the beatles

JUST WHEN YOU think 2023 couldn’t get any weirder, John Lennon rises from the dead. Well, sort of — with the help of AI, his vocals have been added to a new Beatles song.

The song, titled ‘Now And Then’, will be the final track in The Beatles’ discography, 50 years after the band broke up.  The song is based on a 1970 demo recording by John Lennon, which was completed last year by the only surviving band members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. ‘Now And Then’ is set for release on November 2nd, along with remastered versions of The Beatles’ ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ albums.

How was The Beatles new song made?

In a recent interview with BBC, Paul McCartney said that technology was used to “extricate” Lennon’s voice from old recording demos. In other words, McCartney and co. took Lennon’s vocals from an unreleased track, cleaned it up, and used it to complete a new song. “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear,” said McCartney.

“It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room so it was very emotional for all of us,” added Starr. “It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”

But just for clarity, it’s not all AI samples, synths and digitised recordings. McCartney has clarified to the Twitterverse that all four original band-members actually play on the “final” Beatles record. “Been great to see such an exciting response to our forthcoming Beatles project. No one is more excited than us to be sharing something with you later in the year,” McCartney tweeted.

“We’ve seen some confusion and speculation about it. Seems to be a lot of guess work out there. Can’t say too much at this stage but to be clear, nothing has been artificially or synthetically created.”

He concluded: “It’s all real and we all play on it. We cleaned up some existing recordings — a process which has gone on for years.”

Why is a new Beatles song only resurfacing now?

First things first, ‘Now And Then’ is not a new song per se. John Lennon originally recorded it after The Beatles split up in 1970, but he never finished or released it. Years later, Lennon’s former wife, Yoko Ono, provided his bandmates with all of he artist’s final demos for The Beatles Anthology project in 1995. Two of his songs, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were included, but “Now and Then” was never released due to poor sound quality.

According to Deadline, Lennon recorded the 1978 demos with a boombox at his apartment. The remaining members of The Beatles were able to clean up some of the tracks, but in an interview years later, McCartney said “Now and Then” sounded like “rubbish.” As we know, technology has come a long way since then. Could AI be the key to resurfacing the track once and for all?

We can’t say for sure, but seems likely. McCartney said he was inspired to revisit Lennon’s demos after watching Peter Jackson’s documentary, Get Back, which used advanced technology to clean old audio clips. While speaking with BBC, McCartney explained the process. “They tell the machine, ‘That’s the voice. This is the guitar. Lose the guitar.’” When The Beatles decided to record their new track, they used the same method. “It was a demo that John had [and] we were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI,” he said. “Then we can mix the record, as you would normally do. So it gives you some sort of leeway.”

Though McCartney looks forward to releasing the new song, he says he understand hesitation from some fans to repurpose Lennon’s voice. “I’m not on the Internet that much [but] people will say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s a track where John’s singing one of my songs,’ and it’s just AI, you know? It’s kind of scary, but exciting because it’s the future. We’ll just have to see where that leads.”

A version of this article originally appeared on Esquire US.