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Now And Then

by The Beatles

Much has been made of the clever source-extraction technology that was able to salvage Lennon’s vocal from a more-or-less unusable 80s demo tape, and of the rather involved overdubbing/scavenging process that the two remaining band members used to fill in the blanks and bring the ‘Fabatars’ back together. But for all that effort, I can’t shake the feeling that the final production sounds an awful lot like a 90s Robbie Williams record…

That aside, though, this song is intriguing from a harmonic perspective. For a start, it’s pretty uncommon for songs to modulate these days, but this one wears its key changes with pride, oscillating between an A minor verse and a G major chorus, and then heading towards D minor and C major during the guitar solo before returning to A minor for the final verse and outro. But what I find particularly interesting is how the solo section seems to be built from the same harmonic DNA as the verse and chorus, but transposed up a perfect fourth. So where the verse starts off with a i-bVII-i-bVII progression in A minor (eg. at 1:37-1:47), the first half of the guitar solo features the same progression in D minor, albeit with a slower harmonic rhythm (2:26-2:48); and then the second half of the guitar solo (2:48-3:10) features a iii-vi-ii-II-V cycle-of-fifths progression in G major that bears a strong resemblance to the chorus’s iii-vi-ii-V progression in C major (eg. at 2:10-2:25), although again with different harmonic rhythm for the ii/II and V chords. This is nuanced stuff, not simply Xeroxing the verse/chorus material for the solo (as innumerable songs do), but rather extracting their harmonic flavour in a way that’s not immediately recognisable and yet subliminally familiar – a remix rather than a cover, if you will. And in that sense, I’d say that it’s far more innovative than the production’s headline AI audio processing, in fact!

In a similar vein, I’m also a fan of the way the song’s i-VII-VI-V outgoing Andalusian progression at 3:51 is foreshadowed both during the main verse pattern (eg. i-VII-i-VII-i-VI-V at 1:37-1:58) and during the outro section of the final verse ( i-VII-V-i-VII-V at 3:32-2:51), but without ever fully stating that iconic downward root progression in its full form until right at the end of the song.