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The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

The Student News Site of Tenafly High School

The Echo

A.I Technology Used to Create “The Last Beatles Song”

Originally a demo recorded in 1977 by former Beatles member John Lennon, “Now and Then” was released on Nov. 2, 2023. Given to Beatles member Paul McCartney by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, the demo was just one song in a series of tapes recorded by Lennon and marked ‘For Paul,’ created just before Lennon’s untimely death in 1980, according to The Guardian. The track has come a long way from its previous attempts to be revived, and it’s all thanks to the help of Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI. While opinions of the use of AI in music and art are mixed, in this scenario, it hasn’t been used in the way one might think. 

File:Los Beatles (19266969775).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
The Beatles Spain Tour 1965

The first attempt to use this demo was in 1995 during the era of The Beatles Anthology Project. At this time, documentary style videos on the Beatles’ career were released alongside an album of previously unreleased and demo songs, as well as some concert performances and alternative takes of preexisting songs, according to a Sound on Sound article published in December 1995. Before the release, the remaining Beatles members attempted to finish “Now and Then,” but former member George Harrison discarded the track and had no desire to work on it. Additionally, the recording itself was defective; there were buzzing sounds on the audio, presumably from the sounds of electricity of Lennon’s house while recording, that could not be removed. All these factors together led to the track being scrapped. Years later, in the 2000s, rumors that the song would eventually be completed started to spread, and in 2009, a bootleg CD version of Lennon’s original piano recording that did not contain the buzzing sounds of the original recording was leaked, but nothing else seemed to be done with this recording, either. 

Despite the technical difficulties, Paul McCartney reiterated throughout the years that he wished to eventually complete the track. His wish would come true in 2022 as film director and screenwriter Peter Jackson produced Get Back, another documentary series on the Beatles. Jackson and his team developed a special AI technology that could separate the Beatles’ voices from background noise so that it could be used in the series, according to The Guardian. As soon as McCartney acknowledged this, he knew that the next step was to send the cassette recording of Lennon to Jackson and his team so they could work their AI magic on the voice of Lennon.

The voice of Lennon itself did not need to be altered. All they needed to do was remove background instrumentals from the recording, and as soon as this was done, the tape could be mixed as it normally would. “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,” McCartney told The Guardian. “Then we can mix the record, as you would normally do. So it gives you some sort of leeway.” With this method, the AI does not tarnish the authenticity of a real, human voice recording.

“Now and Then” is a bittersweet song that serves as one last tribute to Beatles fans everywhere, as well as a love letter to John Lennon and the brotherhood that was, and still is, the Beatles. The music video for the song currently sits at 34 million views on YouTube, and can be purchased on the Beatles website as a CD.

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About the Contributor
Val Reyes, Guest Writer
Val Reyes ('26) is excited to write stories in The Echo about pop culture, current events, and student life. In her free time, she likes music, painting, and baking pastries.