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Paul McCartney uses AI to create ‘final’ Beatles song

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Sir Paul McCartney has told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that he has employed artificial intelligence to help create “the final Beatles record.”

McCartney said the technology had been used to extricate John Lennon’s voice from an old demo so he could complete the song. McCartney added that the song will be released later this year.

The song is thought likely to be a 1978 Lennon composition called Now And Then which was touted as a possible “reunion song” for the Beatles in 1995, when they were compiling their career-spanning Anthology series, although McCartney did not reveal the song’s title during the Radio 4 appearance.

McCartney received the demo in 1994 from Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono. It was one of several songs on a cassette labelled “For Paul” that Lennon had made shortly before his death in 1980.

The tracks were largely recorded onto a standard portable home stereo, with Lennon playing piano in his New York apartment, at a point in his career when he had no record contract and was essentially a full-time parent to son Sean.

Two songs from the sessions have already been released – Free As A Bird and Real Love were released in 1995 and 1996 respectively, following a polish from Electric Light Orchestra founder, record producer and frequent Beatles collaborator Jeff Lynne.

Lynne has previously revealed how the band also attempted to record Now And Then, a love song described as “typical” of Lennon’s later career, in the same sessions, but it was quickly abandoned. George Harrison later declared the track “rubbish.”

A version of the track also found its way onto a bootleg CD in 2009, with fans speculating that the copy may have been among personal items stolen from Lennon’s apartment after his death.

The watershed for the new version appears to have come with Peter Jackson’s acclaimed documentary Get Back. For the doc, dialogue editor Emile de la Rey trained computers to separate the individual Beatles’ voices from background noise, each other and their instruments, creating “clean” audio.

This was also the process McCartney used to “duet” with Lennon on his most recent tour, and for new surround sound mixes of the Beatles’ Revolver album produced last year.

Turning to the technology, McCartney told Radio 4’s Martha Kearney: “It’s kind of scary but exciting, because it’s the future. We’ll just have to see where that leads.”

The star was talking to Radio 4 ahead of the launch of a new book and accompanying photography exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

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