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Now And Then – The Big Picture






Do they think we’re deaf? Why can’t they leave well enough alone?

And going straight to the heart of the matter, John would have HATED this record. After the Beatles, John wanted to strip things down and make them more impactful. His vocal was up front and the records tended to be simple, even if produced by Phil Spector. Hell, listen to “Instant Karma,” that crunchy drum sound, but mostly John’s insightful and obvious yet with all his personality vocal. Talk about a killer track, you only have to hear it once to get it, and I’ve never changed the channel when I’ve heard it on the radio.

Yes, the first real solo album, “Plastic Ono Band” was a cry from the heart. The opposite of a Beatles record. Underproduced.

And sure, “Imagine” had strings, you could even say it was sappy, but it was by no means vanilla mush, like “Now and Then.”

John wanted his records to be visceral. And even when he worked with Jack Douglas on his final project… Hell, listen to “Beautiful Boy,” it’s heartwarming, whereas “Now and Then” is dreary. And there’s a reason it was just a demo, because John didn’t want it out!

I mean in a collection of dreck, like those “Anthology” albums of thirty years ago, sure, include it if you want to. But come on, did you listen to those CDs more than once, if once? You were excited, yet there was a reason this stuff was left on the cutting room floor. But there was a movie, there was hoopla, why not cash in with a record! After all, it’s just about the money.

And as they get older, sometimes rock stars display their true values, and it’s not pretty. There’s a great story in today’s “Los Angeles Times,” and if we still lived in the pre-internet era, it would be read by everybody in the industry, it would make an impact, now it’s just crickets. Hell, seemingly everybody I know has canceled the “Los Angeles Times.” My shrink, who gets the “New York Times” and the “Wall Street Journal.” My physical therapist’s husband switched to the “Daily News,” that’s the San Fernando Valley “Daily News,” because the L.A. “Times” no longer prints the box scores. This is how you fail as a business. Put the bottom line first. Keep cutting and cutting until even your core abandons you.

Anyway, here’s the LA Times article, “The unmasking of the narcissistic, conspiracy-spreading baby-boomer rock star”:

John Lennon is lucky, his image is frozen in time. There were no late age compromises, faux pas, he was credible, true and honest, hewing to his values until the very end. The only penalty is that he’s gone.

And by releasing this travesty of a number… It does nothing for John’s image, does nothing for the Beatles’ image, but it is the holiday season and we’ve got to sell something…

Even worse, there will be no impact. There was press, and boomers might check it out, but radio won’t go on it, that’s not what Top Forty does anymore, they don’t play this kind of music, and Top Forty is the only format that moves the needle.

As for TikTok, “Now and Then” is so dreary no one would set a video to it.

When John sings: “I know it’s true,” that’s magical. But the changes are not. And then there’s an errant piano, a chunking rhythm section, anything but defined, anything but clear. Sounds like ELO and Jeff Lynne, a wash of sound, anything but distinct, the opposite of not only John’s solo output, but the Beatles’ too.

And then the strings come in, A seesaw “Lady Madonna” effect sans the magic. They come out of nowhere. They distract, not add.

And then comes the second verse and the superfluous guitar figures in the background, this is when it really turns into dreck. If you make it past this I give you credit.

Now it’s a drag, the kind of song you stop singing, and then those sawing guitars over a lame vocal change that is overwhelmed by the instrumentation, and then an ELO chorus. If John heard this he’d be like the Nazi in “The Producers,” he’d be standing up screaming that the people involved don’t know him or his music, this is one of the reasons he left the damn band to begin with.

Talk about losing the plot… Didn’t anybody involved blow the whistle, say this was a bad idea? That there was no reason to tarnish the image of the band that got it right from beginning to end?

“Free as a Bird” was bad enough. I’m trying to think of a worse Beatles song, but I can’t. At least the slight songs of yore contained magic. As for magic, there’s absolutely none in “Now and Then,” I mean why cut it at all? If you don’t think this is the worst Beatles cut ever, you’ve got no ears.

And then you have the brain dead press saying how great it is. This is the problem with the hype industrial complex, it’s got no soul, no powers of discrimination, it’s afraid of the haters, so it just hypes crap to high heaven that the public instantly forgets anyway. Hell, you might talk about “Now and Then” during Thanksgiving dinner, but you certainly don’t want to play it, unless there’s someone who hasn’t heard it and doesn’t know what you are talking about.

By Christmas “Now and Then” will be completely forgotten. Drowned in the tsunami of crap coming across the transom every single day, hour and minute. “Now and Then” only got traction because of the still reigning power of the Beatles. But this detracts from the image.

As for the movie:

It’s extremely well done. But George looks positively awful. McCartney is the only one of the three who hasn’t aged. I mean can’t you leave our memories intact? We didn’t want our heroes to get old, but now it’s slammed in our face. Do you think George would have allowed this footage if he were still alive? Absolutely not. Image is everything.

So the film is alternately both fascinating and creepy. You can check it out, but it won’t leave you with a good feeling.

And who cares that we now have technology that can…

Why don’t we fix the Sistine Chapel? Go back and resurrect everything that was cast aside as imperfect, not quite good enough in the past? You don’t mess with the classics, that’s heresy.

As for the godawful remixes of the Beatles albums, always with an excuse, that the original stereo mixes were rushed, which Geoff Emerick, the original engineer, told me was patently untrue, they’ve now become the standard online, indistinguishable from the originals unless you’re truly paying attention. How can this be, how can you mess up the legacy of the biggest group in history, which will last far beyond its demise? Taylor Swift recutting her originals is heinous, they don’t sound the same, but no one will be listening to her crap a hundred years from now. And her motivation was the same as the Beatles’, money. Oh, that’s right, she was on a vengeance trip too. At least the Beatles haven’t devolved to that.

And you listen to McCartney’s voice-over in the movie and and at first you think hmm, he’s pretty with it, he sounds good, maybe Biden isn’t too old. And then as it goes on and you continue to listen you realize that Paul has lost a step, that he is old, that he’s not the same, you can hear it right in his voice.

And this is a Paul production, his fingers are stamped all over it. Which is why John Lennon would hate this record. The great Beatles songs were such because of the push and pull of the two. But Lennon got no say here, they just laid crap upon his vocal… It’s John who has something to lose. He can’t record a new number to cover this abomination, this stinker that leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

And you ask why I care. Why we all care. And that’s exactly the point. If you lived through Beatlemania, you know it was different. Swiftmania isn’t in the same league. The Beatles were everywhere and impacted us all. You can go through life never hearing a Swift cut, but the Beatles? They were omnipresent, they dominated radio when radio was king. They got all the guys to grow their hair, they got us all to buy electric guitars. Come on, look at all the musicians who say they started because of the Beatles.

The Beatles were progenitors. Everything they did rang true.

But not “Now and Then.”


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Originally published by Bob Lefsetz in the 11/03/2023 at the Leftsetz Letter




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