Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

Paul McCartney says AI helped finish one last Beatles song – here’s an update on what that means

Updated Jun 21st, 2023 7:52PM EDT
The Beatles
Image: Linda McCartney

All you need is love — and artificial intelligence. Almost 30 years after the surviving members of The Beatles reunited to release new music — the songs Free as a Bird and Real Love, which accompanied the broadcast of a sprawling Beatles Anthology documentary — bassist Paul McCartney dropped a bombshell in a recent BBC Radio 4 interview: One more Beatles song is coming soon.

Making that announcement all the more head-spinning for the Fab Four’s decade-spanning and multigenerational fanbase is not just the what, but the how. McCartney also confirmed that the unnamed song, to be released later this year, was finished with the help of AI. And he dropped just enough clues during the interview that hardcore fans like me can make a pretty good guess about the identity of the song we’re getting.

Paul McCartney
Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, shown in concert in 2019. Image source:

Based on the fact that he described using AI to clean up a low-fi John Lennon demo of an existing song — rather than using AI to build an all-new one — it’s likely that McCartney is teasing the release of Now and Then, a track that McCartney originally wanted to finish during the Beatles Anthology sessions in the 1990s. Guitarist George Harrison, however, didn’t want to be involved with it, so the effort was shelved. Since then, McCartney has made no secret at all of his interest in revisiting that song.

Meanwhile, technical advances that director Peter Jackson used during the making of The Beatles’ Get Back Disney+ docuseries were what enabled this new recording. Jackson, McCartney told Radio 4, “was able to extricate John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette.”

Continues the ex-Beatle: “We had John’s voice and a piano and he could separate them with AI. They tell the machine, ‘That’s the voice. This is a guitar. Lose the guitar.’ So when we came to make what will be the last Beatles’ record, it was a demo that John had [and] we were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI. Then we can mix the record, as you would normally do.”

McCartney — who has been on a publicity blitz tied to his new book of photos, 1964: Eyes of the Storm, — used the same technology during his most recent tour, which allowed him to “duet” with a recording of Lennon accompanying him (on the song I’ve Got a Feeling, from the group’s Let it Be album). It’s also not unlike what someone did below to complete an unauthorized but very convincing-sounding new Beatles song using AI. Based on a half-finished demo for a song called Watching Rainbows from the band’s Get Back sessions, AI imagined how the band might have finished it off — complete with new Beatle-y words and more of a fleshed-out melody.

For the new song, it sounds like AI was used to more or less do what The Beatles and producer Jeff Lynne did themselves during the Anthology sessions — cleaning up Lennon’s old demos, so that new sounds and voices could be added on top of them to create the effect of jointly-recorded new Beatles music. In fact, Lennon’s youngest son Sean took to Twitter to clarify how AI has been used to enable the release of this final Beatles track (and to also stress that using the “AI” label has led to people misunderstanding what’s going on here).

In response to one Twitter user asking whether an AI model of Lennon’s actual voice has been prepared for inclusion with the new track, the younger Lennon responded: “That is not happening.

“All we did was clean the noise from the vocal track. People are completely misunderstanding what occurred. There have always been ways of ‘de-noising’ tracks but AI just does it better because it learns what the vocal is and is able to very precisely remove everything that is not the vocal.”

Pressed further by fans as far as what’s coming, Lennon demurred regarding additional details — but added: “I shouldn’t speak too much on this yet but I’ll just say the track turned out beautifully and I think everyone will be very happy.”

The Beatles
The Beatles, recording their final album “Let It Be.” Image source:

Needless to say, this is all pretty heady stuff for Beatles fans. The two surviving members themselves, McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr, at times have admitted how mystifying it is to see the degree to which their fandom has endured through the years. I put that very question to Starr, in fact, back in late 2019, a week or so after I’d gotten back from a trip to London and visited the band’s old recording studio, Abbey Road.

A newly issued and remixed version of the Abbey Road album was then dominating the charts. “How far out is that?” Starr marveled to me. “Far out. But it still holds up. I think it’s a fine, fine record.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.