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Paul McCartney says his late Beatles bandmates would have wanted him and Ringo Starr to finish creating their new song using machine learning, ahead of its release early tomorrow morning.
Speaking in a short documentary by Kiwi filmmaker Peter Jackson, who directed Apple TV’s The Beatles: Get Back in 2021, McCartney said that “messing around with state-of-the-art technology … is something the Beatles would’ve been very interested in”.
The Beatles in 1968 (from left): Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.Credit: AP
The song, Now and Then is due to be released at 1am on Friday, AEDT. The AI used to finish it was developed in the making of Get Back and was used to isolate John Lennon’s vocals from the piano track of a demo recorded in the years before his death in 1980.
McCartney said: “Let’s say I had a chance to ask John, ‘Hey John, would you like us to finish this last song of yours?’ I’m telling you, I know the answer would’ve been, ‘Yeah!’ He would’ve loved that.”
Sean Ono Lennon, son of Lennon and artist Yoko Ono, agreed with McCartney: “My dad would’ve loved that because he was never shy to experiment with recording technology. I think it’s really beautiful.”
Another revelation from the 12-minute short film Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song was how they managed to keep it under wraps, despite recruiting a string section for the new song.
The musicians were kept unaware of the true nature of the track as they played an arrangement by Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin.
“We pretended it was just something of mine,” McCartney said.
The new song has been in the works since 1994 when Ono passed a demo tape to the remaining Beatles. The following year, McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr went to McCartney’s studio in the south of England to finish a number of the tracks, including Real Love and Free As a Bird.
Now and Then proved too difficult to complete as the technology to isolate the different tracks had not yet been developed. “I think we ran out of steam a bit, and time,” said McCartney. “Now and Then just kind of languished in a cupboard.”
It was more than 25 years before McCartney and Starr decided it was the right time to try again, recording their bass and drum parts separately in 2022.
Starr explained in the short film: “Paul called me up and said he’d like to work on Now and Then. ‘What do you think?’ I think it’s great.”
The pair kept Harrison’s guitar parts from 1995, with McCartney also performing a slide guitar solo in the style of his late bandmate, who died in 2001. “It was really a tribute to George,” he said.
At the end of the short film, McCartney reflected: “How lucky was I to have those men in my life? And to work with those men so intimately? And to come up with such a body of music?
“Now and Then is probably the last Beatles song, and we’ve all played on it, so it is a genuine Beatle recording.”
The release of the new song comes as McCartney finishes his Australian tour with a show on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
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