New (and final) Beatles record powered by AI

A new release from the Beatles: a bit unexpected it is. After the band broke up in 1970, John, George, Ringo and Paul never crawled into the studio again. Rumors of Beatles reunions have been part of the normal spinning of the rumor mill for decades. Now two of the four Beatles have been dead for a while. While the remaining two have remained musically active, new Beatles releases have remained with remasters, reissued material and footage.

Very occasionally unreleased material comes out. But producing such tracks is more difficult than you might think. Having John Lennon record new voice tracks is of course no longer an option and a rough demo that was never intended for release cannot simply be polished into a full-fledged song. But it is possible! During an interview with the BBC, Paul McCartney explained how it is possible that in 2023 we will be treated to a new, and therefore also the last, album by the Beatles.

The possible number

Just to reassure everyone, no, Paul didn’t ask ChatGPT what a Beatles song would sound like that might have been written in a parallel universe where the Beatles never broke up. The input of “AI” in the creative process of this new record is zero. Strictly speaking, this is not a completely new composition. An old demo is used that has been gathering dust somewhere on the shelf for years. No names have been named yet. According to experts, it must be a Lennon composition called ‘Now And Then’.

The record was already seen as a possible “reunion” record in 1995 when the remaining band members were preparing the Anthology series. The demo came to McCartney through Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono. The recording was on a cassette tape labeled “For Paul”. The cassette was recorded not long before Lennon’s death in 1980. The recording isn’t great. Apparently recorded with a boombox next to Lennon’s piano and was obviously never intended for release.

Previously, two songs from the same cassette were released, namely ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’. These songs were cleaned up by producer and ELO frontman Jeff Lynne. At the time, the possibility of re-recording ‘Now And Then’ was also considered, but it came to nothing. “We fiddled with it for one day, an afternoon actually. The song has a chorus, but is almost completely missing verses. We recorded a raw backing track that was left undone.” According to Lynne.

AI technology strips vocal track from demo

The demo was released in 2009. But McCartney didn’t want to stop there. In 2012 he reported that he still had the demo on the agenda to be developed into a full song. To do that, Lennon’s vocal track has to be isolated and that turned out to be difficult. The technology developed for Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’ documentary provided a solution. An “AI” was trained to recognize the Beatles’ voices. The technology has previously enabled McCartney to sing a “duet” with Lennon while on tour.

Thanks to the “AI”, Lennon’s voice is now completely separated from all instruments and ambient sounds on the demo. This way the track can be used in the new mix, to which a lot of newly recorded material has probably been added. According to McCartney, the song is now completely finished and will be released sometime this year.

McCartney is not entirely without reservations when it comes to “AI” and Beatles music, by the way. “I’m not on the internet much, but sometimes people say to me, ‘yes, there’s a version where John sings one of your songs’, but it’s just AI. It’s kind of scary, but also exciting, because it’s the future. We’ll see where it goes.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *