In 1994 and 1995 Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr got together at McCartney’s Sussex farmhouse studio and worked on three demo tapes given McCartney by Yoko Ono, to take demos done by John Lennon in the late 1970s and 1980 and turn them into finished Beatles songs. Two songs, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” were finished and released in 1995 and 1996. The third song, “Now and Then,” was abandoned and never finished.
I’ve heard Lennon’s demo for “Now and Then.” I have it on CD, thanks to the wonders of bootlegs. It’s not a great song. I don’t even think it’s potentially great. There’s an atonal quality to the song, there’s no memorable lyric. Maybe that was the appeal to McCartney, Harrison, and Starr–that “Now and Then” would have given them an opportunity to work magic.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. As I mentioned, the work on “Now and Then” was abandoned. The Lennon demo had a persistent hum that would have proved difficult to remove from the one-track tape.
Personally, I think leaving “Now and Then” unfinished was for the best. I like the two completed reunion songs–“Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.” “Free as a Bird” grows on you, and “Real Love” is well-nigh perfect. “Now and Then” would have been just a little bit more, but my Beatles experience is complete without it. As much as I, or any Beatles fan, would love to have more Beatles music, I’m happy with what we have.