For next product?
There’s a new Beatles song out there, released just this week:
Well, “new.” “Now and Then” is the third of three demo recordings. John Lennon made in the late 70s. The first two, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” were finished by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison as part of the mid-90s, Beatles Anthology vault-clearing CD compilations/authorized biography/ten-part documentary.1
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“Now and Then” was attempted but unfinished. Apparently, George recorded some guitar but the band had trouble “de-mixing” Lennon’s vocals from the audio and no one was satisfied, so the project was shelved. George died in 2001 and “Now and Then” seemed forever shelved.
Fast-forward to 2021, when film director and Beatles-fanatic Peter Jackson used technology to “de-mix” previously inaudible audio from the copious reams of footage that eventually became the band’s 1970 documentary Let it Be. Jackson now had been more usable footage for his massive three-part recut, called Get Back. Paul and Ringo were then reinvigorated about finishing “Now and Then,” cleaned up Lennon’s tape, added new bass, drums, guitars and orchestration to Harrison’s guitars overdubs, and boom: the final Beatles’ songs.
The news of this bounced off me. “Oh this again?” I said to myself. It turns out the song is much better than I expected. I just wasn’t excited about it.
I was in the eighth grade when “Free as a Bird” was announced, and was a massive Beatles fan. I still am, actually. They were the first band that I really got into, thanks to my uncle, the first band that was really mine, and the idea of new Beatles music coming out in my lifetime was absolutely crazy in the best possible way.
It was akin to the release of the first Star Wars prequel my senior year in high school. The excitement was palpable. New Star Wars? In the 90s? Almost, in fact, in the year 2000? Inconceivable! And yet, there was.2
Excitement. What a magical thing. Of course, I still feel it even at my age. I just can’t tell you the last I was excited for any cultural product.
I’m not talking interested, or excited in the sense that I am going to buy a thing and likely enjoy it. I am going to see Geddy Lee read excerpts from his forthcoming memoirs later this month, after all. I’m quite looking forward to that. You don’t do that without a certain degree of excitement. But I’m not losing sleep in anticipation or anything.
I’m not feeling the sense that something amazing or life-changing is about to happen. It’s just not there anymore, and you know what? I’m glad that it’s not.
If I were still getting giddy at the prospect of some new piece of pop-culture coming out, I’d probably hang myself. It would mean that I had nothing else going on in my life. Do you know what I was honestly excited about? The last time I felt some sort of pants-shitting excitement? It’s when I learned I was going to be a father. The news that I was going to be a parent is worth getting giddy about. Star Wars part 478 coming out three years from now, or phase 13 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not.
That’s the commonality, I think, between now, and then, if you want to put a bow on this post: back, then, pop-culture got me excited. Now, life does. Important things. I remember being unbelievably nervous and excited before proposing to my wife. I remember being nervous and excited about my wedding. I remember being so exuberant at the news my wife is pregnant with my first child I had trouble sleeping. Those are the things that excite me now, and short of something of that nature, the idea of a cool new pop-culture thing, even a Beatles song in the year 2023, just doesn’t move the needle.
Yeah, this goes for books as well. Strange coming from a writer, right?3 Although, I am looking forward to that Geddy Lee memoir . . .
Yes, I have them all. Yes, they’re great.
And it sucked. It still sucks. Don’t let Millennial and Gen Z revisionists tell you otherwise. Just because the prequels aren’t as bad as the horrid sequels doesn’t make them retroactively good. It just makes them look good compared to those excretions.
I’d be much less embarrassed getting excited for a book than any other cultural artifact, depending on the type of book and author.