Sixties global pop music legends The Beatles have achieved a radio broadcast record with the debut play of their new single "Now and Then".
Presented as the “last Beatles song”, "Now and Then" premiered at 10 a.m. EDT/7 a.m. PDT on more than 760 US radio stations owned by iHeartMedia (USA) on 2 November.
Completed by the British band’s surviving members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, from an unfinished, poor-quality home demo cassette recording made by John Lennon at his Dakota building apartment in New York City in the late 1970s, "Now and Then" debuted simultaneously across iHeartMedia’s rock, classic rock, classic hits, contemporary hit radio (CHR), country, adult contemporary (AC), hot AC, alternative, news/talk and sports stations.
The song's premiere achieved the record title for most radio stations to simulcast a music track.
It was played hourly on their classic rock stations throughout the day in celebration of The Beatles’ first ‘new’ studio recording since 1996. iHeartMedia’s simultaneous broadcast of the track had the potential to reach around 300 million listeners in the United States.
Described as “an apologetic love song”, it was released as a double A-side with a stereo mix of their first single, 1962’s "Love Me Do", and has been added to an expanded re-issue of their 1973 compilation album 1967-1970 (also known by fans as the Blue Album).
UPDATE: The Beatles have set two more records after "Now and Then" climbed to No.1 on the UK charts on 10 November. The band now claims records for the longest span of UK No.1 singles with 60 years 198 days (1963-2023) and the longest gap between No.1s on the UK's Official Singles Chart with 54 years 144 days (1969-2023).
The song debuted at No.43 on Spotify's "Daily Top Songs Global" chart after racking up 2,063,311 streams on 2 November, and it amassed a further 14,834,522 plays worldwide from 3-9 November.
But as expected, the song was a much bigger talking point closer to home.
It debuted at No.1 on the streaming platform's "Daily Top Songs United Kingdom" on that same day with 386,752 plays.
On 3 November, its first full day of availability, it kept the No.1 spot with a further 435,229 streams.
By 9 November, at the end of its first full week, "Now and Then" had streamed 1,597,209 times in the UK - the 11th most-streamed track of the week in the Fab Four's homeland.
Meanwhile in the US, "Now and Then" was the 71st most-streamed track on the day of its release, going on to record 3,405,873 streams from 3-9 November.
Additionally, The Beatles secured their first No.1s on the Billboard's Digital Song Sales and Rock Digital Song Sales charts with 16,000 downloads - all of which were registered on 2 November, the final day of Billboard's tracking week.
A 12-minute documentary film titled Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song preceded the single’s release and was uploaded to The Beatles’ YouTube channel on 1 November.
A video, directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit) and featuring never-before-seen footage of the Fab Four, premiered on 3 November.
The single release also credits George Harrison as a co-writer; the guitarist, who was reportedly derogatory about the audio quality of Lennon’s demo, worked on the track with McCartney and Starr during the aborted 1995 recording sessions that saw the completion and release of "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love", songs from one of the two cassette tapes presented to McCartney in 1994 by Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono.
"Now and Then" and the previously released "Grow Old with Me" were on the second tape. Due to technical limitations at the time, however, the band and producer Jeff Lynne were unable to extract Lennon's vocals and piano accompaniment from the audible "mains hum" on the demo version and the session was abandoned.
San Antonio, Texas-based iHeartMedia is the “number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month [approx. 300 million of the population of around 334 million as of 2023]”, according to a company press release to announce the premiere of "Now and Then".
“Through the years, The Beatles have always counted on radio to connect with their fans,” commented Tom Poleman, iHeartMedia’s Chief Programming Officer. “We are proud that iHeart is part of this momentous release, sharing this special moment in music history from the world’s greatest band.”
K-pop titans such as BTS and BLACKPINK have attracted millions of concurrent viewers for the worldwide launch of music videos (notably “Dynamite” and “How You Like That”, respectively) on YouTube Premieres, and the popularity of streaming services and social media platforms has made popular music accessible and instantaneous to fans across the globe, but an extensive nationwide simulcast of a song on the radio is believed to be without precedent.
Click here to read about more Beatles-related Guinness World Records titles.
This article was updated on 10 November.
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