AI to complete Beatles’ unreleased song

Sir Paul McCartney reveals he employed AI technology to extract John Lennon's voice from a demo, allowing him to complete a Beatles song, raising excitement and concerns about the future of AI in music.

In a groundbreaking revelation, Sir Paul McCartney has revealed that he employed artificial intelligence (AI) technology to create what he refers to as "the final Beatles record." During an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today program, McCartney disclosed that technology was utilized to extract John Lennon's voice from an old demo, enabling him to finish the song.

Although McCartney did not disclose the name of the song, it is highly likely that it is the 1978 Lennon composition titled "Now And Then." This particular track had been considered a potential "reunion song" for the Beatles during the compilation of their career-spanning Anthology series in 1995.

McCartney had obtained the demo a year earlier from Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. The songs were recorded in a lo-fi and embryonic manner, mostly onto a boombox while Lennon sat at a piano in his New York apartment. Producer Jeff Lynne subsequently cleaned up the tracks, resulting in the completion and release of two songs, "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love," in 1995 and 1996, respectively. These releases marked the Beatles' first "new" material in 25 years.

Now And Then, a heartfelt love song representative of Lennon's later career was also attempted during the recording sessions. However, the session was swiftly abandoned, with Lynne recalling, "It was one day - one afternoon, really - messing with it. The song had a chorus but almost totally lacking verses. We did the backing track, a rough go that we really didn't finish."

According to McCartney, George Harrison declined to work on the song, citing the "rubbish" sound quality of Lennon's vocals. Harrison's reluctance, combined with technical issues in the original recording, led to the abandonment of the project. The track featured a persistent buzzing sound caused by the electrical circuits in Lennon's apartment.

In 2009, a version of the demo without the background noise surfaced on a bootleg CD, leading fans to speculate that this particular recording may not have been available in 1995 and might have been stolen from Lennon's apartment after his passing, along with other personal belongings.

Over the years, McCartney has expressed his persistent desire to finish the song. Now, with the aid of technology, McCartney has finally been given the opportunity to achieve his long-cherished goal. The breakthrough came through Peter Jackson's Get Back documentary, where dialogue editor Emile de la Rey trained computers to recognize the voices of the Beatles and separate them from background noises and even their own instruments, resulting in "clean" audio. This process allowed McCartney to "duet" with Lennon during his recent tour and facilitated the creation of new surround sound mixes for the Beatles' Revolver album last year.

“We had John's voice and a piano and he could separate them with AI…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. 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."

Sir Paul McCartney explained, discussing the utilization of AI in completing the Beatles' unreleased song. However, while embracing the possibilities AI offers, the legendary musician also expressed concerns about its potential misuse.

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