'Last' Beatles song written by late John Lennon with AI-cleaned vocals set for release
LONDON - A much-anticipated “new” Beatles record, created with the help of artificial intelligence, will be released next week on Nov 2, the two living former members of the British group, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, revealed Thursday.
Now And Then, first written and sung by ex-Beatle John Lennon and developed by the rest of the band, has now been finally finished by McCartney and Starr – and AI – decades after its original recording.
McCartney, 81, announced its imminent release in June, in what has been dubbed in a promotional trailer as “the last Beatles song”.
The track will be unveiled at 1300 GMT (9pm Singapore time) on Nov 2 by Apple Corps, Capitol and Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), with a music video debuting the following day.
A 12-minute documentary written and directed by Oliver Murray – best known for a 2022 biopic mini-series on The Rolling Stones – will premiere on YouTube, featuring commentary from McCartney and Starr.
Now And Then was recorded by Lennon in the late 1970s at his home in New York’s Dakota Building, and also features piano music.
Working with Peter Jackson, the film director best known as director of the Lord of The Rings trilogy and also behind the 2021 documentary series The Beatles: Get Back, AI was used to separate Lennon’s voice from the piano chords.
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” McCartney said, in comments published alongside the announcement of the release date.
“It’s quite emotional and we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording,” he added.
“In 2023, to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
McCartney and Starr finished the song last year, including fellow ex-Beatle George Harrison’s electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995.
Recording at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, they also added Starr’s drum part alongside bass, piano, a slide guitar solo by McCartney – inspired by Harrison – and more backing vocals.
Starr added the process “was the closest we’ll ever come to having him (Lennon) back in the room so it was very emotional for all of us.
“It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”
Originating in Liverpool, England, The Beatles – Lennon, McCartney, Starr and Harrison – split in 1970, with each going on to have solo careers, but they never reunited.
Lennon was shot dead in New York in 1980 aged 40 while Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001, aged 58.
‘Meant to be’
Now And Then was one of several tracks on a cassette that Lennon had recorded for McCartney a year before his death. It was given to him by Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono in 1994.
Two other songs, Free As A Bird and Real Love, were cleaned up by the producer Jeff Lynne, and released in 1995 and 1996.
There was an attempt to do the same with Now And Then but the project was abandoned because of background noise on the demo.
AI has now made that possible, though its use in music is the subject of industry-wide debate, with some denouncing copyright abuses and others praising its prowess.
McCartney said earlier this year that the technology’s use was “kind of scary but exciting because it’s the future”.
Sean Ono Lennon, the son of Lennon and Ono, said it was “incredibly touching” to hear the former Beatles working together again “after all the years that dad had been gone”.
“It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be,” he added.
Now And Then will be released as a double A-side, with the band’s 1962 debut single Love Me Do, and cover art by US artist Ed Ruscha. – AFP