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Peter Jackson-Directed Video for Final Beatles Song ‘Now and Then’ Sets Global Premiere

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A video for “Now and Then,” which has been described as the “last Beatles song,” is scheduled to premiere on Friday (Nov. 3) at 10 a.m. ET., 24 hours after the track’s release on Thursday (Nov. 2). The clip was directed by Peter Jackson and is described in a release as a “poignant and humorous” visual that “invites viewers to celebrate The Beatles’ timeless and enduring love for one another with John, Paul, George and Ringo as they create the last Beatles song; the video will premiere on the Beatles YouTube channel.

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“Now and Then,” which will be released by Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe, is the final song written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and it was finished by living members McCartney and Starr more than 40 years after the group began work on it. The double A-side single will also include a touching throwback with the inclusion of the band’s 1962 debut single, “Love Me Do,” featuring the original cover art shot by Ed Ruscha. Both songs have been mixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos.

The “Now and Then” video is Jackson’s first foray into music video production and in a statement, the director behind the acclaimed 2021 The Beatles: Get Back miniseries said when Apple first approached him with the gig he was initially reluctant to say yes. “I thought my next few months would be a hell of a lot more fun if that tricky task was somebody else’s problem, and I could be like any other Beatles fan, enjoying the night-before-Christmas anticipation as the release of a new Beatles song and music video approached – in 1995, l loved the childlike excitement I felt as the release of ‘Free As A Bird’ was inching closer,” he said of the 1995 Beatles song that began as a 1977 Lennon home demo that was completed by McCartney, Harrison and Starr.

“I could have that experience once again – all I had to do was say no to The Beatles. To be honest, just thinking about the responsibility of having to make a music video worthy of the last song The Beatles will ever release produced a collection of anxieties almost too overwhelming to deal with,” the director continued. “My lifelong love of The Beatles collided into a wall of sheer terror at the thought of letting everyone down. This created intense insecurity in me because I’d never made a music video before, and was not able to imagine how I could even begin to create one for a band that broke up over 50 years ago, had never actually performed the song, and had half of its members no longer with us.”

But, as Jackson kept trying to think of new reasons to turn down the gig — to this day, he said, he still has never, technically, agreed to the job — he told Apple that the lack of “suitable footage” was worrisome because the project would require tapping into rare and unseen film of the Fab Four, not much of which is out there.

“Nothing at all seemed to exist showing Paul, George and Ringo working on ‘Now And Then’ in 1995 … There’s not much footage of John in the mid-seventies when he wrote the demo … I grizzled about the lack of unseen Beatles footage from the ’60s … And they didn’t even shoot any footage showing Paul and Ringo working on the song last year,” he said of his tortured thought process.

“A Beatles music video must have great Beatles footage at its core. There’s no way actors or CGI Beatles should be used,” Jackson continued. “Every shot of The Beatles needed to be genuine. By now I really had no idea how anyone could make a ‘Now And Then’ music video if they didn’t have decent footage to work with, and this was far from being a lame excuse. My fear and insecurity now had solid reasons why they should prevail and allow me to say no without looking too much like a chicken.”

But Jackson also knew the Beatles don’t take no for an answer once they set their minds to something, which might explain why they didn’t wait for him to decline before forging ahead. Jackson said he found himself “swept along” as McCartney and Starr addressed his worries and shot some footage of themselves that they sent to him. In addition, Apple dug up more than 14 hours of long-forgotten film shot during the 1995 sessions, including several hours of McCartney, Harrison and Starr working on the last song.

In addition, Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, and Harrison’s widow, Olivia, found some “great unseen home movie footage” that they shared with him. “To cap things off, a few precious seconds of The Beatles performing in their leather suits, the earliest known film of The Beatles and never seen before, was kindly supplied by Pete Best,” Jackson revealed of the contribution from the band’s original drummer. “Watching this footage completely changed the situation – I could see how a music video could be made. Actually, I found it far easier if I thought of it as making a short movie, so that’s what I did… My lack of confidence with music videos didn’t matter anymore if I wasn’t making one. Even so, I still had no solid vision for what this short film should be – so I turned to the song for guidance.”

Jackson described separating Lennon’s voice on the demo tape a year ago, with producer Giles Martin cooking up an early mix of the single last year that the director loved and which he’s listened to more than 50 times since. After doing a deep-dive into the song looking for ideas and inspiration for the short film, Jackson said the more he listened the more the shape of the visual began to take form, “without any conscious effort from me.”

Working with his Get Back editor, Jabez Olssen, Jackson started pulling together “little fragments, sliding pictures and music around in different ways until things began to click in.” The idea, he said, was to create a short film that would “bring a few tears to the eye,” though he began to realize that generating emotion using only archival footage was “tricky” at best.

“Fortunately, the simple power of this beautiful song did a lot of the work for us, and we finished the first 30 or 40 secs of the film fairly quickly,” Jackson said, admitting that finding an appropriate ending that could “adequately sum up the enormity of The Beatles’ legacy” proved daunting. If not impossible.

“Their contribution to the world is too immense, and their wondrous gift of music has become part of our DNA and now defies description,” he said. “I realised we needed the imagination of every viewer to do what we couldn’t, and have each viewer create their own personal moment of farewell to The Beatles – but we had to gently steer everyone to that place. I had some vague ideas, but didn’t really know how to achieve this.”

Jackson said he got lucky because Harrison’s son, musician Dhani Harrison, happened to be visiting Jackson’s home country of New Zealand at the time, and after discussing the proposed ending with him, “his [Harrison’s] eyes immediately filled with tears — so that is the way we went.”

The middle section aimed to capture the band’s legendarily silly side using a collection of unseen outtakes where the Beatles are “relaxed, funny and rather candid.”

The video will be accompanied by a 12-minute Now and Then — The Last Beatles Song documentary written by Oliver Murray, due out on Wednesday (Nov. 1). The doc will tell the story behind the track and feature exclusive footage and commentary from McCartney, Starr and Harrison, as well as Sean Ono Lennon and director Jackson.

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