Today, the world was introduced to the world premiere of the last Beatles song, titled 'Now and Then.'
But how exactly was this possible? Was it a song recorded in the 70s that disappeared into a vault until now?
Nope, it's all thanks to the magic of artificial intelligence.
Not long before John Lennon was murdered in 1980, he recorded a demo he called 'Now and Then' at home using a piano and his vocals. In 1994, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison were working on a documentary, and they were looking for some new tracks to add to it. Yoko Ono, John's widow, gave them some of John's recordings, and the 'Now and Then' demo was among them. The three remaining Beatles attempted to finish the demo to add to the documentary but just couldn't mix it properly, so they set it aside.
Fast forward to 2022, Paul and Ringo connected with director Peter Jackson, who made the 2021 documentary series 'The Beatles: Get Back.' For that series, Jackson used WingNut Film's machine audio learning (MAL) audio technology to isolate vocals, instruments, and chatter.
In a statement about the release, Paul and Ringo described hearing the demo once the technology was used.
“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. 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.”
Starr added: “It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”
The statement clarifies that no artificially created sounds reproduced Lennon's voice. Instead, it says the technology was used to:
"Preserve the clarity and integrity of his original vocal performance by separating it from the piano.'
'Now and Then' also includes:
"Electric and acoustic guitar recorded in 1995 by George, Ringo’s new drum part, and bass, guitar and piano from Paul, which matches John’s original playing. Paul also added a slide guitar solo inspired by George Harrison, as well as backing vocals with Ringo in the chorus."
John Lennon's son, Sean Ono Lennon said of the song:
“It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years that Dad had been gone. It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George, and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”
And to make it all the more special, “Now and Then” will be released as a double A-side with the Beatles’ first song, “Love Me Do.”
Today, the new music video for “Now And Then” was released on The Beatles YouTube Channel.
Check out a short documentary on the making of "Now and Then."