George Harrison's widow Olivia shares "magical" backstory for The Beatles' 'Now and Then' artwork

22 November 2023, 12:40

There&squot;s a "magical" backstory behind the vinyl artwork for The Beatles&squot; final single &squot;Now and Then&squot;, according to Olivia Harrison.
There's a "magical" backstory behind the vinyl artwork for The Beatles' final single 'Now and Then', according to Olivia Harrison. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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He was always the 'mystic' one.

George Harrison even wrote a song called 'Mystical One' later in his career, slightly riffing on his title within The Beatles because of his fascination and eventual conversion to Eastern beliefs.

Well, according to his widow Olivia Harrison, there may be some substantiation to his nickname where their recent single 'Now and Then' is concerned.

Posting a video on to George's official Instagram profile, she revealed the "surprising magical" backstory about the artwork for the vinyl.

Olivia explained that the song's title appeared on a ragged old clock George found in a shop some years back.

He was drawn to it, as there was a Scrabble letter stuck to the clock which said, "Now And Then", which would turn out to be the title of The Beatles' final ever song.

Strangely enough, Olivia dug out the clock and renovated it recently, before Paul McCartney got in touch to see how she felt about releasing the forgotten demo.

"We were in this store, George saw this clock made out of bits and pieces and it had some Scrabble letters and it just said 'Now And Then'," Olivia Harrison recalled about the first time they came across the clock.

"He was attracted to it for some reason, he just took it off the wall and bought it. [He] built this little Russian dacha in the garden and hung the clock on it and there it sat for 25 years."

Last summer, Olivia cleaned up the clock and relocated it to her mantelpiece, where an eerie coincidence occurred.

"Phone rings. It’s Paul and he begins to explain, reminding me of this third song that was on the cassette tape with 'Real Love' and 'Free As A Bird'," she continues.

"I said, 'I remember it, it's called 'Now and Then'. And I’m standing there looking at the clock."

"We were so moved and happy that this thing that George had held in his hand somehow magically appeared. And I said, 'I think this is Georgie saying it’s OK'. It felt like approval".

The clock George bought all those years ago features on the back of the vinyl for 'Now and Then'. (Credit: Stephen Chung / Alamy Live News)
The clock George bought all those years ago features on the back of the vinyl for 'Now and Then'. (Credit: Stephen Chung / Alamy Live News). Picture: Alamy
George Harrison and Olivia together in 1996. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
George Harrison and Olivia together in 1996. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

George famously called the original recording of 'Now and Then' "f**king rubbish" when the three remaining Beatles reunited in 1994 to record 'Real Love' and 'Free As A Bird'.

It was nothing to do with the song itself, but more because of the shoddy recording, as the technology didn't exist to successfully extract John Lennon's vocals on that particular demo.

Ringo Starr agreed with George, recently recalling that "John was hidden" which only "brought to the fore to the three of us that he was gone."

Paul said in the short documentary that accompanied the release of 'Now and Then', that "when we lost John, we knew it was really over."

The Beatles - Now And Then - The Last Beatles Song (Short Film)

They both revealed that hearing John's voice so clearly - with the help of AI - was an incredibly emotional moment.

"They said this is the sound of John's voice [imitates computer noise]. A few seconds later or however long it took, and there it was: John's voice, crystal clear. It was quite emotional," McCartney said.

Starr added: "Since Peter [Jackson] took John off and gave him his own track, it was like John's there you know? It was far out."

George's parts appeared posthumously on 'Now and Then', and sending a mystic sign to his Olivia confirmed to her that he was happy for Paul and Ringo to go ahead with it.