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Sir Paul McCartney revealed today that he’s used artificial intelligence (AI) technology to help create what he's calling the “final” Beatles song, which will be released this year.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today show, McCartney said that AI had been used to extract the late John Lennon’s vocals from an old demo tape, allowing the rock icon to complete the song.
For Peter Jackson’s 2021 Beatles documentary, “Get Back,” dialogue editor Emile de la Rey trained computers to recognize the various Beatles members’ voices and separate them from the rest of the available recordings to create "clean" audio for the film. Now McCartney has tapped the same technology to complete a previously unheard Beatles track.
"[Jackson] was able to extricate John's voice from a ropey little bit of cassette. We had John's voice and a piano [on tape] and he could separate them with AI,” McCartney told Radio 4's Martha Kearney. "Then we can mix the record, as you would normally do. We just finished it up and it'll be released this year.”
Details about the track have yet to be confirmed, but fans have speculated that it’s likely to be “Now and Then,” a solo Lennon demo recorded in 1978. The song was reportedly considered as a possible reunion single for The Beatles’ 1995 “Anthology” collection alongside “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” but it was never released.
The demo of "Now and Then" was featured on a cassette labeled “For Paul” that was created by Lennon shortly before his death in 1980. Producer Jeff Lynne, who worked on “Anthology,” said the band spent an afternoon messing around with the track but it was never finished.
Later, McCartney claimed that Beatles member George Harrison refused to continue working on the track due to Lennon’s “rubbish” vocals, alongside issues with background noise on the home recording.
“The Beatles being a democracy, we didn't do it,” McCartney told Q Magazine, but later said he still wanted to “finish it, one of these days.”
In recent years, The Beatles have released a series of remastered “super deluxe” versions of their classic albums helmed by Giles Martin, the son of the late Beatles producer George Martin. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” came in 2017 followed by the self-titled album (typically called the “White Album”) in 2018, “Abbey Road” in 2019, and “Let it Be” in 2021.
However, for the 2022 remastered version of “Revolver,” Martin had to use the same AI technology due to the earlier Beatles albums being recorded to more basic four-track masters, where multiple instruments or vocals were often squeezed into a single track.
Speaking about AI, McCartney added: "I'm not on the internet that much, [but] people will say to me, 'Oh, yeah, there's a track where John's singing one of my songs'—and it's just AI, you know? It's kind of scary but exciting, because it's the future. We'll just have to see where that leads."