Will the final Beatles song feature an 'AI John Lennon'? Paul McCartney explains

23 June 2023, 09:44

The Beatles – Anthology ABC TV trailer

By Mayer Nissim

When Paul McCartney announced a "final" Beatles single made with AI, some people were worried.

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Earlier this month, Paul McCartney made the shock announcement that he had put together a "final" Beatles song.

As well as plenty of excitement, there were some concerns when Paul mentioned the use of "AI" in the creation of the track.

Would an algorithm be used to create a fake John Lennon vocal or George Harrison guitar like the controversial AI Drake or O-AI-sis recordings that have been made public?

It was pretty clear from his original comments that this was never the case, with McCartney explaining that the computers were only being used to separate individual voices and instruments from the tape.

That process was pioneered by Peter Jackson and dialogue editor Emile de la Ray for the Get Back documentary, and also used to create a live Lennon and McCartney "duet" and to facilitate the recent Revolver remixes.

The Beatles in Get Back
The Beatles in Get Back. Picture: Alamy

"Been great to see such an exciting response to our forthcoming Beatles project," said McCartney on Twitter, clearing things up for anyone who still had doubts.

"No one is more excited than us to be sharing something with you later in the year."

He added: "We've seen some confusion and speculation about it. Seems to be a lot of guesswork out there. Can't say too much at this stage but to be clear, 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. More news in due course - Paul"

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney in 2022
Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney in 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Paul hasn't confirmed what the final Beatles song will be, but it's widely believed to be a track called 'Now and Then'.

McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison started work on that song during the Anthology project in the mid-1990s, but they jettisoned the track after a while, in part due to the poor audio quality of the John Lennon demo tape they were working with

John Lennon - Now And Then (2023 Remaster)

The two "new" songs that came from that reunion were 'Free As A Bird' and 'Real Love', both built from sparse Lennon demos given to the band by Yoko Ono.

Of Paul and Ringo's work on the third song, McCartney said that Peter Jackson was "able to extricate John's voice from a ropey little bit of cassette".

He added: "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'.

The Beatles - Free As A Bird

"So when we came to make what will be the last Beatles' record, it was a demo that John had. 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."

John Lennon's son Sean had already offered his own clarification when one Twitter user asked him about McCartney "turning John Lennon into an AI model" for the new song.

Sean said: "That is not happening. All we did was clean the noise from the vocal track. People are completely misunderstanding what occurred.

"There have always been ways of 'de-noising' tracks but AI just does it better because it learns what the vocal is and is able to very precisely remove everything that is not the vocal."

Asked about George Harrison's presence on the track, given the guitarist's death in 2001, Sean said: "I shouldn't speak too much on this yet but I'll just say the track turned out beautifully and I think everyone will be very happy."