Beatles get back together for one last song with the help of artificial intelligence
The Beatles clocked up millions of views on YouTube today after their AI-enhanced song appeared on the platform, replete with the deceased John Lennon’s voice leading the way.
The song “Now and Then” isn’t bad at all, but it’s not that great, either. It sounds more like Lennon’s solo stuff than anything the Beatles did together, not surprisingly since it was taken from an old lo-fi recording Lennon created in the 1970s.
The three remaining Beatles, including George Harrison doing the guitar track, tried to finish the song in the 1990s, but apparently, the quality wasn’t good enough, so they gave up. “In John’s demo tape, the piano was a little hard to hear,” McCartney explained. “And in those days, of course, we didn’t have the technology to do the separation.” He said the song “just kind of languished in a cupboard” after that. Harrison also died in 2001.
It was in the 2020s, during the making of Peter Jackson’s documentary on the Beatles, “Get Back,” when the remaining terrific two discovered that with the use of machine learning technology, they could separate Lennon’s voice from the scratchy recording without losing much quality. “Now we could mix it and make a proper record of it,” McCartney said.
At the ripe old age of 81, he added the bass, and Ringo, now 83, returned as drummer. The producer, Giles Martin, is responsible for the strings.
Would John have liked it? It seems likely. Back in the 1960s, the Beatles were well-known for experimenting with novel ways to create new sounds. “I think it’s really beautiful,” Sean Ono Lennon, John and Yoko Ono’s son, said in a short film about the project. “He was always making demos,” he added, “and I do remember him recording into these tape cassette recorders. Mum had these handful of songs that my dad hadn’t finished. And she gave them to the other Beatles.”
Though it’s unlikely that Beatlemania will eclipse the zeitgeist this time around, “Now And Then” on the Beatles’ official YouTube channel has been listened to 3.4 million times in the last 11 hours. It has been named Radio 1’s Hottest Record and will also be issued as a double A-side single with “Love Me Do” via Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.
The question is, could this be the start of something big, when dusty demo tapes are resurrected from dingy basements and the like of Nirvana and David Bowie start topping the charts again? Maybe. All you need is AI.
Photo: Nick Fewings/Unsplash
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