The film tells the story of how Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr first started working on Now And Then back in 1995, during the sessions that resulted in the release of two other ‘lost’ songs (Free As A Bird and Real Love), but never finished it. The song featured on a cassette of John Lennon’s demos that was given to McCartney by Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, but the remaining Beatles never finished it, partly because they were unable to separate John’s vocal from his piano part.
Fast forward to 2022 and Peter Jackson had by then developed a machine learning software platform (his ‘MAL Machine’) that enabled him to separate ‘mixed’ audio for his Beatles documentary series Get Back, paving the way for Now And Then to be completed.
Sadly, the short film doesn’t go into too much detail in regard to the audio restoration work, but as it’s being discussed, we do see various shots of FabFilter’s Pro-Q. Although an excellent EQ plugin, this clearly isn’t what what was used for the actual stem separation; perhaps it just looks nicer than the MAL Machine interface (if, indeed, it has one), or maybe Jackson’s team didn’t want to reveal any of their secrets.
Whatever blend of technology was employed, the end result is undeniably impressive. “There it was, John’s voice - crystal clear,” recalls McCartney, explaining that, with the newly isolated vocal in their hands, the remaining Beatles could go now go on to create a “proper record” with new bass and drum parts from him and Ringo, and a string section that was arranged by Giles Martin, son of late Beatles producer George Martin.
Now And Then will be available for the world to hear today (2 November) from 2PM GMT/10AM EDT/7AM PDT.