Paul McCartney Says “Final Beatles Record” In Works With AI-Assisted John Lennon Vocal

Paul McCartney says he’s using artificial intelligence technology to “extricate” the vocals of his former bandmate John Lennon from an old demo to create a “final Beatles record.”

In an interview with the BBC, McCartney said the song – which he did not identify, but which many fans believe to be the 1978 Lennon song “Now and Then” – will be released this year.

If the song is, indeed, “Now and Then,” it would be the third and final song worked on by McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr after Yoko Ono gave them Lennon’s 1978 demos for use on the 1995 Beatles Anthology project. Lennon’s widow provided the surviving Beatles with a cassette tape of the four Lennon demos, but only two of the songs – “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” – were deemed usable for the project. (The fourth song was “Grow Old With Me.”)

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“Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” were cleaned up by producer Jeff Lynne and included on Anthology. McCartney, Harrison and Starr recorded a backing track for “Now and Then,” but McCartney would say in later interviews that the sound quality of Lennon’s voice on “Now and Then” was “rubbish,” and that Harrison nixed its inclusion on the Anthology release.

In the new BBC Radio 4 interview, McCartney says he has employed artificial intelligence to lift Lennon’s voice from an old demo tape, an achievement that was not possible using 1995 technology.

The four demos were recorded on a boombox by Lennon, playing piano, in his Dakota apartment. In 1978, Lennon had temporarily retired from the music business to raise son Sean. He famously called the era his “househusband” period.

McCartney tells the BBC that his decision to finally work on a previously unissued Lennon song came about with Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary and the advanced computer technology utilized to clean up old vocal and instrumental tracks. McCartney used the process on his recent tour, allowing him to sing a duet with Lennon.

Jackson, McCartney says in the Radio 4 interview, “was able to extricate John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette. 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,” McCartney continued, “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.”

Despite his use of the technology, McCartney conceded that the technology raises concerns. “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.”

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