Murray that dropped on Wednesday.
Watch Jackson’s “Now and Then” video below.
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