The music has analog roots, but now it’s being revived by futuristic technology: The Beatles have completed a new recording using an old demo tape by John Lennon, thanks to AI tools that isolate Lennon’s voice, according to Paul McCartney, NPR reported.
NPR provided a quote: “We just finished it up, it’ll be released this year,” McCartney, Lennon’s former bandmate, told the Today program on BBC Radio 4. It will be “the last Beatles record,” said McCartney, who along with Ringo Starr is one of the two surviving band members.
But, if you’re picturing McCartney sitting at a keyboard and telling ChatGPT, “sing a John Lennon verse,” that’s not what happened. Instead, they used the source material from a demo recording that Lennon made before his death in 1980.
“We were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI, so that then we could mix the record as you normally do. So, it gives you some sort of leeway.”
McCartney says he realized technology could offer a new chance to work on the music after using Peter Jackson, the famously technically astute filmmaker, to resurrect archival materials for Get Back,his documentary about the band making the Let It Be album.
According to NPR, McCartney didn’t give details about what he says is The Beatles’ final record, poised to emerge decades after Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980.
In the interview, McCartney also said he’s concerned with how AI might be used going forward, given its ability to perform trickery like replacing one singer’s vocals with another person.
“All of that is kind of scary,” McCartney said, “but exciting – because it’s the future.”
The Guardian reported that though McCartney did not name the song. It is likely to be a 1978 Lennon composition called Now and Then. The demo was one of several songs on cassette labelled “For Paul” that Lennon made shortly before his death in 1980, which were later given to McCartney by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono.
It was largely recorded on to a boombox as Lennon sat at a piano in his New York apartment. The lyrics, which begin “I know it’s true, it’s all because of you / And if I make it through, it’s all because of you,” are typical of the apologetic love songs Lennon wrote in the latter part of his career.
The idea to use AI to reconstruct the demo came from Peter Jackson’s eight-hour epic Get Back. For the documentary, dialogue editor Emile de law Ray used custom-made AI to recognize the Beatles’ voices and separate them from background noise.
It was this process that allowed McCartney to “duet” with Lennon on his recent tour, including at last year’s Glastonbury festival, and for new surround-sound mixes of the Beatles’ Revolver album last year.
The Guardian also reported that the news comes as controversy over the use of AI music continues to mount, with high-profile fakes of Drake, the Weeknd, and Kanye West receiving hundreds of thousands of streams before being scrubbed from streaming services.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are the last of The Beatles. I love that some of their songs, that will be on their new album, were enhanced by AI. Typically, I’m not a fan of using AI to copy musician’s voices without permission. However, it appears that McCartney is excited to have AI enhance John Lennon’s voice to resurrect older songs.