In a feat previously thought impossible, “Now and Then”—the last Beatles song from all four members—will be released this Thursday, November 2, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).
Specifically, the song required audio enhancement technologies previously used in Peter Jackson’s award-winning docuseries, The Beatles: Get Back.
While AI’s increasing role in music production has sparked debate throughout the music industry, the new Beatles release serves as a testament to how the technology can be used to authentically uplift human creators.
However, technological limitations at the time meant that work on “Now and Then” was shelved, due to the fact that Lennon’s vocals could not be separated or “de-mixed” from the piano that also featured on the track.
Now over 25 years later, AI-assisted software capable of isolating Lennon’s original vocals has allowed the band to revisit “Now and Then,” and include real contributions from each member on the track, including the deceased members Lennon and guitarist George Harrison.
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” McCartney said in a statement. “It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. In 2023, to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
The new technology was first implemented by filmmaker Peter Jackson, who “de-mixed” 1970s footage of The Beatles recording their final album, Let It Be, in order to isolate instruments, vocals, and other audio and create Get Back.
Jackson subsequently worked with The Beatles to create a new mix of Revolver in 2022, in addition to helping finish “Now and Then” this year.
The new release will be accompanied by a music video directed by Jackson, slated for release on Friday, November 3 at 10AM ET.
McCartney and Beatles drummer Ringo Starr have each produced new parts for “Now and Then” which are woven in with guitar arrangements recorded by Harrison in 1995 and backing vocals taken from the original recordings of “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Because.”
Speaking out against speculation that AI was used to artificially regenerate Lennon’s voice—a serious taboo these days with artists fighting back against generative AI likenesses—McCartney wrote on X in June:
“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.”
Featured image from The Beatles.