The Beatles: ‘Now and Then,’ a Renaissance?

The Beatles, are one of the strongest contenders for the musical greatest of all time, and indeed some have even awarded them this prestigious spot. Even if you do not consider them to be the greatest, they must still certainly be regarded as one of the most famous and successful, estimated to have sold 600 million records over their 60-year tenure. It appears that the Beatles’ success is an unstoppable force with another song at number one being released last Thursday the 2nd of November. In this article, therefore, I wish to investigate the history of the Beatles, their formation years, the height of their popularity and their later years including their break-up. Why they were and still are so popular and will there be a renaissance of music from this period of history?


The Beatles underwent many names before becoming their famed selves. They began with John Lennon’s school band originally called the Blackjacks shortly before becoming the Quarrymen, at which point Paul McCartney joined as a rhythm guitarist and George Harrison later, with his famed audition on the upper deck of a bus, became lead guitarist. As Lennon’s school friends moved on and the trio was all that was left, they became Johnny and the Moondogs. Stuart Sutcliffe, sometimes known as the fifth Beatle, joined the band as a friend of Lennon’s, at which point they became the Beatals, then the Silver Beetles, losing the silver to become the Beetles and finally settling on the spelling change to the Beatles. Sutcliffe left the band in 1961 to pursue a career in painting, this would perhaps have been one of the greatest fumbles in music history had he not sadly died of a ruptured aneurysm a year later. The final member of the band Ringo Starr joined in 1962 when they met during the Beatles’ performances in Hamburg, Starr had the foresight or more likely blind luck of switching from his band, Rory Storm, and the Hurricanes, to become the drummer for the Beatles, which contrary to Sutcliffe was one of the best decisions for Starr.


The height of the Beatle’s popularity, popularly referred to as Beatlemania, came between the years 1963 and 1966. Their first album ‘Please, Please Me’ immediately put them on the map and decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh. ‘With the Beatles’ is a sequel of the highest quality. Beatlemania kicked off in America, so the story goes, due to a fifteen-year-old girl named Marsha Albert who saw an article about the Beatles in CBS Evening News and begged her local DJ to play the record forcing the Beatles record label into releasing their albums in the USA earlier. The popularity of the Beatles at this time is almost unfathomable, their performance in Adelaide, Australia, brought double the number of people together than the crowd to welcome the Queen. The noise of cheering and crying in attendance of the Beatles at concerts such as Shea Stadium, in 1965, was so loud that the Beatles on stage were not able to hear each other, the popularity of the Beatles was even too much for the inanimate technology of the time.


The Beatles’ break-up, like most bands, was a messy one with a culmination of several different factors reaching a boiling point, including money problems due to the fact they had stopped performing live from 1966 which is the major revenue intake for artists, Brian Epstein’s death in 1967 had left the band without its manager, the infamous Yoko Ono. Yoko was far too present in the band’s recording sessions something that had always been a quiet convention amongst the Beatles not to happen. Yoko Ono was never too popular amongst the Beatles and their contemporaries. There is a great video where John Lennon is performing with the late great Chuck Berry which includes a random episode of Yoko screaming into the microphone, requiring the sound engineer to step in and switch it off. I would love to be able to use Yoko as the scapegoat to explain the break-up of the Beatles, however, far more than any of these problems mentioned was the creative differences expanding as well as the unfortunate ego and arrogance of the Beatles’ members. Lennon died in 1980, assassinated by Mark Chapman, who chillingly is photographed receiving an autograph from Lennon earlier in the day. Harrison died in 2001, this time less suddenly than that of Lennon, after a battle with Lung Cancer. This, therefore, was presumed the absolute end of the Beatles, they were now left to history. Until …

Beatles Today 

‘Now and Then’ was released last Thursday, the 2nd of November, billed as the Beatles’ final song. It includes an original voice recording by John Lennon from 1977, which has both acoustic and electric guitar placed on it from Harrison in 1995, finally finished in the last year by Starr and McCartney. In almost perfect irony it is Yoko Ono, the one to ‘split the Beatles’ who has reunited them by passing on the voice recording after Lennon’s death in 1980. The Song currently five days after its release has amassed eight and a half million listens on Spotify, no mean feat. Of course, it’s not as if the popularity of the Beatles didn’t continue before the release of their latest song. A great example is how the TV show Madmen paid $250,000 for the rights to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, a Lennon-McCartney song, whereas the usual asking price for even a major international pop song would be under $100,000. So, are we about to see the renaissance of rock/pop, unfortunately, I don’t think so. This is a return of a one-off hit, a last hoorah of the Beatles, it reached number 42 in the charts after only ten hours, therefore, it will be interesting to see where it places next week. In the 1960s a Beatles song would remain at number 1 for weeks, although ‘Now and Then’ might make it to number 1, I don’t believe to the same dominance as in the 1960s. Although ultimately, we will not receive a renaissance of rock/pop, I do not think we could ask for a better conclusion than to experience one final song from the Fab Four.

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