He may be turning 81 on June 18, but Paul McCartney still has some unfinished Beatles business.
Macca announced today (June 13) that he’s used artificial intelligence to help create what he calls “the final Beatles record.” He used the technology to “extricate” John Lennon’s voice from an old demo and inserted it into a new song. What’s the old demo? He didn’t say, but it’s probably a Lennon song from 1978 called “Now and Then.”
The recording was given to Paul by Yoko last year. It was on a cassette with several songs on a cassette that Lennon had prepared shortly before he died. The cassette was labeled “For Paul.” It’s all pretty lo-fi because Lennon recorded the songs on a boombox while he sat at a piano in The Dakota. Two of those songs, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were released as part of the Beatles Anthology series in 1995 and 1996. A recording of “Now and Then” was also attempted by Paul, George, and Ringo, but it didn’t work out because the song had a chorus and nothing else. George didn’t like what they’d done, so they bailed on it.
Part of the problem was electrical interference, a buzz in the background that made the recording difficult to work with. AI can fix that. Paul learned a lot from what Peter Jackson did with the original mono audio that was the source material for the Get Back documentary. Jackson was the one who managed to cleanly extract John’s vocal from that cassette.
Here’s what Macca told BBC Radio 4: “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 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.”
Beatles fans await this “final” song.