Paul McCartney says death of John Lennon is still ‘bitter pill to swallow’

Paul McCartney says death of John Lennon is still ‘bitter pill to swallow’

The deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison are still bitter pills to swallow, Paul McCartney has said, as he marks the release of the “last” Beatles song.

“Now and Then”, released with the help of AI technology from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, arrived on Thursday 2 November to much fanfare. It is the final song from the storied pop band to feature all four original members.

Understandably, the song’s release has been an emotional moment for McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr, the band’s last surviving members.

Speaking to The Times, McCartney admitted that he never thought the band would last, but now he enjoys the idea that each member will live forever, in the memories of fans and in the music they made.

“I like the idea of not letting go of each other,” he said. “You know, when you have somebody you love so much. In many cases it’s a relative, and even though they go, you don’t want to let go — that’s what people say when somebody dies. They’re in your memory, always in your heart. And, yes, that’s certainly true of me and the boys.”

Just looking at photos of Lennon or Harrison was “bittersweet”, he said.

“The sweet is ‘How lucky was I to have those men in my life’. But the fact that they’re not here is bitter. I see photos of George and remember how we went hitchhiking, sitting by the road, buying ourselves creamed rice. John and I went hitchhiking too. We ended up in Paris.

“All the memories flood back …” he continued. “But, oh God, it’s sad these guys are not here. It’s a bitter pill you just have to swallow and then get on with the sweetness, you know? That’s the way I do it.”

The Beatles in 1969 (Apple Corps Ltd)
The Beatles in 1969 (Apple Corps Ltd)

“Now and Then” received a glowing five-star review from The Independent’s critic Mark Beaumont.

“Its point is to provide the rock’n’roll era cultural closure,” he wrote of the song. “To deliver, after the disappointments of 1995, a worthy epilogue for (and I will fight you) the best band of all time. To give the generations who missed out a tiny taste of the thrill felt by the teenage Beatlemaniacs of 1964 at hearing a brand! new! Beatles song.

“And in bringing Lennon so vibrantly back to us, to right, just a little, pop’s most tragic wrong. In that sense – sorry Swifties, hard luck Elton, in your face U2’s Sphere – ‘Now and Then’ is the musical event of the year and one of the greatest tear-jerkers in history.”