Alex Lear being photobombed by Paul McCartney, 2009

Many great stories end as they began.

Like a circle, they arc out far beyond the beginning, coming fully around before they wind up back where they started.

With the Nov. 2 release of their final song, “Now and Then,” the Beatles did just that.

Sixty-six years after John Lennon met Paul McCartney, 61 years after the release of the Beatles’ first single “Love Me Do,” 43 years after John’s senseless murder and 22 years after George Harrison’s tragic death from cancer, the Beatles reunited once more — through the wonders of 21st century artificial intelligence technology — to bring us one last tune.

It’s a bittersweet thing for a devoted fan like myself. Having long known about this “lost” Beatles song, I’m thrilled to finally hear it as an official release by the Fab Four instead of a bootleg on YouTube.

But this song being the Beatles’ last, it’s a bit sad as well. Watching the beautiful video for “Now and Then,” with octogenarians Paul and Ringo Starr CGIed alongside ’60s versions of John and George, we see how far down this long and winding road we’ve all come … and how that road is quickly approaching the end.


I loved the Beatles before I knew who they were. Born in late ’78, I came along eight years after the band’s official split but remember hearing John’s “Woman” and Paul’s “Ebony and Ivory” on the radio in the very early ’80s. By the ’90s Dad had abandoned modern music for the oldies, which back then were considered the ’50s and ’60s. As he drove me in my pre-car days between swim team practices and the bookstore, I fell in love with many songs but largely didn’t know who sang what.

That changed in 1995. PBS ran the Beatles films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!,” and I watched both out of curiosity. The movies were good, but the music was amazing, particularly because I found I already knew most of the songs.

For my birthday that October I got my first CD player, along with the Beatles’ “Red” album, a collection of hits spanning 1962-66, beginning with “Love Me Do.”

It was a great time to get hooked. That next month saw the premiere of the Beatles Anthology on ABC (ABC dubbed itself A-Beatles-C for the occasion), which told the story of the group’s rocket-like rise and all-too-soon dissolution.

Plus there were two bonuses. Using home demo tapes John had recorded in the late ’70s, the remaining “Threetles” mixed in their vocals and instruments to create two new Beatles songs: “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.”

During sessions for those songs, “Now and Then” was attempted as a third possible release, a completion of another John demo from 1977. But the sessions fizzled, and the project was shelved. The Beatles once again went their separate ways.


In the years that followed I bought every Beatles CD, including all their solo albums. I rebought them on vinyl just to have the larger cover art and hear how these songs sounded prior to digital remastering.

Alex Lear in 2005 with Pete Best, the Beatles’ drummer from 1960-62.

I had dreams of meeting the surviving members and maybe playing them my own songs. The closest I got was when Pete Best — the Beatles’ drummer from 1960-62, before he was replaced with Ringo — performed at the Boothbay Harbor Opera House in 2005. We got a photo with arms around each other, and he signed a picture of his old band. He’s a true gentleman, who — despite being ousted as the Beatles began their rise — contributed early footage of the group to the “Now and Then” video.

Two friends and I traveled to Fenway Park in 2009 to see Paul perform. It was amazing not only to watch Macca play for three straight hours, but for the audience to never stop cheering that entire time. Mass euphoria. Although there will likely never be a photo of Paul and me arm-and-arm, there is one of me beaming in the foreground as Paul performs in the background.

I joke that Paul photobombed me.

Sixty years on from Beatlemania’s beginning, the Beatles have a mythical, legendary quality that guarantees folks will be talking about them in 400 years like they speak of Shakespeare now.

I recently saw a cartoon that showed two people walking by a record store announcing the Rolling Stones’ new No. 1 hit album and the Beatles’ new single. One told the other that this was taking “setting the clocks back” a bit too far.


The new single is accompanied by “Love Me Do.” The final song paired with the first.

With “Now and Then,” we have a last chance to hear the Beatles together again but also to put a new, perhaps happier, ending to their story.

“And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take.” So goes the final line of the Beatles’ 1969 song “The End,” released a month before John told the lads he was leaving the band. Years of bickering behind lawyers followed, until the mellowness of age replaced the turbulence of youth.

Paul has said that in his final phone call with John, his erstwhile best friend asked him to “think about me every now and then, old friend.” Soon after John’s death, Beatles hero Carl Perkins wrote a song of gratitude to Paul that used the same words; Carl was unaware of that conversation between John and Paul. Paul was apparently driven to tears.

There’s much magic and mystery in the Beatles’ story and music. That John’s final words to Paul are echoed in that song he home-demoed in 1977, which the remaining Beatles recently completed as their last, is reflective of those elements.

They’ve made a lot of love, and have deservedly taken a lot of love. And “Now and Then” serves as a final love letter to fans across the decades.


John, Paul, George and Ringo began together as surrogate brothers. They changed the world of pop music and blessed countless lives. They then arced out apart on their own lives’ trajectories, forming their own music and families.

Now they end together, in one final song. Four brothers reunited.

Many great stories end as they began.

Alex Lear rebought the Red album upon its 2023 rerelease and is partying like it’s 1995. His 2010 interview with Denny Laine — Paul McCartney’s musical right-hand man in Wings from 1971-81, who recalled his time with Paul the day after John died — remains among those deepest to his heart.

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