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Final Beatles song “Now and Then” uses AI

How AI brought The Beatles back together — one last time.

Reviewed By: Kevin Pocock

Last Updated on November 3, 2023
"Now and Then", the final record from The Beatles was made using AI (Artificial Intelligence)
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In the most high-profile case of AI-assisted music in history, The Beatles have released their final song, titled “Now and Then”. The record features all four members of the band, with John Lennon and George Harrison making a posthumous appearance alongside Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. McCartney previously announced that he was using AI to build the final Beatles song, but despite this he claims there is ‘nothing artificial’ on the record — How can this be?

Did Paul McCartney use AI on the final Beatles song?

Yes, the final Beatles song — which you can listen to right now — was assisted by artificial intelligence. However, we choose our wording carefully on that, because the voice of John Lennon you’ll hear on the record was not AI-generated. Instead, John’s voice was one of the groups original recordings from 1977, when a demo was recorded at his New York city home. A home which unfortunately added an audible ‘buzz’ to the recording from not-so-studio-grade electrical wiring. The role of AI was merely to clean up the sound of a “ropey little bit of cassette” which “needed a bit of reworking” before the vocal and piano parts were separated. This separation was completed by AI software developed by director Peter Jackson, who also directed the accompanying short film “Get Back” on Disney+, a documentary of the decades-long creation process, including unseen footage from as early as 1969.

After much “confusion and speculation” that the Beatles final song would be disgracefully reliant on generative AI, a technology which still has a way to go in the realm of audio, McCartney clarified that “nothing has been artificially or synthetically created. It’s all real and we all play on it. We cleaned up some existing recordings — a process which has gone on for years. We hope you love it as much as we do.”

The song at long last made its debut on BBC Radio, November 2nd, at 2pm London time.

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How all four Beatles played on “Now and Then”

The new Beatles song features vocals recorded by John Lennon over 30 years ago. This recording was digital cleaned with machine learning software by Peter Jackson, and co-produced with Jeff Lynne, with McCartney on the bass, Starr on the drums, and a string arrangement from producer Giles Martin. George Harrison played the rhythm guitar sections in 1995, prior to his death in 2001.

In fact, this isn’t even the first time that the band had tried to bring this particular track to life. After shelving the demo in 1977, McCartney told Q Magazine that he had hopes of reviving it because although “It didn’t have a very good title, [and] it needed a bit of reworking… it had a beautiful verse and it had John singing it”. McCartney came into possession of the actual recording we now hear on the release via Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono,

Later, in reference to the unfinished record, Sir Paul told BBC Four in 2012, “that one’s still lingering around, [but] I’m going to nick in with Jeff and do it. Finish it, one of these days.”

How artificial intelligence is shaping the music industry

While this is perhaps the most high-profile case of AI music, it is far from the only one. Earlier this year, canadian rappers Drake and The Weeknd were at the centre of a storm of musical deepfakes — a trend which extended to every notable music artist under the sun. Still in its infancy, but realistic enough to fool some, AI-generated music threatens the royalties business of record labels, and thereby the industry as a whole.

Steve is an AI Content Writer for PC Guide, writing about all things artificial intelligence. He currently leads the AI reviews on the website.