More than 53 years after their separation, the Beatles return with a new song, recorded and mixed thanks to artificial intelligence which brought together the four trendy boys. The two living members of the legendary Liverpool band, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, made the November 2 release of Now and Then official on Thursday.
The song was made from a demo recorded in the 1970s by John Lennon in his New York apartment. After his assassination in 1980, his widow Yoko Ono handed over the tape, with vocals and piano, to the other members of the group in 1994. The latter had reworked and completed it but were never able to release it, the techniques then available not making it possible to extract John Lennon's voice with sufficient quality.
This is now the case. The trigger came from the Get Back documentary series produced in 2021 by Peter Jackson. The director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy then extracted Lennon's voice from a cassette by separating it from the piano, aided by new technologies.
“We ended up with John's voice, crystal clear,” explained Paul McCartney, quoted in the press release announcing the release of this title. “It’s very moving and we all play on it, it’s a real Beatles recording,” continued the 81-year-old musician.
Added to the original demo were electric and acoustic guitar recordings by George Harrison dating from 1995, before his death in 2001. The song was completed last year in Los Angeles studios, mixing drums from Ringo Starr, the piano and bass of Paul McCartney, and the vocals of the two living Beatles. “It was very emotional for all of us. It’s like John was among us,” said Ringo Starr, 83.
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In April 1970, six months after the release of the album Abbey Road and a month before that of Let it Be, the Beatles announced their separation. The ten years of life together of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr produced 14 best-selling albums, nearly a billion records sold and gave rise to the filming of several films.
Despite the deaths of Lennon in 1980 and Harrison in 2001, “Beatlemania” remains alive across the world and the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence (AI) have already inspired attempts by fans to bring them together, or to revisit the latest works of Paul McCartney with his youthful voice. It was when asked about these developments by the BBC last June that McCartney revealed the preparation of this new song. “We came to make what would be the last Beatles recording, it was a model of John's that we worked from,” explained “Macca”. “We were able to take John's voice and purify it using AI to mix the recording.”
He hadn't named the song but everything indicated that it would be Now and Then. The existence of the model was known and Paul McCartney had made no secret of wanting to give the piece a new life. But he had always explained that the project did not succeed due to the opposition of George Harrison who did not like it.
The song will be available from 1 p.m. on November 2. The day before, a 12-minute documentary will be released on the Beatles' YouTube channel. On November 10, two compilations of their albums will be released, supplemented with additional tracks.