In the early ‘90s, Harrison and Apple Records manager Neil Aspinall asked Yoko Ono if she had any unreleased Lennon demos the other Beatles could use as the basis for possible new Beatle songs. When McCartney came to New York to induct Lennon into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Ono gave him two cassette tapes that featured demos of “Free as a Bird,” “Real Love,” “Now and Then,” and “Grow Old With Me.”
The reunited Beatles did not gravitate towards “Grow Old With Me,” perhaps because it was strongly linked to Ono, and had already been prominently released on 1984’s Milk and Honey. The group tackled “Free as a Bird,” then “Real Love,” and McCartney was keen to tackle the final and most incomplete of all the Lennon demos, “Now and Then.” However, Harrison didn’t like that one. He and McCartney tried to write a song together called “All for Love” in the spring of 1995, but the session ended in fierce argument. “It’s just like being back in the Beatles,” Harrison cracked dourly, and the threesome never recorded together again.
McCartney loved harmonizing with Lennon on “Now and Then,” and has since expressed a desire to do a version with Starr. While he has never formally attempted to do a version himself, he may have also borrowed a moment of drama from Lennon’s performance for the final song of his 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, “Anyway.” The pregnant pause of “Anyway” at 1:40 sounds vaguely reminiscent of the haunting piano passage Lennon plays 4:30 into “Now and Then” …
Yes? No? Not buying it? Well, anyway, when arranging “Anyway,” McCartney pretended he was a Southern Randy Newman, with a little Curtis Mayfield thrown in. From the earliest days McCartney would imagine himself to be the artists he loved when writing a new song, like when he pretended to be Ray Charles and Little Richard while composing “She’s a Woman” on the way in to Abbey Road Studios. Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich gave McCartney a pure, classy piano sound, then upped the emotion even further at the bridge with the addition of the Millenia Ensemble strings, a Moog synth, and harmonium mixed just right.