Now and Then

November 2, 2023

The last Beatles song is being released November 2. Today. This is meaningful to me because, like much of the English speaking world and beyond, I am a Beatles fan. I’m not quite hardcore, but I know most of their catalog and have a solid knowledge of their history.

So, please forgive me if I feel a little teary-eyed even as I write this post. I’m putting off listening to it because I’m a little bit afraid that it won’t meet my expectations. Or worse yet, it will meet my expectations, but not my hopes. I’m not expecting much. I’m expecting a sentimental journey, remembering what was and what could have been.

Within that catalog, there have been some less than stellar songs. “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” their two most recent songs before this, I thought were lame. The only risk they took was that they released such blandness. They were the kind of songs which should’ve been released in an album of leftovers in 1974.

There’s a challenge for them, naturally. It’s a different era, only Ringo and Paul are alive. They don’t have George Martin or even Billy Preston.

One of the reasons the Beatles have said that kept them from reuniting before John was murdered was the reality that they would be compared to their 1960s work. That’s true. That’s exactly what I’m doing now. I’m not comparing 2023 Beatles to 2023 Air Supply (yes, they are still “All Out of Love,” with many new band members). I’m comparing 2023 Beatles to 1966 Beatles (when their album “Revolver” was released).

So if they reunited in say, 1976, some 5 years after they officially broke up, we would all be wondering if their newer album would be as good as Abbey Road or Sgt. Pepper. Or pick whichever favorite Beatles album you have. Maybe they would have pulled it off and maybe they would have cranked out some mediocre stuff. Mediocre is relative, but a Beatles benchmark for a Beatles album is pretty serious stuff.

So here they are, the estates of George and John, and the alive and well, but aging, Paul and Ringo managing one last effort. We are all rooting for them to be extraordinary.

How many Beatles fans have dreamed that they secretly recorded an album in the ’70s and didn’t tell anybody? Or that they had some incredible songs in a box that just didn’t fit on any of the albums that were released? I certainly have, but this is it. Technology allowed them to snag a useful bit of John’s voice, with previously recorded George’s guitar, and whatever Paul and Ringo are doing then and now.

I would like to think that Paul McCartney is an artistically prideful man, who knows very well where he’s been and knows equally well that one of these days he will leave the planet. With that thinking, I’m hoping that he, the leader of the pack in this case, decided to throw everything he had at this last song. The best producer, the best equipment, the best whatever could be involved in producing a great song. He’s rich. Ringo, perhaps not quite as loaded, is more than adequately rich. George’s and John’s estate are hardly impoverished. They could afford whatever is the best production available. I presume that’s exactly what they chose to do but I haven’t heard the song yet.

I’m waiting with a certain trepidation. It’ll be some sort of ceremony. I was born in the mid 60s, and so I heard, casually on the radio, whatever came after that. But this is the last one. It will be the last time I hear for the first time a new Beatles song.

Should I get in the car, drive for an hour or two, hoping it’ll show up? That’s not practical. I’ll probably stream it alone in my home and soak in, “This is it, boys.”

I wish they would find a cachet of Edgar Allan Poe poems unknown until now, surpassing all the things we do know of his work. Better than “The Raven.” Better than “Annabel Lee.” He died unexpectedly at age 40, so why not? Perhaps one of his lovers grabbed a foot locker of Poe’s things after he died and forgot about it in an attic for over 170 years? Look, I can dream, so there you go.

Same thing with Salvador Dali, Erik Satie, and, if I’m totally open, Led Zeppelin and certainly, David Bowie. Bowie snuck in recording two albums as he lay dying. One was released when he died, and another some time after. So, his people might have another queued up when we least expect it.

That’s not how it’s happening. This is the biggest band of all time. They didn’t last as long as the Rolling Stones or the now skeleton crew of The Who. But the Beatles catalog depth exceeds both bands put together.

Taylor Swift made piles of money, and will continue to, but I don’t think her songs will be remembered in the same way. I get her appeal, and she’ll be doing a Super Bowl halftime show when she’s 65. I don’t see a modern Jimi Hendrix covering her songs the way the real one did of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It was such a good song, Hendrix recorded it two days after it was released, completely reconsidered as a Jim song. Taylor, who I respect tremendously, simply won’t receive that treatment. And in 60 years. Not this many for this long by that many people.

This is it. So rarely can we say that it’s the end of an era. I’ll say it. It is the end of an era. Which era? I’m not sure, but it’s over the moment that song hits the airwaves. And it’s extra-over after the last note is played. At least for me.

And there you have a thousand words of me delaying listening to the song. Here we go…

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