You can now listen to Antigua News articles!
by Mick the Ram
With a little helping hand from AI, The Beatles have released a track called Now And Then in what will now go down as their “final song”.
Incredibly the first bars of the song were written by the late John Lennon back in 1978, but it took until last year for it to finally be completed in a studio by the two surviving members of the band, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Ringo Starr.
John and Sir Paul sing the first chorus together, as they lock into the line “Now and then I miss you”, then George Harrison appears via some rhythm guitar parts that he recorded in 1995, and producer Giles Martin has added a new string arrangement.
The song was aired on BBC Radio 2 on 2 November at exactly the same time as it arrived on popular streaming services such as: Apple Music and Spotify.
With all four of the band featuring at different times on the track, it will be the very last to be credited to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr… the “Fab Four”.
Written in the seventies
When John Lennon recorded a demo with vocals and piano at his home in New York City back in 1978, nobody could have foreseen it taking 45 years for it to make it to release. It is essentially an apologetic love song, but after Lennon was fatally gunned down outside his Manhattan apartment building in December 1980, the song found its way to Sir Paul on a cassette labelled “For Paul”, given to him by John’s widow, Yoko Ono.
Also on that tape were early versions of Free As A Bird and Real Love – which after a bit of clever work by the surviving members of the band, were released as singles in 1995 and 1996 respectively, as part of their Anthology project and marked the first “new” material by The Beatles in what was then 25 years.
Clinging on to the idea
Around the same time they made an attempt to record Now And Then, but efforts were abandoned because of very poor quality in the recording. The original demo has circulated as a bootleg for many years, but Sir Paul never let go of the idea and due to advanced technology, it suddenly became possible.
AI to the rescue
AI has its critics, but in this case it has assisted in making something wonderful happen. It was able to “extricate” Lennon’s vocals from the old cassette and a piece of newly developed software allowed muddled recordings of overlapping sounds to be “de-mixed”, effectively removing the background hiss and the hum of the mains electricity, that had hampered previous attempts to complete the song.
Giles Martin explained how it worked: “It had to learn what the sound of John Lennon’s guitar is, for instance, and the more information you can give it, the better it becomes,” and in Sir Paul’s own words, Lennon’s voice suddenly became “crystal clear” on Now And Then.
Genuine Beatles recording
In a press release, Sir Paul described it as a “surreal experience”. He continued: “We had John’s voice and a piano and with AI they were separated. They basically tell the machine, ‘That’s the voice and this is a guitar; then lose the guitar’. So when we came to make the record, it was a demo that John had and we were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI.”
He added: “It’s quite emotional really, and we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. In 2023 to still be working on Beatles music, and release a new song that the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”
Sir Ringo remarked that it was the closest they would ever come to having Lennon back in the room. “It was very emotional for all of us, it was like John was there, you know; it’s far out.”
“Exciting and scary”
There were a few reservations expressed particularly by Sir Paul with regards to AI and its growing influence. “I am 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 is kind of scary, but exciting at the same time, because it is the future, so we’ll just have to see where that leads.”
In what is pretty much a going back full-circle, the new track is being issued as a double A-side single with The Beatles 1962 debut: Love Me Do, and from 10 November, the song will be included on the newly remastered and expanded versions of their Red and Blue greatest hits albums.
It will represent a fitting closing chapter for probably the greatest band in rock history.