Now And Then again

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the ‘new’ Beatles’ single Now And Then. Since those who want to must have heard it, several times perhaps, here are some comments. Yes, sorry, so many have chipped in with stuff, so just ignore this. And if anything is factually wrong, please let me know.

Remember that it started as a sketch for a song recorded by Lennon is his flat (apartment). Some people have said that Lennon would have loved this record. Well, they don’t know that, he has been dead for so long, anymore than I do. His recording has noise and flaws, and perhaps if Lennon really had thought something about it he would have re-recorded it. Perhaps.

There are parts of the original song that are not used in the new version too, which some people are upset about.

Many people have judged it on its technical achievement. Fine, but in a couple of years time it will seem poor work and more sophisticated tools will be available. People will want to revisit it, just as they are wanting to re-do Real Love and Free As A Bird now. And it should still be judged as a song, a Beatles’ song.

Since people are talking about the technology, let us say a bit. McCartney has said John’s voice has not been altered, but it plainly has. Listening to it, I find it hard to recognise Lennon’s voice. McCartney’s sounds strange. His is not good these days, hey, he’s old, and his voice sounds manilpulated too.

The very nature of how Lennon’s voice was extracted means it must have been manipulated. The way I understand it, correct me if I’m wrong, is that the computer system ‘learns’ the voice, then reconstitutes it from the original track. It’s like a Star Trek transporter – a person’s constituent parts are analysed, the data is sent to, well, somewhere and the person is recreated.

Paul has said it’s The Beatles playing together again, one last time. Plainly this is not true. Ringo Starr recorded his part in the USA and sent it in as a file. Two of them are dead. The demo comes from 1977 (maybe) so it is not a new song in that sense. Maybe ‘new’ is stretching it a bit…

George Harrison’s contribution is not clear. It is said he recorded some guitar part for the original attempts and these were extracted and used, but they are just part of the mix, but that’s fine. Also, there’s a guitar solo, but it is not Harrison, rather Paul playing in the Harrison style. So if you see a review that says “Harrison’s great guitar solo”, it isn’t.

And the harmonies are lifted from elsewhere.

McCartney does the rest. He said he just missed playing with his bandmates, and maybe he did, or is it just a vanity project for him. He certainly doesn’t need the money.

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

We used to live near Muswell Hill. One day, my parents from up north came to visit and we went for lunch at the legendary Clissold Arms. On the way home, we passed a tall gentleman ambling along Fortis Green Road. It was Vivian Stanshall. We said good day to him and he replied “My dear old chap”. I explained who he was to my parents. ‘Oh, we recognised him straight away’ they said.

Mr Stanshall was the face of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, or the Bonzo Dog Band, or just The Bonzos. He was an instantly recognisable character, and the world is a worse place now he is gone.

The Bonzos were founded in south east London in the mid-1960s. They were quite inclined to more traditional comedy style jazz tunes. In those early days, the line up was flexible, and there’s a whole history relating to other bands like The Pasedena Roof Orchestra and Bob Kerr’s Whooppee Band, but we will skip that here.

Rodney Slater, one of the original founders and player of all things brass, woodwind and, well anything, kept the band going as people came and went and there was a slow move towards rock comedy rather than jazz comedy.

Neil Innes joined on guitars and keyboards. The line up was always fluid, but the best known line up is Stanshall, Slater, Innes, Roger Ruskin Spear, Larry Smith and Dennis Cowan.

Before they reached this line up, albums had been produced. The first is Gorilla (1967).

This has some classic tracks, including Death Cab For Cutie, The Intro And The Outro and I’m Bored. While a little basic, it’s a hugely enjoyable LP.

Next was an appearance in The Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour (1967), singing Death Cab For Cutie.

The end of The Beatles

If you are a Beatles fan you will know this, so apologies.

A history lesson

John Lennon died in 1980. George Harrison died in 2001.

Between those two years, the living individual members of the fabs made albums, had bands, retired, made films and did whatever, and at times relations were strained, and at other times not. (And some John Lennon stuff made an appearance.)

But the three came together in the mid-1990s for The Anthology project. It was an attempt to present The Beatles’ history by the Beatles, sanitized and approximate. There was a coffee table book, a tv series and three boxed sets.

The music aspect brought together a load of stuff: old session recordings, live performances, BBC stuff, talking and interviews… Whatever you may think of what was included and what not, and how it was presented (and many people do dislike it), it is better to have it than not.

There were to be three new tracks, based on demos Lennon had recorded, one for each boxed set. Real Love and Free As A Bird got made over, with new material from the three living lads, and help from Jeff Lynne. They did pretty well, sales-wise, but met with a mixed reaction from fans. And it was really only the fans who were interested.

The third song, Now And Then, was started and worked on, but the original recording quality had noise problems and it was abandoned.

Come 2017 and it’s the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Giles Martin is let loose to make it sound more modern and in-your-face, with thumping bass, high volume levels and a lack of sublety. The big package sold well. The Beatles, Abbey Road and Let It Be followed. There’s a market for this they discover.

Whatever you think of these new mixes, yes they do have more detail but I contend that the original vinyl pressings are more pleaserable to listen to.

Other albums, going backwards from Revolver, are going to be difficult to remix because of the way they were recorded.

Then Peter Jackson and his chums appear on the scene with software that can extract the different instruments onto separate tracks so that ‘errors’ can be fixed and the bass gets a boost. So now we have a Revolver box set, 2022.

That brings us to today, I mean literally today.