June 25, 2024

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Paul McCartney Says He’s Using AI to Build the ‘Final’ Beatles Song

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Paul McCartney Says He’s Using AI to Build the ‘Final’ Beatles Song

More than six decades after their formation, Paul McCartney says the final-ever Beatles song is on its way thanks to the miracle of modern technology. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today, Sir Paul said that he has been using artificial intelligence to “extricate” John Lennon’s voice from an old demo to complete the untitled track.

“We just finished it up and it’ll be released this year,” he said, of the untitled song that the BBC speculated could be a 1978 Lennon composition called “Now and Then.” The single was reportedly in the running to serve as a “reunion song” for the 1995 Anthology series, which included two new songs based on demos recorded by Lennon after the group split, 1995’s “Free As a Bird” and 1996’s “Real Love,” produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne. Those tracks were the first “new” Beatles” releases in more than 25 years.

McCartney reportedly received the demo for the new track from Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in 1994; the song was one of several on a cassette labelled “For Paul” that Lennon made shortly before his murder in 1980. The BBC reported that the tracks were “lo-fi and embryonic” and mostly recorded on a boombox by Lennon on a piano in his New York apartment.

The BBC reported that the living members of the band tried to record the “apologetic” love song “Now and Then” around the time of the Anthology release, but abandoned the sessions in short order. “It was one day — one afternoon, really — messing with it,” Lynne said. “The song had a chorus but is almost totally lacking in verses. We did the backing track, a rough go that we really didn’t finish.”

McCartney later said guitarist/singer George Harrison refused to work on “Now and Then,” saying the sound quality on Lennon’s vocals was “rubbish… George didn’t like it. The Beatles being a democracy, we didn’t do it.” The BBC reported that there were also reportedly technical issues with the original, due to some persistent “buzz” from the electrical circuits in Lennon’s apartment. The new version of the demo reportedly popped up on a bootleg CD in 2009, minus the background noise.

In a 2012 BBC documentary on Lynne, McCartney said, “that one’s still lingering around… so I’m going to nick in with Jeff and do it. Finish it, one of these days.” And while it is still unknown if that song is the one due out, the BBC reported that technical advances employed during the making of Peter Jackson’s Get Back Beatles documentary series — during which dialog editor Emile de la Rey trained computers to recognize the Beatles’ voices and separate them from background noise, including their own instruments — allowed the team to create “clean” audio. That same technology also allowed McCartney to sing a virtual duet with Lennon on his most recent tour.

“He [Jackson] was able to extricate John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette,” McCartney told Radio 4 in explaining how the tech used in the documentary helped him work on the “new” song. “We had John’s voice and a piano and he could separate them with AI. They tell the machine, ‘That’s the voice. This is a guitar. Lose the guitar.’ So when we came to make what will be the last Beatles’ record, it was a demo that John had [and] we were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI. Then we can mix the record, as you would normally do. So it gives you some sort of leeway.”

At press time a release date for the Beatles track had not been announced.

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