Over 50 years after breaking up, the Beatles have released their final song with the help of AI.
The Beatles called it a day in 1970 after releasing a catalogue of life-changing, indeed history-changing, albums.
However, the group’s demise and the untimely deaths of two of its members have not stopped the release of one last Beatles song some 53 years later.
The remaining members used artificial intelligence (AI) to improve existing recordings and added finishing touches to bring ‘Now and Then’ – the final Beatles song – into the world.
The Beatles – the Fab Four
Everyone knows the Beatles. The Fab Four – Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr – changed the world’s musical and cultural landscape between their 1963 debut album Please, Please Me and their 1970 swansong, Let It Be.
Their four creative minds collectively produced some of popular music’s greatest songs. However, tensions would arise about the band’s direction.
Each band member attempted to assert their own artistic agenda on albums, perhaps best evidenced by their sprawling eponymous ninth album. Indeed, tensions were so high that Starr walked out for two weeks during the recording sessions for The Beatles.
Meanwhile, Harrison felt underappreciated as a songwriter. In fact, only 22 Harrison songs were included on Beatles releases.
The band broke up in 1970, and each of its members went on to have successful solo careers, although Lennon’s was cut short by murder and Harrison’s was shortened by illness.
The final Beatles song – from a Lennon demo
Lennon wrote the song ‘Now and Then’ in the 1970s and recorded a demo version at his New York City apartment in 1977, three years before the songwriter was tragically murdered.
His widow, Yoko Ono, gave the recording to Paul McCartney in 1994 – the year Lennon was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The remaining Beatles soon recorded a backing track to use as an overdub on the song, but producer Jeff Lynne claimed the band spent “one day – one afternoon, really – messing with it” and conceded that it was “a rough go that we really didn’t finish”.
Moreover, Harrison was unhappy with the quality of Lennon’s demo. A 60 Hz mains hum can be heard throughout, leading Harrison to call the recording “rubbish”, according to McCartney. McCartney added, “The Beatles being a democracy, we didn’t do it”.
‘Now and Then’ – released with the help of AI
The song finally saw the light of day yesterday (2 November) after AI technology was used to isolate Lennon’s vocals. The same AI software was used by filmmaker Peter Jackson for his three-part documentary about the band, The Beatles: Get Back.
The song also includes Harrison’s guitar parts from the unsuccessful 1995 sessions, along with new instrumentation from McCartney and Starr and a string section.
McCartney concedes he had recurring doubts about completing the song but quickly dispelled those doubts each time they arose.
The Guardian quotes McCartney saying, “Every time I thought like that, I thought, wait a minute, let’s say I had a chance to ask John: ‘Hey John, would you like us to finish this last song of yours?’ I’m telling you, I know the answer would have been: ‘Yeah!’”.
The song has been released as a double A-side with a new mix of the group’s debut single, Love Me Do.