‘Now and Then’ – NEPA Beatles tribute band The Taxmen and radio host Edd Raineri react to the ‘last Beatles song’
When the biggest band of all time releases a new single, practically everyone listens – and has an opinion.
On Nov. 2, The Beatles officially debuted “Now and Then,” a song that only existed as a rough demo until modern technology was able to salvage John Lennon’s vocals 42 years after his death and breathe new life into a track that Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison started working on in 1995. Harrison passed in 2001, yet the surviving members were able to use his guitar tracks alongside their new recordings to bring it all together for what has been dubbed “the last Beatles song.”
Reactions to the tune have been largely positive, particularly after an emotional music video featuring the Fab Four together again premiered with it, though there has been debate over whether or not it holds up to everything else in their classic catalog. Rather than speculate, NEPA Scene reached out to some local experts for their take – Northeastern Pennsylvania’s own Beatles tribute band The Taxmen and Edd Raineri, host of “The Beatledd Fab Four Hour” on King’s College radio station 88.5 WRKC-FM in Wilkes-Barre for over 13 years before the show was recently picked up for wider distribution by classic rock station Rock 107 in Scranton. Raineri and vocalists/guitarists Nick Montini and Jake Waxmonsky represent two different generations of fans, offering a well-rounded perspective on music history in the making.
NEPA SCENE: How did you feel when you first heard a new Beatles song would be released? Is that something you ever expected to happen?
NICK MONTINI: Really excited. It’s the only Beatles song that I would get to actually experience as new, the only time I’d ever get that experience of hearing a new Beatles song like my parents did in the ’60s. [1995 session singles] “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” came out in my lifetime, but I wasn’t even a year old yet.
I knew I’d hear things I’d never heard before; I just figured it’d be demo takes and early versions of songs, like what we saw on the album remixes over the last few years. I never expected a new song. I thought that ship sailed in the ’90s.
EDD RAINERI: I knew “Now and Then” was worked on earlier by Paul, Ringo, and George, but the quality of the demo was so poor, George bailed out on it. Enter Peter Jackson and AI and the playing field changed. Once AI was able to isolate John’s voice, it opened up new opportunities – opportunities that Paul McCartney could not resist.
NEPA SCENE: What was your initial reaction when you finally listened to “Now and Then?”
MONTINI: I was bit frozen, which is cliché to say, I know, but I’ve been a super fan for all of my life, so it was a special moment for me. I’m glad there’s a lot of other fans who felt the same way I did because I wouldn’t know how else to describe or justify the feeling.
RAINERI: The first hearing did not impact me. There was no “wow” factor. However, it certainly grew on me with repeated listens.
JAKE WAXMONSKY: Loved it. I stayed away from all the teasers and media associated with it. “Dude, spoilers!” you know? Since I was fasting for the release, it really made the song feel fresh.
NEPA SCENE: Many fans have shared strong feelings about this song, especially when they saw the music video and the short film made about it. Did you get emotional at all?
RAINERI: Emotional? I’m not sure. But I did a lot of smiling when I saw the video. I thought the video was outstanding.
MONTINI: Yes. They were so influential to me and I know so much about them that I feel like you know them personally. It felt like I was remembering an old friend.
NEPA SCENE: Now that you’ve had some time to hear it a few times, what is your opinion of the track?
MONTINI: It’s really good; it held up well all these years later. I think all three ’90s songs have their own qualities that make them important to the catalog. I always felt, and still do, that “Free as a Bird” was the best, and the most like something they would have put out when they were together. “Real Love” sounds like if they got back together in the ’70s. “Now and Then” is nice because, lyrically, it’s vague enough that you can interpret any way you want. I think we all want to hear it as a goodbye from John, and it can be.
JAKE WAXMONSKY: As a fan, I really like it; however, I’ll be the first to say it’s not going to be on my greatest hits playlist. It’s not a tune that is for driving, exercising, or jamming out to. It’s a thinker – a sipped cup of coffee and a forgotten cigarette burning out. I agree with Nick’s points on the “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird.” It’s a song you show to someone to explain a feeling more than “Man, this song – this song right here, phew.”
From a musician perspective, it’s a classic example of Lennon’s ability to evoke melancholy and longing with two chords. A lot of his signature chord changes appear, then a Paul bridge thrown in there with the strings.
Overall, it’s a song for the more involved fans. Great song to encapsulate not just The Beatles’ career, but life as a whole. Longing for then, trapped in the now, accepting where we’re at. As Nick said, vague enough lyrically to let the motif carry you along. I really enjoy it.
NEPA SCENE: Do you think it holds up to the rest of the catalog or do you think the hype for this track will die down in time? The general public doesn’t seem to remember “Free as a Bird” or “Real Love” quite as well as you all do, for example.
RAINERI: Time will tell. Too early to assess its impact.
MONTINI: I think it will die down. The Beatles have so many songs people generally don’t think about. It doesn’t mean they’re not good songs, but like any band, there’s the “hits” and the “deep cuts.” Remember, those ’90s song were the “last Beatles songs” for the last 28 years, so the hype surrounding “Now and Then” will level back out to where they are. But the hype it’s getting right now is definitely deserved.
NEPA SCENE: “Now and Then” is a bit controversial to some in the way it was taken from a demo and arranged, using new technology to finally finish it all these years later. People are debating the artistic integrity and even the morality of that. How do you see it?
JAKE WAXMONSKY: Well, if they didn’t use a multi-track recording process, we’d never have “Sgt. Pepper.” At the time, that was controversial. If they never pushed one tape head down, we’d be a decade behind of flanging and chorus effects – controversial. If they didn’t smash the Neve preamp, we’d never had that signature guitar sound on “Revolution” – controversial.
If art doesn’t push the boundaries of its material availability to appease that drive of the mind’s creative image, it won’t progress. That being said, the music video creeps me out – uncanny valley and all that.
RAINERI: Any artwork of any kind will always be a target of the critics. Some will like it, some won’t. I think most true Beatles fans appreciate what went into the making of this project. Nearly 60 years later, The Beatles are back! No one but The Beatles can pull this off!
MONTINI: Nothing is more “Beatles” than pushing the boundaries of recording and production. Using AI to preserve something that otherwise would have been lost is fine by me. Anything beyond that I think it gets unethical, especially the realm of “deep fakes.”
NEPA SCENE: As The Taxmen, will you be adding this song to your live sets?
MONTINI: We already started running it! We even got an AI Pat to play the strings on the keys while real Pat plays the piano. I’m joking, but seriously, the ultimate goal for us is to learn every Beatles song; “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were always included in the plan. “Now and Then” took the stage for now and we’re excited to play it for everyone!
NEPA SCENE: Edd, will you be adding this song to your show on any kind of regular rotation?
RAINERI: Certainly “Now and Then” will get airplay on “The Beatledd Fab Four Hour.” It’s now a part of Beatles lore – and legacy.
NEPA SCENE: Is there anything else you gentlemen would like to mention? Do you have any final thoughts or events coming up?
MONTINI: We have some private events to round out 2023. We took a little break from shows for the winter to rework and refine everything. We can’t wait for 2024 to unveil it all for everyone. We don’t have any shows to announce yet, but you can go to our Facebook page where we will announce any events, polls, and anything important with everyone!
RAINERI: Peter Jackson has now said that this may not be the last recording. Of course, he is letting his imagination and ambition run wild with AI technology. I say let sleeping dogs lie. There’s not much left at the bottom of The Beatles barrel. Let it be! Paul and Ringo are both in their 80s now. “Now and Then” was a fitting ending. Let’s enjoy it – and leave it at that.
“The Beatledd Fab Four Hour” airs on Sunday mornings from 9 a.m.-10 a.m. on Rock 107.
Learn more about The Taxmen and watch two live performances in Episode 149 of the NEPA Scene Podcast: